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How to succeed in Teach First applications and assessments: recruiter Q&A

TARGETjobs spoke to Paddy Dempsey, senior graduate recruitment officer at Teach First, to get first-hand advice on how you can succeed in your applications, interviews and assessments for the charity’s leadership development programme. Paddy is a former Teach First teacher, so he’s been through the selection process himself as a candidate.

Q. What are the stages of the Teach First selection process?

Paddy says: ‘The formal stages are as follows:

  1. Filling in an online application. The first part of the form asks for your basic details; the second involves answering a number of competency questions based on Teach First’s competencies.
  2. At this stage you will be contacted by a member of our application management team who will discuss your eligibility for our leadership development programme and give you the opportunity to ask any questions. This part of the process won't be assessed.
  3. You will know within ten days whether you have been successful at this stage – if you have, you will be invited to an assessment centre.
  4. You'll be sent further, detailed information on the assessment centre seven days in advance that will help you prepare. Again, a member of the application management team will be in touch to discuss this stage of the recruitment process with you.
  5. An assessment centre consisting of three main elements: a competency interview, a group case study exercise and teaching a seven-minute lesson.
  6. In the final stage, you will receive a conditional offer.'

‘The conditions of your conditional offer are:

  • passing your QTS tests (the government’s pre-teacher-training tests in numeracy and literacy)
  • that you complete a curriculum knowledge assessment – in this, you'll develop an acceptable action plan of how you will get yourself up to speed with regard to knowledge of the subject(s) you will need to teach. This will be marked by a tutor from one of Teach First’s partner universities.
  • your reference check being satisfactory.’

Q. Can I teach the age group or subject I want?

Paddy says: ‘Applicants apply for the leadership development programme as a whole, not to teach a specific subject. It's possible to state a preference for early years, primary or secondary teaching on your application but unfortunately we can’t promise you’ll get the one you want. When we make you a conditional offer of a place this will include the subject we’d like you to teach, which will be based on your academic background and the needs of our schools. For example, if you have two science A levels at grade A or B then you are eligible to teach science, even if your degree is in something else.'

‘As long as you are eligible, you can apply to teach at least one of the subjects for which applications are still open.’

Q. What is the closing date?

Paddy says: ‘Different subjects fill up at different rates and close once they are full. Applications open in August for the following year’s programme; some subjects, such as history, fill up fast and typically close in the autumn. With this in mind, we always encourage an early application.’

Q. What are Teach First recruiters looking for?

Paddy says: ‘We don’t require any prior experience of teaching or education. We're looking for a strong demonstration of our competencies throughout the recruitment process and you'll need to meet our academic requirements. Take a look at the descriptions of the competency areas on our website and think about what they mean and how you can demonstrate them.'

‘One of the ways you can do this is by putting the competencies we look for into a grid and writing down what experience you have that applies to each competency. This will help you identify whether there are any gaps where you need to think a little further about how you can show that competency. You can also get in touch with our application management team for more tips like this.'

'It's a good idea to investigate Teach First before you apply to give yourself time to prepare and fill in any gaps in your experience. For example, if you're still at university, you could attend a campus event, get involved in our two-week insight programme or one-day taster programme, or work as a Teach First brand manager on campus. If you have left university or you're looking to change career, there are a number of events around the country that you can attend to find out more about Teach First.'

Q. What would let me down in the selection process?

Paddy says: ‘Not showing the right competencies – or demonstrating the opposite of our competencies.’

Q. If I don’t think I have all the competencies, should I hold off applying until I do?

Paddy says: ‘If you really don’t feel that you can demonstrate all the competencies, then yes, we would advise holding off applying. However. if you are able to put yourself into a situation next week where you will develop this quality then do it! If you aren't sure you should speak to someone from our recruitment team to explore your experience and our competencies further.’

Q. How can candidates show they understand Teach First and the leadership development programme?

Paddy says: ‘You will only be assessed on what you submit within your application form and what we observe within the tasks at our assessment centre so asking questions before you apply and throughout the recruitment process puts you in the best possible place to make a really strong application. You can ask about the leadership development programme, the charity and its work, and the recruitment process. What parts of the leadership development programme interest you? Is it the right choice for you? We'd also advise you to take a thorough look at our website as well.'

'There is a whole team of people who are here to help you, so do take advantage of this. Each recruiter works with particular universities and locations; there are contacts listed on our website for students studying at all universities, as well as contacts by location for those who have already graduated. (Around 27% of people in our 2016 cohort had been out of university for more than three years.) We are really happy to meet you at an event, meet for coffee or talk on the phone, or you can just email.'

Q. How can I show that I actually do care about Teach First’s aims and that I’m not just saying it?

Paddy says: ‘You can do this by relating our vision to your own experience. Perhaps you had an amazing teacher at school who inspired you and encouraged you to achieve. Perhaps you are from a privileged background, went to a top private school and feel that everyone should have the same experience. Or perhaps you struggled at school because you never had an inspiring teacher. You should also think about why you feel that every child should have the same right to an education.’

Q. Any advice on how to structure my online application answers to the competency questions?

Paddy says: ‘I really advocate the STAR approach (outlining the Situation and Task in hand, then writing about the Action you took and the Results achieved) and focusing on the ‘Action’ part in particular. This works for all the competency questions apart from the "knowledge" one (which deals with what you know about the programme, why you want to do it and how you link this to every child being equal).’

Q. What does the seven-minute lesson involve?

Paddy says: ‘Your task is to deliver a seven-minute lesson to two assessors, who are in role as either key stage 2 or key stage 3 pupils. You'll be given lots of information seven days before the assessment centre to help you plan and prepare, including your lesson title.’

Our 'How to get hired' articles are written by TARGETjobs editors and writers with job candidates in mind, helping you research and understand employers. Copyright of all material written by TARGETjobs lies solely with GTI Media.
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