Robert Brooks

Leading Practitioner


Interview and job seeking advice for NQTs

At the moment there are a staggering 7,362 vacancies on the TES jobs website!

tes jobs

For a lot of these vacancies, trainee teachers looking for NQT positions are eligible to apply.

I thought I would give some advice from what I have learnt from my own experience and from others. This is not a comprehensive guide since a whole book could be written on this topic! Here is just a selection of advice:

Job searching

Use the following to help you find an NQT job:

  • TES: Set up job alerts for where you are looking for a job and the subject. These can be daily e-mail alerts. Make sure when you make a TES account though that you choose a username that does not identify you, particularly if you also use the TES Forums!
  • e-teach: You can search for jobs and join ‘talent pools’ so that employers could potentially find you first!
  • Twitter: Follow Headteachers and schools on twitter that you are interested in and keep an eye out for any vacancies they make you aware of.

Be particular with what you are looking for. You need to like the job and be happy and successful in it if you are appointed. This does depend of course on your phase (primary/secondary) and your subject specialism. For example, a Physics NQT could be much more selective with what they are looking for as this is a shortage subject.

Job applications

Do not just apply for every job with the same covering letter. If you do choose to do this (although I advise against it) make sure you change the school name! I have heard of candidates’ applications being put straight in the bin if they have put the wrong school name in their letter!

Tailor your covering letter to how you meet the person specification for the specific job. If this document is not available on the TES or school website, e-mail the HR Department at the school for this. It is essential you know the criteria you are being assessed on for your application.

Fully research the school before you even start the job application. You may find that after getting half way through the application form you realise that the school does not have a sixth form and you really wanted to have the opportunity to teach A Level Chemistry for instance. Check at least the following:

  • That NQTs can apply
  • The Ofsted report
  • The school prospectus
  • Do a Google search of the school so you can see if there have been any difficulties or issues lately in the school community that may influence your decision on applying

If you can organise a preliminary visit to the school, this may be beneficial, however you will need to treat this also as a preliminary ‘interview.’

School tour

Whilst on the school tour, think carefully about whether this is the type of school you would want to work in. How does staff morale seem? Do people seem to be supported? Do you think you could work positively with the staff and children at this school? Remember you are on ‘interview’ at this point. Any remarks you make, for instance about the school, and your body language will be taken into consideration by the interview panel.

Lesson observation

Make sure the lesson you teach is completely your own. There are stories I have read on the TES where candidates have downloaded the same lesson resource/worksheet as the interviewer had uploaded themselves to the TES a few weeks before!

Have a lesson plan ready for the observer(s). Print off several copies in case there are several staff members observing, such as the Headteacher, Deputy Headteacher and Head of Science. Use the 5 minute lesson plan or the 5 minute digital lesson plan by @teachertoolkit or a format that will fit easily into one page. Here is an example of one of my KS3 Science lesson plans:

7Jd Example Lesson Plan-page-001

Plan an interesting and engaging lesson with AfL that will show pupils progressing. Do not just focus on teaching a ‘whizz bang’ lesson that you could not hope to teach on a 5 period day when you are appointed!

Have sticky labels ready to give the students to put their names on as this will make behaviour management much easier.

Depending on how many candidates are going for this position, the Headteacher may decide to shortlist after the lesson observation. An example may be if there are 8 candidates and 3 of them had lessons that did not go well, then only 5 would be taken forward to interview. If the lesson is a disaster, then often they will not put you through a formal interview on top of this.


Be calm and as relaxed as possible show you can demonstrate your true ability. Listen carefully to the question asked and avoid rehearsing ‘standard’ questions you might think they will ask based on what you read on the internet and from talking to others. Having said that, do be clear on things like child protection where there is very little room for manoeuvre on what you could respond with. Make your answers sound spontaneous to the question and not rehearsed. Talk about what you have done so far in your teacher training and how you would develop this further as an NQT. The interview panel are not expecting the ‘finished article’ from an NQT.

Scenario 1: You don’t want the job!

