Be warned: "Finding a job this year is going to be a challenge for everyone," says Professor John Howson of Education Data Surveys, an expert on teacher recruitment and retention. There are tens of thousands of people leaving training and hunting a diminishing number of jobs.
It's an entirely different climate from three or four years ago because the school population is falling. Every year group below Year 11 across the UK is progressively smaller: there are 789,500 15-year- olds but only 676,000 six-year-olds. Because schools are funded by the size of pupil rolls, this can have a serious effect on budgets. Things won't be made any easier by the 2.4 per cent pay rise for teachers and the possibility of equal pay claims by support staff.
So you can't pick and choose unless you're a shortage subject teacher. Secondary science (especially physics), maths, English and design and technology teachers with a specialism in resistant materials are much sought-after in spite of a £7.78m advertising campaign in 2006-07.
Howson says the job situation is going to be hard for everyone else across England and Wales but especially anywhere north of a line from the River Exe to the Wash. There are still plenty of jobs in London, although it's expensive. Lambeth has just got 12 new flats under the key worker living scheme. Rents in these properties will be 30 per cent below market rates.
You're a good teacher. But so is everyone else. How can people get an edge over others? Well, there are 2,300 Roman Catholic schools in England and Wales, so it helps to be a practising Catholic. Modern foreign language teachers used to be scarce, but now jobs will go to people who can offer a range of languages, including Spanish, which has gained in popularity.
Around a third of new teachers find their first post in a school in which they were placed for training, so making a great impression as a trainee will pay dividends. The education grapevine works efficiently so that places without vacancies will pass the word around about strong new teachers. And news of bad behaviour gets around too.
You can get a feel for the jobs market by keeping an eye on the national press. At the moment, one publication has 1,180 adverts for jobs in London and 1,270 in the South-east, but only 195 in the North-east and 80 in Wales. By and large, people train with effective teachers' classes in successful schools, but the nicest places to work have the fewest vacancies.
Keep your antennae out for schools that advertise frequently: it might be because the school is growing, but it may indicate an unhappy working environment. The quality of the leadership and management of schools is vital, so Ofsted reports can be a useful source of information.
Advertising is expensive. Many schools find teachers more cheaply through word of mouth, by posting vacancies on their website and at training colleges, and through the local authority (LA). Many LAs run pools for primary teachers and some, like Luton and Norfolk, send email alerts for secondary jobs. John Manning, Luton's recruitment officer, already knows of 33 jobs for new teachers for September across 10 secondary schools. "Most have not been advertised anywhere except via my distribution list," he says. The tally is interesting: seven science, five English, five maths, two geography, three ICT; one ICT/business, two RE, one media, two PE, one design and technology, one health and social and two modern foreign languages teachers are needed.
Seize the day
Get cracking as soon as a job comes up. Many head teachers now only consider people serious applicants if they visit the school. Annie Tyson is casting her net for primary jobs across a wide area – Shropshire, west Worcestershire and Herefordshire. With 100 people applying for one job, she's finding job hunting not only tough but time consuming and expensive: "I drove 145 miles in one day to visit two schools, and got neither."
Manning recommends that people view pre-application visits as intelligence gathering. People should come across as professionally as possible because the head will be evaluating, albeit informally. It is against the law to discriminate against somebody on the grounds of race, gender and age but not on the grounds of personality, and this comes through dress, accessories and behaviour.
Well-presented people create a good impression on employers, so attention to professional appearance and behaviour is vital to create a good first impression. Showing enthusiasm for children and the school might indicate how fun and energising a person's teaching is going to be.
Having a look around the school gives you a head start in thinking about how to make an impression in your first paragraph, which must be about why you want to work in that particular school. You will have the opportunity to pick on something specific that you noticed in your visit such as, "I was really impressed by the outdoor environment and playground which you have recently invested in."
People who look best on paper will be the ones to get an interview. In a competitive market, whoever is shortlisting will start the trawl by binning any late applications and those which look less professional. "I've seen some that look as though they came via the dog," says Manning. Lambeth's recruitment officer dislikes applications that arrive without a covering note: "Even if you just say, 'Please find enclosed my application form and do not hesitate to contact me if you need more information,' it makes a better impression."
Complete the form in full and exactly as instructed. If there are gaps in your career history, the reader will wonder which prison you were in! The two referees should be your course tutor and the head teacher at the school of your most recent training experience. Nobody else will do. Include contact details and brief the referees for a quick turnaround.
Kevin Ronan has put much effort into making the recruitment of new teachers to Lambeth in south London as smooth as possible. He expects people to use the structure of the person specification in their supporting statement and to use concrete examples of what they have done or seen, rather than jargon-ridden generalisations.
John Manning recommends mentioning children in the supporting statement: "You would be surprised at the number of applications that avoid it."
The personal statement is prose and it needs to read well. Will head teachers let people who can't get spelling and grammar right in an application form be responsible for pupils' education?
Sara Bubb's 'Successful Induction' (Sage, £18.99), is out now.Reuse content