When applying for a new job, you may be competing with tens or hundreds of other applicants in a race for the role.
The HR manager or headteacher recruiting for the job will be scrutinising every detail of your application to make sure they are bringing in the right people for interview.
The application form is the first hurdle you have to get over and sets the first impression of you as a person in the recruiter’s mind.
The personal statement presents the perfect opportunity to show you are an exceptional candidate, understand teaching and know the school you are applying to.
It is not an easy task and is a tricky thing to get right. It requires being concise and clear – it shouldn’t be too long or read like a list.
You should talk about yourself and your professional achievements, while at the same time apply those experiences to the school itself.
We spoke to Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, about what goes into the perfect personal statement. Here's what he said:
What does a great teaching personal statement look like?
"In general, I would say no longer than two sides of A4 – typescript. It needs to be well structured and linked to the specific school. It will need to include a number of key areas, including behavioural management, educational philosophy, subject expertise, pedagogy, personal organisation and skills and enrichment activities that the candidate can bring."
What should it contain?
"I would recommend that candidates include three elements in each of the key areas:
- What their beliefs/philosophy/approach is – i.e., the theory
- Their experience in that area
- How they would use that experience in the school they are applying to and specific to the job they are applying for
The statement should also include something personal in terms of their outside interests to indicate that they live an interesting and well-balanced life."
What are school leaders looking to read in a good personal statement?
"They will want to see something of the person’s character come through. It must not be just a list of achievements or repeat of the CV. It needs to be well-written, error-free and mention the school they are applying for – but not too many times. It should read as if it has been specifically written for the school and job they are applying for. I would be looking for something similar to the approach I have indicated above, covering all of the key areas and indicating that they have a vocation for working with young people. Somehow I would like to see a ‘generosity of spirit’ come through in the statement."
How can a candidate stand out in a personal statement?
"A good personal statement needs to include something of the person themselves. It has to make the reader believe that the candidate has something special without bragging or appearing arrogant – but something a bit above what other candidates may offer. A really good introduction and ending are important, and it's worth spending a great deal of time crafting those sections of the statement. Hook the reader in at the beginning and finish on a high note so that they want to meet the person and explore what has been written."
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Your personal statement is the heart of your application for work as a newly qualified teacher and should be re-written for each role. This is your opportunity to provide evidence of how you match the needs of the specific teaching job you are applying for, and earn yourself an invitation to the next stage, which is likely to be a selection day held at the school.
Writing tips for personal statements
See our example personal statement for primary teaching and personal statement for secondary teaching for further guidance.
When completing a personal statement for a teaching job you should usually observe the following guidelines:
- Do not exceed two sides of A4, unless otherwise instructed.
- Tailor your statement for each new application according to the nature of the school or LA and the advertised role.
- Emphasise your individual strengths in relation to the role.
- Consider using the government's Teachers' Standards to structure your statement, or follow the structure of the person specification.
- For a pool application, make sure you give a good overview of your skills and experience.
- It is essential that you give specific examples of what you have done to back up your claims.
What you must cover in your personal statement
Why you are applying for the role:
- Refer to any knowledge you have of the LA or the school, including any visits to the school and what you learnt from them.
- Mention any special circumstances, for example, your religious faith, which you think are relevant.
Details about your course:
- Give an overview of your training course, including the age range and subjects covered, and any special features.
- If you are a PGCE student, mention your first degree, your dissertation (if appropriate), any classroom-based research projects and relevant modules studied. Also mention if you have studied any masters modules.
Your teaching experience:
- What year groups you have taught.
- What subjects you have covered.
- Any use of assessment strategies or special features of the practices, for example, open-plan, multi-ethnic, team teaching.
Your classroom management strategies:
- Give examples of how you planned and delivered lessons and monitored and evaluated learning outcomes, including differentiation.
- Explain how you have managed classrooms and behaviour.
- Detail your experience of working with assistants or parents in your class.
Your visions and beliefs about primary/secondary education:
- What are your beliefs about learning and your visions for the future? You could touch on areas such as learning and teaching styles and strategies.
- Reflect on key policies relevant to the age range you want to teach.
Other related experience:
- This can include information about any previous work experience.
- Include training activities you have carried out and ways in which your subject knowledge has been developed.
Other related skills and interests:
- Give details of any particular competencies, experiences or leisure interests, which will help the school to know more about you as a person.
- Any involvement in working with children (running clubs, youth work and summer camps) is particularly useful to note.
Aim to end on a positive note. A conclusion which displays your enthusiasm in relation to the specific application and teaching in general will enhance your application, but avoid general statements and clichés.