If you decide you don’t want the job and it is before the day of the interview, let the HR Department know as soon as possible. Do not go just for ‘the experience.’ Every school and interview situation is different. You will be wasting your time and a busy Headteacher’s time in trying to appoint the best candidate for their school.

If during the day of the interview you decide at any point that you do not want to work at this school, you must let the Headteacher/HR Department/Head of Science know at the earliest opportunity. The school will be grateful for your honesty and all you need to say is something along the lines of that you don’t feel this is the right school for you.

If you are asked this question directly, normally at the end of the interview “are you still a firm candidate?” You must answer this honestly, however if you are hesitant in saying “yes,” then this may influence the interview panel’s decision.

Scenario 2: You get the job!

You will receive a phone call congratulating you from the Headteacher or Head of Science. They will ask you to accept the job offer.

Even though this is not a formal contract, this is a verbal agreement and you should not phone back a day or two later and say that you have changed your mind. If you back out without very good reason after this verbal agreement, this will cause the Headteacher to have to re-advertise and cause expense to the school financially and waste a lot of everyone’s time. This will also cause you a problem if you want to apply to another school in the same borough or county where their Headteachers meet regularly.

You could possibly request that you would like time to think about the offer. This could be fine in some situations, however remember that the school is now waiting on you and particularly if this is a time where they need to fill the position quickly they may say “no” to this requst. As stated earlier, be clear before the day of the interview and during the day of the interview about whether you want the job or not and say so!

Scenario 3: You don’t get the job!

Do not be too disheartened. The school may not have been right for you or you may not have been right for them at that particular time. Another candidate may have been stronger than you and had they not applied, you could have been successful. There are so many factors that can influence the interview panel’s decision.

Listen to what the panel says in terms of feedback to you. Sometimes they will let you know there and then or on the phone. Even though you may be upset, try to listen carefully to their feedback as this is useful to have for your next interview. Do not however disagree with any of the feedback given to you, no matter how much you are against what they have said. Arguing will not influence their decision and will cause them to have a negative impression of you. Remember in a week’s time they could have another vacancy and you might be ‘second’ and they might just ring you back and offer you the job!

Don’t burn bridges!

No NQT job to go to?

The resignation date for serving teachers to leave on the 31st August, is the 31st May in that academic year. This means that any time after the 31st May are jobs that would normally only be available for NQTs. There are often opportunities for supply teaching work whilst you are still actively job seeking for a permanent position.

I wish you all the best with your NQT job searches!


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London Festival of Education 2015: The Blogs

A Roller In The Ocean

London Festival of Education was held on 28th Feb 2015 at UCL Institute of Education. I have storied the tweets which I knew related to particular topics of discussion. These can be read here, here, here and here.

The proceedings of the day were also captured in blog posts, either by the presenters themselves or by attendees. These are listed below (at least the ones I know of).

21st C Leadership: Vision, Trust and Strategy. My #LFE15 Contribution by Tom Sherrington

True grit? Whose job is it to build resilience and character? by Martin Robinson

4 ways to use evidence in education – and 15 places to start by Harry Fletcher-Wood

Reflections on #LFE15 by Robert Brooks

Learning is invisible by David Didao

Pictures of ‘Queen and double-decker buses’ used to show British values, says Hunt Richard Vaughan writing in tes Connect

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Possible Edexcel P2 6 Mark Higher Tier Questions

