One of the most common questions NQTs have is whether it is a good idea to visit the schools they are interested in working at.
The answer is simple. It's a great idea to go down to the school, show your face, and have a chat especially if you’ve got an NQT interview coming up.
And you’ll find all the reasons why in this post.
When you are applying for a teaching position it is not easy. In fact, it can be quite stressful, especially if you are an introvert. And your stress levels can compound once you start hearing from others who were on your teaching course starting to land job offers.
Hang in there. Keep a level head. And keep researching and applying for interesting positions. You’ll find something soon. And when you do, you’ll be thinking about whether to visit or not, and that’s the purpose of this article.
Why is it a good idea to visit a school you’re interested in?
One thing to keep in mind, whether you are an NQT or have 10 years of classroom experience, is not to choose the first school that grabs your attention.
You need to make sure the school fits with your personality and style. And that means getting down to the school and investigating much deeper than the surface level.
After all, your Google searches can only get you so far. You need to be sure this school you have set your eyes on will really be a good fit. And the best way to find out is getting yourself down to the school.
You can have a chat with staff members, judge their reactions to your questions and get a ton of information you won’t find on their website.
You might even find certain schools actively encouraging you to visit. Some job advertisements say things like ‘We encourage you to visit,’ or ‘We suggest you visit us.’
If you see these kinds of job ads, then it’s simple. Book a time to visit.
Other schools might not mention visits at all. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t want you to visit.
Some schools may not want anyone visiting (and you’ll need to think about that in the current social distancing environment), but sometimes you won’t know unless you ask.
If for some reason they say no, then at least you showed you’re inquisitive and want to learn about their school.
What if you can’t make a school visit?
If they invite you to visit, but you just can’t make it, then don’t stress yourself out. There are valid reasons for not visiting, such as the school might be too far away, it might be expensive to get there, or you’re just too busy at that time.
Hopefully, the school won’t make a big deal of it and they will understand. But I would suggest putting the effort in to make a visit if you can.
Just be aware that some schools make visiting their school a prerequisite for consideration. Therefore, if you can’t visit or don’t visit, you might not stand a chance of being shortlisted.
You might think it is unfair if the school insists you visit them. I guess it is unfair for people who live far away, or they are teaching and cannot get the time off. Some might also be doing supply teaching and would lose a day’s pay for taking the time off to visit. Or a single parent, currently working on supply, could find it difficult to afford to visit schools. They could have a family and mortgage to support and would not be able to turn down work or pay for the expense of travelling far for a school visit.
However, if you really can’t make a visit, why not suggest a Skype or Zoom call with them? This way, you can still make a good impression and both parties get a better look at one another.
Here are some more tips and information regarding visiting the school you are interested in:
1. Should I visit a school before applying?
If you’re not sure if it is a good idea, or that the school even encourages visits, just ask. It is never a bad thing to show that you are interested and inquisitive. The school will probably be impressed by your enthusiasm.
2. Make an appointment
Do not just show up uninvited. Be flexible when you contact the school to make an appointment. The headteacher is busy so they might not be able to meet you at your preferred time. It is best to arrange a time during the school day. This will give you a much clearer picture of what the school is like. However, if that’s not possible, any time is better than not visiting at all.
3. Before your visit
Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about the school, the headteacher and the teachers in your potential department. Check out the school’s website and social media channels, if they have them. This will help you ask relevant questions and you’ll also be able to make comments from a basis of knowledge.
4. Make sure you dress appropriately
You will want to make a good first impression, just like you would with anyone you meet for the first time. You don’t have to wear a suit on your school visit, but you should be smart. Trousers and a dress shirt for the guys, knee-length skirt and a blouse for the ladies would show you are respectful to the school and have a professional mindset.
5. Don’t forget to smile
You don’t have to picture a Cheshire cat right now. But a happy smile goes a long way in smoothing any situation. Your job is to prove you are a fantastic person who will be a valuable person on their team. And therefore, a friendly smile can break the ice and show your warm-hearted nature. This will help boost your chances of success.
