This article is about preparing to work in a primary school and will be of interest to primary school teachers in Key Stage One, and Key Stage two who are job seekers who and keen to make a good impression – whether newcomers to the world of teaching or experienced candidates who want to refresh their application and interview techniques.

How to highlight specific skills

Primary school teachers and teaching assistants work with children aged between 4 and 11 years of age in what is usually the child's first formal learning environment. Teachers and teaching assistants need to be sensitive to children’s needs and candidates who have previous experience of relating to children in this age range in any respect – teaching or family life – should emphasise this in their letter of application and CV or at interview.

Be sure to highlight any organisational abilities as the role involves creating lesson plans in line with the curriculum, organising learning resources, monitoring pupils’ progress and keeping clear records.

Using keywords and phrases

It helps to reflect the content of a specific job description when preparing. This doesn’t mean repeating exactly what it says – paraphrase instead and demonstrate understanding and knowledge.

For example, if the job description indicates it may be necessary to organise classroom displays, it will help to mention any ‘creative skills’, especially visual ones; if the job is in a smaller school, such as ‘single form entry’ it may be necessary to work across several different areas and suggesting that ‘flexible working’ is of interest without being asked shows initiative.

If you have experience of ‘differentiation’ and setting appropriate work across ‘mixed ability’ classes and groups then try to reflect this in your CV or covering letter.

When discussing relationships within the classroom, it helps if candidates express a desire to ‘motivate and inspire’ pupils. If the school has clear ground rules for both classroom and playground behaviour, it is best to be familiar with the rules so as to talk knowledgeably about ‘maintaining discipline.’ If the school is in a difficult catchment area, there is no harm in acknowledging that some pupils may be  ‘challenging’ while making it clear that ‘positive interventions’ would be the preferred solution.

Demonstrating your skills

Candidates who have had experience may find it useful to create a portfolio of their achievements – records of exam results in previous classes, for example, or photos of displays they have created with past pupils or from school trips they have supervised. This kind of information can easily be turned into a PowerPoint slide show (which indicates familiarity with software applications) and emailed directly to  prospective employers and head teachers.

Candidates applying for their first post may have similar examples to draw on from their teaching practice or if they have volunteered previously in a child-centred role, such as a playgroup supervisor, managing a children’s party or running a youth group in a community centre.

School culture and bridging any gaps

Providing evidence of academic achievement is a given, however it may also be appropriate to cite examples of extra-curricular activities that are relevant to primary school teaching jobs. Most schools want to recruit staff members who show initiative and are also good team workers – this is part of their school culture and ethos – and a history of playing sports, enjoying amateur dramatics or even the gap year you took to travel the world demonstrates the ability to work well alongside other people.

Where gaps need to be bridged, a willingness to be flexible and adaptive is key and strong candidates are those who affirm their level of dedication and commitment right from the start.