Finding your first NQT position

Lampton Park School

.When should I start looking for a job? 

Finding the right school to begin your teaching career is very important. Your first few years as a qualified teacher will be rewarding but challenging, so give yourself the best start by choosing your school carefully.

To get an idea of what is available, begin looking at what’s currently being advertised as early as you can. But don’t rush to get a job before you are ready.

The peak months for job vacancies are between March and May, by which time you will be well into your second placement and should be forming a good idea of what it means for you to be a teacher.

.Where should I look? 

There are lots of teacher recruitment websites where schools advertise positions. But there are other places to look, particularly if you want to work in a specific location:

  • Your local IOP Physics Network Coordinator (UK and Ireland) or IOP mentor (England only) knows the schools across your region. They will often hear about vacancies and may tell you about the schools first-hand
  • Physics teachers post vacancies on our online teacher discussion forum Talk Physics and also on our physics teacher email discussion lists
  • If you study at a higher education institution, your Initial Teacher Education tutor will have links with local schools. Their links to previous students may help you decide which schools might be most suitable for new teachers
  • Many schools post job adverts on their own websites so if there are schools you are interested in, visit their websites regularly

.The recruitment process 

The way that schools recruit teachers (whether newly qualified or heads of department) may come as a surprise, especially if you are a career-changer.

It is common for schools to invite all candidates in on the same day and then expect you all to stay until they have decided who to appoint. If they make you an offer, be prepared to decide on whether to accept the position there and then.

So before attending an interview, do some homework. Find out about the school, think about what sort of salary you would be prepared to accept and decide what you are looking for from the school. Think about what you would like to ask on the day.

Here are some suggestions:

  • The interview - use this as an opportunity to find out if the school is right for you in terms of how you will fit in, how well you will be supported and how well the school is going to help you to develop as a teacher. More interview advice here
  • The role – be clear about what will be expected of you and decide whether this is doable. Preparing lessons and marking can take longer in the first few years of teaching, so ensure this is factored into your workload
  • Physics support - find out how many physics specialists they have. If they are scarce, think whether you have the confidence and the external support network to teach physics there
  • Working environment - ask to look around the physics prep-room. Does it seem a place where other teachers happily share kit or are they guarding their resources carefully? How would you feel about working with the technicians in this school?
  • Interview lesson – you will probably be asked to prepare and teach a lesson. If you are need some ideas or support, log on to our teacher forum Talkphysics where you can see what others in your situation have been asked to do or to ask for advice

See also:

Finding your first teaching position: physicists

Finding your first teaching: non-specialists teaching physics

.Negotiating terms and conditions 

You should make sure that what they are offering is made explicit and don’t assume that what they offer you is immutable. However, space to negotiate does depend on the school itself, its policies and its particular circumstances.

To get an idea of what new physics teachers are paid, we surveyed early career teachers in 2015 to find out what their first salary was. Read the results.

An experienced physics teacher advises: “From experience with my colleagues – read your contract before signing it. If you don't like the terms and conditions, you need to raise these issues before you sign – it’s too late to complain afterwards!”

The 2015 School Teachers’ Review Body notes explicitly that schools continue to experience difficulty recruiting physics teachers. This may act in your favour when discussing a job offer.

.Extra responsibilities 

Don’t be tempted to take on any unnecessary responsibilities in your first year - concentrate on getting the classroom teaching sorted. You’ll be in a much better position to succeed in other areas when you have consolidated your strengths.

Similarly, if you are worried about teaching outside your specialism, see if you can arrange to concentrate on building your skills teaching your specialist subject in the first year.

Other IOP websites

A digital forum for teachers, technicians and their supporters

Ideas and resources for teaching physics to students aged 16-19

Your guide to physics on the web

Support for physics teachers in the early stages of their career

IOP projects

Helping physics teachers to share their skills and experience

Resources to support development of your subject knowledge