I have seen quite a few people looking for advice on this topic recently. This has been repurposed from an old blog – https://mrmorgsthoughts.wordpress.com/2021/03/31/guide-to-slt-applications/
I have written countless personal statements over the years for a variety of roles. I have also been on the other side of the interview process, reading over 100 personal statements from candidates. Below is the advice I would provide based on my experience. This blog will go through how to write a personal statement and then provide an example at the bottom that follows this approach.
The hardest and most time-consuming part of any application is the personal statement. Each job person specification generally tends to include these criteria: qualifications; experience; knowledge and skills; and personal characteristics or qualities. I find it best to present your personal statement under these subheadings or whichever subheadings are used in the person spec. You must write the personal statement in response to the person specification laid out in the job advert (it’s just like essays at university – there is a specific style to how they’re written).
Some schools go even further than just subheadings and bullet points, breaking each criterion down into essential and desirable points.
Essential meaning that without meeting these criteria, you’re unlikely to get an interview (e.g. at least 5 years teaching experience or experience in whole school improvement). You must meet and include all the essential criteria in your application with examples. That being said, if you meet all the essential criteria bar one or two, I suggest you still apply (depending on what the criterion is).
View desirable criteria as a chance to set yourself above other candidates. You can show that not only do you meet the essential criteria, but you meet a lot of the desirable criteria too, so look to include them where possible.
I repeat: you must write the personal statement in response to the person specification laid out in the job advert. Some schools also ask you to respond to the job description too; I think it is best to do both just to be safe, but the person specification is an absolute must. You must respond to all criteria in the person spec and provide examples to demonstrate how you meet them.
Here is an example of a criterion from a person spec:
Good knowledge of the National Curriculum and statutory testing.
Here is an example of a poor personal statement referencing that criterion in their application:
I have good knowledge of the National Curriculum and statutory testing because I was curriculum and assessment lead.
While being a curriculum and assessment lead is certainly helpful here, the candidate has not provided any examples of how that role and experience provided them with ‘good knowledge’. This person spec is asking the candidate to demonstrate their good knowledge of the curriculum and statutory testing through examples.
Here is a better example of a personal statement doing just that:
Having taught in four different year groups, including the end of both key stages, I possess good knowledge of the National Curriculum and statutory testing. While I was curriculum lead, I developed the maths and history curricula for the whole school in line with the National Curriculum. I also supported subject leads in developing their specific subject curricula. As a reading SATs marker and assessment lead, my knowledge of statutory testing and assessment is stronger than average. I have used this knowledge to deliver INSETs on assessment and to coach other staff on best practice.
Notice how the paragraph started by specifically referring to the criterion from the person specification (the part in bold – I would advise actually writing this out in bold so it is easy to spot in your statement).
It then followed with examples of how the candidate met that criterion (i.e. the candidate has good knowledge of the curriculum because they have written curricula and supported others in doing so + the candidate has good knowledge of statutory testing because of their roles and they have even supported others using this knowledge). While not perfect, this example is infinitely better than the previous one. If you don’t include examples, don’t expect an interview. There will be other candidates who meet all, if not most, of the criteria so you must think carefully about how you do too.
The ‘criterion-then-example’ approach is a simple and sure-fire way to write a personal statement. Think of the person specification as a checklist that the headteacher will be going through and ticking off as they read your personal statement. With the example above, the headteacher will be looking to see if the candidate has ‘good knowledge of curriculum and statutory testing’ and will find it easily because it has been signposted.
Personally, I lay out the personal statement with each paragraph responding to just one criterion with examples. I then go onto the next paragraph and repeat. It makes it clear and easy to read for the headteacher. By using the same language of the criteria from the person spec, the personal statement becomes much easier to assess.
During a school visit, you should try to gather information about the school to refer to in your personal statement. Here are some made up examples of things noticed during a school visit that are then referred to in a personal statement. In bold is the information learnt during the visit, which is then followed each time by how the candidate can support the school:
- “…I noticed during my visit that the school has two NQTs starting in September. I have mentored NQTs in the past and I have significant experience in coaching early career teachers. I would be happy to dedicate some of my time to developing and supporting these NQTs.”
- “During my visit, you mentioned writing is an area for development across the school. Having been an English lead and writing moderator, I am confident that I can support the school in not only improving the teaching and learning of writing, but also the assessment of it.”
To save a lot of time, my advice would be to write a generic personal statement that you could use to apply to any school. Once you have visited a prospective school and studied their job advert, go back and edit your generic personal statement to make it more bespoke to the school you’re applying for.
For example, here is a generic paragraph about a candidate’s knowledge of behaviour management that could go in any personal statement:
‘Behaviour management is dependent on consistency and upholding the school’s behaviour policy. I believe that good behaviour is a precondition for successful learning. Like all aspects of learning, behaviour must be modelled appropriately for pupils. I am of the opinion that modelling the correct behaviour and having high expectations will lead to successful learning.’
Here is the same paragraph edited once a specific school is being applied for. The bits in bold are specific to the school:
‘Behaviour management is dependent on consistency and upholding the school’s behaviour policy and, in (school name’s) case, the values you have displayed on the posters in each classroom. I believe that good behaviour is a precondition for successful learning. Like all aspects of learning, behaviour must be modelled appropriately for pupils. I am of the opinion that modelling the correct behaviour and having high expectations will lead to successful learning. I wholeheartedly agree with the statement in the job advert about how we must have high expectations, so that all children can achieve their full potential’.
This isn’t a world-beating example, but you catch my drift. You take your generic statement and weave in bits from your school visit and the job advert where possible. By having a generic personal statement prepared, you will save yourself hours if you end up applying for multiple roles.
Tip – When talking about whole school improvement, try to use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ where possible. School-wide change is a collaborative action; using ‘I’ too much implies you see yourself as solely responsible for the change.
Tip – Schools often have a motto and it will likely be referred to somewhere in the job advert or application pack. If you can, refer to the motto in your personal statement, showing how you agree with it or can contribute to its implementation. Not a must, but it may help you stand out a little.
If you want to listen to more advice, I talk about everything above and more on this podcast – https://twitter.com/Kieran_M_Ed/status/1644611864020541442
If you want advice on a personal statement you have written, reach out to me on Twitter – @MorgsEd
The example personal statement below was for a DHT post, but it demonstrates the general approach that can be used for any role. You will notice the criteria from the job specification emboldened. This statement was successful in getting an interview, but that does not mean following the same approach will yield success every time, so consider what works best for the role and your application.