Applying for Support Roles in Schools

In my 14 years as an SBM, I’ve sifted through a considerable number of support staff job applications and, it has to be said, rejected a significant proportion for reasons that were easily solvable by the applicant.

You might think an application to a school support vacancy was just like any other, but you’d be very, very wrong. So here are just a few of my tips on getting your application onto my shortlisted pile.

Read it back

I might be Support Staff myself but, I know my Head and I have to look at applications from his point of view as well. And he is a Teacher. Take yourself back to the most fearsome teacher in your own school days and write the application as if they will be reading it; spelling, grammar, neatest handwriting (if you can’t Word it), practice on a notepad first, use all the exam easy-to-read techniques you can muster and when you’ve finished, read it back!

Show you have considered what it means to work in a school

Your application needs to show that you have considered what it means to work in an environment centred around the needs of young people. Why (on earth) do you want to be involved in that? Tell me. You also need to tell me why you want to work in my school in particular and you need to demonstrate that you have done some background. Do you have any links to the school? If you draw a complete blank on this one a sneaky trick is to call the school and ask what it is like to work there or, better yet, arrange a short visit. (Hopefully you’ll get positive response – if not you might want to reconsider your application!)


Some of the basics. I need to know you didn’t spend that time in 1992, when you weren’t working, in prison. Include all the dates you were having a family/unemployed/travelling abroad. I also need all your qualifications (maybe not Cycling Proficiency) and training. Show me that you enjoy learning and are willing to do more.

Complete every section

Fill in every section of the application form (even if it suggests you don’t have to) this way you’ll know you haven’t missed anything. I can’t count the number of applications I’ve rejected because it isn’t complete.

Give your Referees advance warning

Be aware that I want to contact your references before I interview you. If you tell me not to, I might choose the other applicant that you are neck and neck with. I know that this is a tricky one as your referees have to include your current employer, but it is a school thing.

Follow it up

Finally, keep in touch with your application, if the deadline has passed and you haven’t heard anything, call and ask for feedback. Why weren’t you shortlisted? Is there anything you missed off? If I say “we just had loads of applications and others were more qualified/had relevant experience” then say you’d like to be considered again if I don’t appoint or if anything else suitable becomes vacant.

The thing about working in a school is that everyone needs to show that; they understand what it means to work around young people, they realise they will be examples of attitude and behaviour (to some very impressionable folk) and they can learn new skills.

I’m not going to see that in you if you don’t fill in my application form to its fullest and if I can’t see it, I can’t shortlist you.

Happy applying!

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