If you’re going to be working with young children, a well-natured smile will always put you in a good position.
6. Make sure you pay attention
You’ll most likely be given a tour around the school, and perhaps meet some of the teachers you might be working with. Show everyone you’re introduced to common courtesy and let your positive energy shine. When you are introduced to other teachers it is always a good strategy to try to use their name. For example, “It’s very nice to meet you David.” This will help you remember their names. This way, you’ll take in everything you need to know and show you’re interested in the school.
7. Don’t forget to take notes
Always take a notebook with you because there is so much information to take in when you visit a school. You can’t be expected to remember everything, especially if you feel nervous. Be careful though, not to record so much that your head is stuck inside your notebook. You need to keep eye contact and ready to ask and answer questions.
8. Get a feel for the school
The number one reason for your visit is to find out if you will be comfortable working at this school. Assess if you think the other teachers are friendly and try to weigh up the pupils too, if that’s possible.
Remember, you are going to be spending a lot of time at this school, so make sure you feel you will be a good fit at their school.
9. Don’t forget to relax
Don’t make your school visit like a trip to the dentist. Try to relax, or it will be hard to show your true, gleaming personality. This isn’t an interview, although sometimes it can turn into one. You’re not under the spotlight like a full-on interview, so try and enjoy the whole experience.
10. Make the most of the time
Your school visit is the perfect opportunity to prime yourself for the interview. When your school visit goes well, your interview will be much easier. You’ll be much more relaxed during the interview because you’ve already met some of the teachers, you understand the school and its goals and you are a little more comfortable with your surroundings.
11. Don’t forget to compliment their school
It is always a good idea to show common courtesy when they are showing you around their school. A few nice compliments will go a long way. For example, you might compliment them on their facilities and how much better they are from other schools you’ve attended before, both as a student and perhaps during your training.
Don't be so eager to sell yourself that you forget to listen to them and comment when it feels natural to do so.
12. Be Prepared To Answer Questions
Your school visit is not a formal interview. However, if the headteacher shows you around the school, they might ask you some questions about your experience and general questions about why you are interested in a career in education. Make sure you are ready to answer these kinds of questions. Be professional and friendly at all times.
13. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions
You are bound to have some questions. Never be afraid to ask anything you feel is important. Of course, you will have done your research before your school visit, so try to ask questions which are not on their website or in the school’s documentation.
If there isn’t enough time to ask questions while you’re being taken around the school, don’t be afraid to ask some questions at the end of the tour.
Your visit is just as much about you finding out whether the school is right for you, as the school finding out about whether you are right for them.
Final thoughts on NQT school visits
To wrap up.
You should be aware that if you are working, your Head is not obliged to give you time off to visit another school. In addition, you don’t have the right to time off to go to an interview, unless you are being made redundant. You have to ask nicely. Don't go in saying "I won't be in on Monday because I have an interview at another school". That kind of approach won’t win you any favours.
At the end of the day, school visits help both sides. The school is able to a sneak peek whether you’ll fit in at their school. And you’ll have an opportunity to check out the school first hand and decide if you can see yourself working there on a long term basis.
Plus you can demonstrate a real enthusiasm for the position by asking if you can visit the school. Also, you’ll have a chance to show off your awesome self in person. Some applicants might not have the best details to put down in their application but they have glowing personalities which show they’ll be a bundle of fun to work with. Does that sound like your position? If so, make sure you try to push for a school visit. And considering the job market at the moment, you need every chance you can get!
Also, if the school doesn’t feel right after your visit, do not feel any obligation to apply. You will be spending a large chunk of your time at the school you end up choosing. So if your gut is telling you something isn’t right, it’s probably best to keep looking for a more appropriate school you feel happy with.
If you’d like to start looking for some NQT jobs, read this detailed post we have created: https://teachlambeth.com/nqt-lambeth/
You’ll find all the information on how to apply to the NQT Pool for the London Borough of Lambeth.
Good luck in finding the perfect school.
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