Possible Edexcel P2 6 Mark Higher Tier Questions – get students to practise these! These are based on the specification.
1.2 Explain how an insulator can be charged by friction, through the transfer of electrons
1.3 Explain how the material gaining electrons becomes negatively charged and the material losing electrons is left with an equal positive charge
1.6 Explain how earthing removes excess charge by movement of electrons
1.7 Explain some of the uses of electrostatic charges in everyday situations, including paint and insecticide sprayers
1.8 Demonstrate an understanding of some of the dangers of electrostatic charges in everyday situations, including fuelling aircraft and tankers together with the use of earthing to prevent the build-up of charge and danger arising
HIGHER 2.5 Demonstrate an understanding that potential difference voltage) is the energy transferred per unit charge passed and hence that the volt is a joule per coulomb
2.12 Explain why, when there is an electric current in a resistor, there is an energy transfer which heats the resistor
HIGHER 2.13 Explain the energy transfer (in 2.12 above) as the result of collisions between electrons and the ions in the lattice
2.14 Distinguish between the advantages and disadvantages of the heating effect of an electric current
4.2 Demonstrate an understanding of the factors affecting the stopping distance of a vehicle, including:
a) the mass of the vehicle
b) the speed of the vehicle
c) the driver’s reaction time
d) the state of the vehicle’s brakes
e) the state of the road
f) the amount of friction between the tyre and the road surface
4.6 Demonstrate an understanding of the idea of linear momentum conservation
4.7 Demonstrate an understanding of the idea of rate of change of momentum to explain protective features including bubble wraps, seat belts, crumple zones and air bags
5.7 Explain how the fission of U-235 produces two daughter nuclei and two or more neutrons, accompanied by a release of energy
5.8 Explain the principle of a controlled nuclear chain reaction
5.9 Explain how the chain reaction is controlled in a nuclear reactor including the action of moderators and control rods
5.10 Describe how thermal (heat) energy from the chain reaction is converted into electrical energy in a nuclear power station
5.12 Describe nuclear fusion as the creation of larger nuclei from smaller nuclei, accompanied by a release of energy and recognise fusion as the energy source for stars
5.13 Explain the difference between nuclear fusion and nuclear fission
HIGHER 5.14 Explain why nuclear fusion does not happen at low temperatures and pressures, due to electrostatic repulsion of protons
HIGHER 5.15 Relate the conditions for fusion to the difficulty of making a practical and economic form of power station
6.9 Demonstrate an understanding of the dangers of ionising radiation in terms of tissue damage and possible mutations and relate this to the precautions needed.
6.10 Describe how scientists have changed their ideas of radioactivity over time, including: a the awareness of the hazards associated with radioactive sources b why the scientific ideas change over time
6.11 Discuss the long-term possibilities for storage and disposal of nuclear waste
6.12 Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power for generating electricity, including the lack of carbon dioxide emissions, risks, public perception, waste disposal and safety issues


Reflections on #LFE15

This blog post is about my reflections on #LFE15. The London Festival of Education was held yesterday at The Institute of Education (IOE). This post highlights key points I learnt from the event and some of the tweets I made or saw during the day.

Before the event

The SLT at my school very kindly got tickets for those of us that wanted to go to the #LFE15 (thanks Richard @rolfster for organising!). This is the second type of #teachmeet #TM event I have been to and it was an invaluable opportunity to listen and talk to national education experts.

Although this was a London Festival of Education event, educators from all across the country came:

le15 before

I then went on the tube and was sat nearby Tristram Hunt @tristramhuntmp and everyone appeared to be oblivious to the fact he was sharing the same tube as them!


On arrival, I registered and then went to the main hall for the introduction of the day.

We then saw some dancing performances by some secondary school students and were welcomed by Chris Husbands, Director of the IOE, @Director_IOE Chris quizzed us all on the content of the new National Curriculum for a short while before the first session started.

Question time

A question time-style event took place in the main hall with Tristram Hunt (Labour) @tristramhuntmp, Natalie Bennett (Green Party) @natalieben and Sam Gyimah (Conservative) @SamGyimah.

Natalie Bennett: Pledges to reduce teacher bureaucracy and warned schools to take care with involving employers as “school is not just preparation for working in local industry.” Natalie is a fan of outdoor education as “we need to give children contact with the natural world for their own wellbeing.” Natalie feels that schools should be offering “learning for life.” Finally, Natalie feels that there should be no tuition fees but Tristram challenged her on this point.

Sam Gyimah: Sam raised the point that the teacher’s ‘hippocratic oath‘ was generally unpopular among teachers. Sam also talked about how a workload survey was completed by many teachers to investigate the concerns into teacher workload further.

