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How to... Write a Covering Letter

I remember very clearly when I had to start applying for my first teaching job. I was in my final placement school and 2 jobs came up. There were 3 student teachers in the school at the time, and we were all interested in working there – it was a great school, with a wonderful staff team. The 3 of us felt we all had a chance –  we were there teaching every day and they knew us better than anyone else!

Part of the application process is the covering letter. We sent ours in, and all 3 of us got no further! Maybe it was because they didn’t like our teaching style, but we knew we were doing well in our placement, so we doubted it was that. I went to speak to the Headteacher, who showed me the pile of letters he’d received. To my surprise, the pile he was pointing at was the ‘thank you, but sorry’ pile. The pile next to it (which was equally as big) was the ‘consider’ pile. He explained the the difference between the two.

The pile our letters were in was full of people who were training to be teachers or those who were looking for a new school to teach at. Everyone in the pile was going to have a teaching qualification. Everyone in that pile could teach a lesson. Everyone in that pile was keen to work at his school. And no one in that pile stood out.

So what got you into the 'consider' pile? Everyone there also had a teaching qualification, could teach a lesson and was keen to work at his school. The difference was that they all brought something else they could offer the school. Some were singers, some were gardeners, some were able to speak another language fluently. Not only did they have these skills – they mentioned them in context in their letters. The singers wrote about running after school choir, the gardeners wrote about creating an allotment for the children to grow their own food in, and those with another language wrote about building links with schools in other countries. This was years before the ‘Cultural Capital’ buzz word was even thought of, but this was exactly what these applicants were offering: creating and expanding experiences for children in the school. This was why they madeimage.png the ‘consider’ pile.

Think about what you can offer a school that will make you stand out, and write about that in your application letter. We all have something unique to bring to the table, however small it may seem to us. 

If you’ve visited the school you're applying to, make sure you mention something you remember from your visit. If you haven’t had a chance to visit, let them know you’ve explored their website by talking about something you liked on it. A generic letter can be spotted a mile off,  so try to make sure you’ve added some personal bits about the school, even if the bulk of the letter is the same for different job applications.

Before sending your letter, make sure it has no spelling mistakes, especially the school or Head teacher’s name! After that, print it, send it, and wait for the call inviting you to an interview!

Ben Case
Ben moved from teaching Primary (although he trained in Secondary!) to joining the Foundation Stage Forum (FSF) in 2019. He has taught in Reception and in Years 1 and 4. When he’s not answering Tapestry customer support queries, he can be found writing content for the FSF and Tapestry websites, browsing Twitter or running the Facebook ‘Tapestry Support Group’ account. He still dreams of being an F1 driver but makes do with watching races for now!

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