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NQT without a role? Top tips to plan next steps

Haven't found a role for September yet? Don't worry - there are lots of options

Final PGCE assignments are handed in, goodbyes are shared at long placement schools and thoughts turn to summer and beyond. This all means only one thing - your life as a student teacher is over and life as an NQT starts!

Simultaneously, this is one of the most relaxing (you can finally breathe) and stressful times of your entire career. For those who are yet to find a role however, there is often real concern and even panic. How will bills be paid? Will there be jobs in September? Am I good enough?

It can seem as though there is little light at the end of the tunnel, but remember: you have a lots of exciting and diverse options available. Below are just a few of your options between now and September.

Money's Too Tight To Mention

The primary concern for a lot of NQTs (who have usually left jobs to fund a teaching qualification) is finding money to pay rent and bills. The are two main options here: the first, less attractive option, is to take any available short term work over the summer break. There is no harm or shame in this, and it doesn't need to go on your applications come September.

Alternatively, you could apply for work in summer camps both in the UK and abroad. Typically, this will pay between £300 - £500 per month with accommodation and food included. It's a great opportunity to hone your skills and can be added to personal statements later on. Similarly, you can also complete short term TEFL/ ESOL work in local training centres and colleges (as well as abroad) and this also looks great on applications.

The Long Way Round

As an extension of this route, why not look further afield for vacancies? Teaching abroad is an extremely rewarding experience, a great opportunity to enjoy a new culture and you can begin to pay off student debt. Monthly salaries range from £1500 - £3000 in the Far East, to £1800 - £4000 in the Middle East (often tax free and inclusive of accommodation and travel) and their are plenty of opportunities to travel.

Europe, Africa, the U.S. and South America offer salaries slightly below those in the UK, but also offer excellent opportunities to travel and potentially save (depending on currency and the cost of living). What's more, with many British schools opening foreign schools, there is often the opportunity to complete your NQT year. A word of warning however, some schools offer exorbitant salaries for a reason and may not live up to the glossy brochure or website: the larger the salary, the more compromises you may have to make.

All Eyes On September

If these options don't appeal, why not focus on September? It is best to do this immediately: identify 3 - 5 supply agencies in your local area and sign up before the summer break. It can take time to gather references and verify DBS information, and if you do this after the holidays, you may lose work. Try not to sign up to too many agencies as if you are constantly unavailable due to working for an agency, others will stop contacting you. A top tip: sign up for agencies with a friend as many offer referral bonuses which you can split (usually between £100 - £250 after one of you has completed 20 days work).

Be Flexible

When signing up for supply agency work, always be flexible. Yes, you are desperate to be an Outstanding teacher and want to mould minds ASAP, but this work isn't always available, you have bills to pay and large employment gaps on applications don't look great. Letting agency staff know that you are willing to complete Teacher Assistant, HLTA or Cover Supervisor work (as well as subjects other than your specialism) is a great way of getting your foot in the door and can lead to other opportunities.

It is also a good idea to stay flexible when discussing which setting you want to work in. Consider working in settings which are outside of your comfort zone and/ or specialism and you may well come to love that environment. Working with students in a lower or higher Key Stage, as well as in SEND settings or a PRU, could spark a career in a setting you never previously imagined. Similarly, this is a perfect opportunity to find out what you don't like.

Develop Your Craft

The summer break is the perfect opportunity to begin work on new resources, engross yourself in educational literature or begin to research different aspects of practice. This doesn't have to be a lonely experience - setting up a Twitter account and adding a range of specialists in your field (as well as from different settings/ with different levels of experience) can be an excellent opportunity to develop ideas and adapt resources before September even arrives. You can also post these resources for sale on websites like the TES and potentially start to earn this way (although, admittedly, this will be a small amount).

Rest and Relax

You may feel as if every teacher in the world has a job and you are the only teacher still searching for a role: firstly, this is simply not true. For reasons including timing, geography, experience, subject specialism and a school simply not being the right fit, most teachers struggle at some point to find a role - don't worry. It will come, it will just take time.

Secondly, this is the perfect opportunity to enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation after what is likely to be the most stressful year of your life. 14 - 16 hour days take their toll over an extended period of time, and it can sometimes feel like you are doing more than this during your NQT year. Take some time out, spend time with family and friends, and prepare for the best job in the world.

And finally...

It feels like finding a job is the most important thing in the world, but in reality, it is more important that you find the right job. It is no use starting a job that is not right for you. This will likely lead to an unhappy experience for both you and the school and can be damaging to your confidence and skills. Take the time to evaluate any potential role - visit the school, read the Ofsted report, speak to people in the profession (does anyone have first/ second/ third hand experience of the school?) and make sure it is a good fit.

My first role was in a school in the North East and I was overjoyed to get a job at the end of February during my PGCE year. Having been so elated to get the job, I hadn't done my due diligence and quickly found out the school had the most police call outs for any school in the country just two years prior, and my predecessor had allowed students to smoke cigarettes out of the classroom window if they completed 10 - 15 minutes worth of work.

It seems frightening, but remember that you will find that perfect first job and everyone gets there in different ways. Keep the faith!


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