Tristram Hunt: Tristram promises stability if Labour come in and the reduction of university tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 per year. Tristram claims that he speaks to many teachers, Headteachers, researchers, universities etc; however he still wanted to implement the  ‘hippocratic oath,’ which was generally unpopular among teachers. Is he really ‘listening’ to us?

Tristram also stated:

My colleague, Alison Morgan, asked an important question:

All of the MPs claimed that they listened to teachers and a variety of sources.

How to be an outstanding teacher – TES Courses

This course was run by Mike Gershon whose resources have been downloaded over 2 million times on TES Resources.

He outlined how the term ‘outstanding’ constantly changes with the change in criteria from Ofsted but how there are seven habits that never seem to change to have ‘outstanding’ teaching.

My summary after hearing this interactive presentation, which involved us as the audience:

  1. Teaching should be based on reasoning, evidence and experience.
  2. AfL guarantees progress if implemented correctly. Make students aware of success criteria to achieve success in tasks. Mike got us to draw a house without giving us success criteria to show how difficult it is to achieve without knowing what is required. Our Assistant Director of Science also showed us this same activity in a CPD session a couple of years ago.
  3. Planning for progress needs to consider Bloom’s Taxonomy, challenge and implementing targets. Therefore students responding to marking is vital. In our school we use green pens to get students to respond to our marking feedback, which was something our Humanities Faculty introduced.
  4. Using differentiation effectively by: words and writing, activities, what the teacher does, what the student does, what the student uses and questioning. High ability pupils (HAPs) should be using concept mapping to link different concepts together, which is a higher order skill. A good point made by another delegate, Jo Flynn (Director of the Keele Science Learning Centre) @ to me was that if you know your students well, you are differentiating.
  5. Understanding your (the teacher’s) expertise by knowing your students/psychology to form good relationships and facilitating effective behaviour for learning. The teacher can also demonstrate their expertise through their subject knowledge and pedagogy.
  6. Leading your students by normalising mistakes to remove this fear that some students tend to have of making them. I remember the Principal at my school informing us at a CPD session that an exercise book with everything marked correct all of the time is not showing progress. All students need to make mistakes from time to time in order to learn.
  7. “The student does not always know best.” Students may moan about repetition but they need to be led and directed, even if it is unpopular to them!
  8. Literacy: words and mind, speaking and listening (use this effectively as students can do this from a very young age before they learn to write) and writing as a technology.
  9. Using confusion to cause learning by asking a question to deliberately confuse the students. This automatically causes them to think and engage with the learning.

I really enjoyed this session and it gave me a lot to think about as a teacher and TLR holder in my school. Thank you Mike Gershon!

The best teacher development, ever! – TES Courses

This session was led by Lord Jim Knight @jimpknight, Helen Fraser @HelenFraserGDST, David Weston @Informed_edu and David Didau @LearningSpy about how to improve teacher development.

An interesting fact to start off with:

Some points I think need to be considered here:

  • Maybe as teachers we are too busy to really focus on a purposeful professional development plan?
  • Maybe teachers need to be given more guidance on a professional development plan?
  • Perhaps some teachers think this is only about performance-related pay now?

At our school, we use BlueSky for our performance management and recording our CPD, professional development and targets. It is easy to use and you can upload evidence with ease.

David Weston made a good point about how teachers’ examination results should also consider other factors:

Jill Berry @jillberry102, an education consultant and former headteacher, made an important point to the panel that leaders need to have the skills to support teaching even if they’re not necessarily the best teachers themselves. “Leaders have to help teachers to be the best teachers they can be.”

Jill also shared with me an article that she wrote for the TES in January 2015 on: Leadership – Give staff a lift by asking for more. This article I found really useful because it talks about changing the language you are using with your teams to get them to think more positively about how to approach an issue. The article also talks about having high expectations and knowing your team’s strengths, whilst giving support too. It was great to meet Jill at the end of the session and she reminded me how complex it is to lead a team and get it right. Jill also kindly shared with me her 5 tips for middle leaders clip from her Oxford Teach Meet:

How to ask conference questions! – Michael Shaw, Journalist and Programme Director for TES Online Learning

At lunchtime, I saw this tweet from Michael Shaw that I thought was a good reminder on how to ask questions at a conference!

