The top 5 words we don't need in teacher job ads

The top 5 words we don't need in teacher job ads
24 Jul 2023

When you look at job adverts for most professions, the biggest complaint you can make is usually that they can be a bit boring and over-focused on specific skills and experience.

But you can't say that about ads for teachers, most of which seem to have been written by people who have been forced to watch Robin Williams in 'Dead Poets Society' too many times (here's a link to the iconic 'standing on desks' clip for those who have not seen it!)

Teacher ads (at least in the UK) don't ask for competence, knowledge and experience. No, here are the over-used words that are all over our sector's adverts - and in the process making them all look the same and wasting a lot of space. (And of course if you did genuinely meet all these criteria you could walk into any job!)

1. Outstanding (also Exceptional)

This is the most used word and the silliest. While 'outstanding' is still used by the OFSTED school inspectorate for schools, it hasn't been used in the classroom for many years by most schools - and of course when it was used it described individual lessons, not the teachers themselves. The only effect this word can have is to discourage anyone who has any doubts about their teaching ability from applying. That might have been a goal of ads 20 years ago but it certainly shouldn't be now, in the middle of the #teacherrecruitmentcrisis.

2. Passionate (also Enthusiastic / Dynamic / Exciting / Inspirational) 

I remember an experienced teacher commenting on Twitter about this, saying, 'I'm passionate about my wife'. Schools may argue that they're really looking for a passion for education, or for an individual subject, but what's really coming across is that introverts need not apply. And it's also really funny when it creeps into non-teaching ads via cut-and-paste and you see schools looking for passionate cleaners or enthusiastic finance assistants. 

3. Qualified (often Well-qualified or Highly qualified) 

This is simply a waste of space and money. Teachers need qualifications (degree + post-graduate qualification) to teach in state schools - and almost all private schools will expect at least this. Ditto extensive comments on safeguarding checks - teachers know and expect these. Leave these for the job description and application form.

4. Driven (also Ambitious)

"To compel (someone) to act in a particular way, especially one that is considered undesirable or inappropriate." Oxford Languages

Is this a good quality for teachers? To me this implies either someone who is looking after their own career, or someone who is happy to be forced to act in some way - see the definition above! Occasional ads take this concept even further as in the famous recent academy ad that wanted a teacher who would be 'wedded to the job'. Is this going to attract a busy, stressed teacher who is juggling career and family?

5. Innovative

This isn't such a bad word, but it's a good example of one that needs to be thought through. Are you really prepared for someone who won't follow your OFSTED-friendly curriculum and standardised behaviour policy and instead taps into their passion and enthusiasm and does things like standing on desks? And that can just be the start - I had one 'innovative' colleague who brought his pet snakes into school, and another who set off smoke bombs in a classroom!

What should you do instead with the limited advertising space you are paying for?

I'd suggest first of all focusing on why this job is better than all the other ones teachers could apply for - highlighting the great location (teachers want a life as well!), benefits offered, the supportive culture, stability, the success of previous recruits, any opportunities for flexible working or promotion, and so on. Make them want to read more about this job than the other 10 in their shortlist. 

Then you could talk about how you will help people find out more about the school and whether it is right for them - visits, the chance to view some video profiles, telephone chats and so on. The 'fit' is probably the most important thing in a teaching job, so you could be bold and mention things that might stop people applying here (such as needing an experienced teacher, not having a uniform, or being 'warm-strict'). 

And then, once they're hooked, run through the essentials (qualifications, right to work, safeguarding checks) via an automated quiz at the start of your quick and easy application process.

If you'd like a third party view on your adverts and recruitment processes, why not commission a Recruitment Insight Report, or if you want to create a new recruitment plan from scratch book your place on our new Recruiting Teachers and Support Staff course.