In her final year of training, Emily started applying for NQT positions. She was excited but this started to dwindle and after a number of interviews, she had to come to the realisation that she wouldn’t have a position in September so she signed up to supply work. She has some powerful advice for others.
During my final year of ITT, I applied for roughly 25 jobs. Out of these applications, I was invited to 4 interviews. The interviews were tough – three were full-day processes and the other was split across two consecutive days. Each interview involved teaching a lesson of some description and a formal meeting with a combination of the headteacher, the deputy headteacher and the head of governors; the rest of the activities were different but included things such as a tour of the school (with pupils), a group style, pupil-led interview, a written task, and although it was never actually described as part of the interview, lunch in the hall with the students (it was clear we were being watched). I didn’t get any of the jobs. Each time I would receive a phone call later that day – once as late as 8:30pm on a Friday night – to say that although my interview was great, and they really liked my lesson, the post was going to someone else.
I spent the summer mostly working at my part time jobs I had had whilst at university – this had always been my plan in order to have enough money to tide me over when I actually got a job. But there was always that niggling little disappointment that wouldn’t cease – I felt disheartened that after three years of training, I wouldn’t be starting my dream job come September. I was happy for my friends who did get posts but couldn’t help but feel jealous, seeing the pictures of their first-ever classrooms, hearing about their excitement and success. I was on job websites daily, even through the summer, checking for anything that might be suitable (the TES website, local council websites and, for those of you based in the North East, www.northeastjobs.org.uk were the best).
By mid-August, I had accepted there would be no full-time post with my name on for September, so I began registering with a number of supply agencies in my local area. I registered with 3 agencies in total. This involved getting a DBS certificate (agencies may pay for this for you, some require payment but will reimburse you the money once you work a certain number of days, and some just require you to pay for it – it’s worth checking). I think my DBS took around 14 days from applying to receiving it in the post. The parts of the supply registration that took the longest were chasing up references – it was still the summer, so my reference from university took a while. The registration process also involved attending an ‘interview’ with the agencies themselves, where I was asked what sort of thing I was looking for, how far I could reasonably travel, and whether I would consider doing any HTLA/TA work. It’s also worth mentioning I was also asked if I would be happy to be ‘on call’, i.e. would I be happy to be called in the morning for emergency work, or did I just want to do pre-booked work. I said I would be happy to do this as I was keen for as much work as possible.
My top tip for starting out on supply as an NQT is do not expect weeks of work straight away. I found this really difficult on the financial side of things – there was no way of knowing how much work you would be getting (unless you got a pre-booked stint, which I found were rare). Also, different agencies have different pay dates and rates, which are worth checking. I found that work I did at the beginning of October wouldn’t be paid until mid-November, which is hard, particularly when you have bills to pay. My pay as an NQT would range from £90-100 with different agencies and was around £65 for HTLA/TA work.
Although it was slow to start, I began to enjoy my month or so on supply as it meant I could get into lots of different schools across the area. It’s just like dipping your toe into the pool before diving in. There are some schools I went to where I knew if a job had come up at the school, I wouldn’t have applied, and vice versa. I also gained valuable experience in different types of schools, such as an autistic unit where I worked with a small class for a day as a TA.
During this time, I was still looking online for permanent posts near me and by mid-September these began to appear more frequently. I applied for a further 3 posts and was invited to interview at one…and got the job! It was completely unexpected and a fantastic surprise. My advice to anyone in a similar situation to me would be to keep looking, build on any feedback from interviews you can get, and consider getting involved with supply work. It sounds cliché but there is a school out there for everybody. This job is hard enough as it is, don’t put too much more pressure on yourself by worrying too much!