Art work at the IOE

During the day, some great Art work was being produced whilst we were at the conference!

Educating audiences: talking outside the box

This session was chaired by Sarah Simons @MrsSarahSimons (a further education lecturer and a columnist/broadcaster for the TES) with the following participants:

  • Vic Goddard @vicgoddard (Principal of Passmores Academy)
  • Jenny Smith @FrederickBremer (Headteacher at Frederick Bremer)
  • Arifa Nasim @arifa_aleem (A Level Student, Campaigner against FGM, Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence)

I found this session inspirational since I work in a London school myself and it reminded me of the importance of the community that a school serves.

Vic Goddard: Vic spoke passionately about the importance of a community school. He stated that the furthest a student lives away from Passmores Academy is 0.92 miles! Vic talked about how it was important to break down the barrier between the school and the community and to get the community involved.

Beyond examination results, Vic talked about how he thrives on the idea that previous students in the community talk about their school days from their local community school and the impact it has had on their lives. Vic mentioned how, if he is asked what job he does, he replies ‘a teacher’ not a ‘headteacher,’ even though most people know who he is now from #educatingessex!

Vic talked about how he expects all of his teachers to care about the students they teach and he recalled how privileged he feels at Year 6 Open Evening in October when a parent tells him that they want to send their child to his school as this means that the parent is trusting him and that school ‘with their most precious gift.’

Vic also expressed how he felt our political system has too many decision-makers that don’t understand how a community works and how schools should not be blamed for everything and that society has to be accountable too.

Jenny Smith: Jenny gave a very honest account about her experience with the cameras and the media during #educatingtheeastend. Jenny felt she and the school were misrepresented at some points, particularly when the media reduced her down to her shoe collection, which she found ‘insulting.’ Jenny talked about how the programme has reminded her of the importance of her interaction with the students.

Jenny also stated that: 

Jenny recalled how far some students travel to school. Back in 2005 when she was a Deputy Headteacher in Hammersmith, she commuted an hour from Finsbury Park on the Piccadilly Line every day to work. Jenny said that she saw a Year 7 student travelling in the same direction one day and that she did not think about this again until the July 2005 bombings on the Piccadilly Line tubes. On this day, Jenny and many other commuters had to walk from Hammersmith to Finsbury Park. Jenny then thought again about this Year 7 student and what he would think of the issues happening in his community.

Arifa Nasim: Arifa gave a very powerful speech about how she was inspired to campaign against forced marriage. Arifa talked about how the school was able to give her leadership skills and was also asked an excellent question by the chair, Sarah Simons, about what advice/message Arifa could give to teachers.

Arifa asked us to see beyond the student in the classroom and think about what other issues could be affecting their lives. Arifa pointed out to us that she knows many teachers do this already.

Arifa was very supportive to the teaching profession, in that:

I was also pleased to hear how Arifa supports and advocates the Learning to Learn programme and ethos, something which was part of my previous TLR role at my school. Arifa explained the importance of students participating in the teaching and learning process as well as teachers.

I wish Arifa all the best with her campaigning, her A Levels and future career.

Tweets I found useful/interesting from other sessions

Key action points for me after attending today

  1. I will use Mike Gershon’s session on ‘how to be an outstanding teacher’ to review how KS3 Science is taught and learnt by our students.
  2. I will look at Jill Berry’s articles, videos and twitter feeds to help me improve my skills as a TLR holder.
  3. In my own lessons, I am going to ask some deliberate questions to cause confusion so that my students can develop their thinking skills and enhance their learning.
Final point

When I left the IOE, I felt enthused about the presentations I had listened to and the different strategies I can now use in school. As I was quite young during the 2005 bombings and did not live in London before I started teaching, I was unaware that the tube station next to the IOE, Russell Square, was one that was heavily involved in the bombings that Jenny Smith was talking about earlier. As I was taking the tube home, it made me think about what London had to cope with that day and the aftermath.

Overall, an excellent day at #LFE15 and hopefully there will be a #LFE16 to look forward to!