Outstanding Teacher Job Adverts – #rEDRugby 17 Part 3

In my previous post, I gave a brief comment on the changing usage of the term outstanding, noting how Google nGram Viewer reveals a shifting from its use as a term of economics to one of glorification.

In this post, I’d like to return to a favourite topic of mine which is the language of teacher job advertisements. I find these fascinating. I’m intrigued by what they may say about our profession in general, but also about the schools that write them. What version of a teacher is being promoted as ideal? What kind of school is being promoted as ideal?

Each of the advertisements below were selected from the TES Jobs website in or around June 2017. I have removed any references to the names of the schools, or academy chains.

The first that I’d like to look at is this one:


Deputy Headteacher – Curriculum and Standards

We have outstanding students and our aim is to always provide an outstanding education for all of them. As a school we will constantly strive to make the learning experiences of our students the best it can be. We aim to fill their days with happy memories and experiences so that they enjoy their learning and develop a thirst for knowledge and make the best progress possible and the greatest success in examinations. xxx (part of xxx Multi-Academy Trust) is a mainstream, non-selective, comprehensive school for students aged 4 -16. xxx School is built on traditional values. Pivotal to this is a positive ethos and culture of learning and success for all students. There is particular regard to outstanding achievement for all students whatever their academic starting point and a commitment to lifelong learning for all stakeholders.

I like the way this advert attempts to do something different with the term outstanding, subverting our expectations. Notice how, despite using the term three times, there is no direct request for an outstanding teacher. Rather, the students are outstanding and the school aims to provide an “outstanding education for all of them”. Furthermore, “There is a particular regard to outstanding achievement for all students”.

There is an interesting mix of student-centred philosophy where the school aims “to fill their days with happy memories and experiences”, along with the claim that the “school is built on traditional values”.

It’s all going pretty well isn’t it, until we hit that final word: “stakeholders”. Meh.


Now for one of my all time favourite job adverts.


Teacher of English + TLR

‘To be, or not to be: that is the question’… Are you passionate about teaching English? Looking for a step up in your career? Or are you wanting to be supported to develop into Leadership? Then xxx would love you to be a new member of our English department! 

The xxx Academy are looking for a passionate, enthusiastic and dynamic English Teacher to join our successful Academy. ‘We recruit for attitude and train for skills’ so if you are interested in leadership we have the opportunities available within the Department. 


There’s clearly been some thought put into this one. Someone has decided that a good way to attract strong candidates for English teaching might be to quote Shakespeare. And if you’re going to quote Shakespeare, why not go for perhaps the most famous line? Indeed! Here, they’ve taken this line – a line which perhaps challenges indecision – to be about being brave. To apply, or not to apply: That is the question. The ad goes on to ask if the potential applicant is “Looking for a step up in your career?” And I like the final sentence of the first paragraph: it’s very encouraging.

But wait. Let’s take another look at that Shakespeare quotation. This is taken from Hamlet and at this point in the play, our Danish Prince is contemplating the unthinkable. This isn’t about having the courage to face your fears and do something great. The man is contemplating suicide. In context, this is regarded as a sin. Hamlet is trying to decide which is better – to face the horrors of what he has to do in order to avenge the murder of his father by his uncle (who has then married his mother becoming his step-father too), or to end it all and face the eternal damnation of hell.

What is this school saying about itself?

Oh, and the ad goes on to use the word “passionate”. No, this isn’t my favourite advert of all time. I hate it.


Let’s see if another advert for a teacher of English post can improve the mood.


Second in Charge of English

More than just an exceptional classroom practitioner, you’ll be a thought leader in English – supporting the rapid evolvement of the department and placing us at the forefront of innovation and best practice. You’ll make sure that no child is left behind and that every student enjoys clear direction in order to ‘Aspire, Endeavour, Achieve’.

What is “evolvement”?






“Outstanding” My #rEDRugby 2017 Talk Part 2

Yeah, I know; it’s been ages since I wrote Part 1.

In this post, I want to give a brief account of observations I made about the use of the word “outstanding”. This was one of most mentioned words  in my survey of words that annoy on EduTwitter.

I admit that the methodology here wasn’t particularly academic! But it may serve as the beginning of an interesting analysis of the developing use of this word in educational discourse, amid discourse more generally.

I used the Google nGram viewer to compare the lexemes satisfactory and outstanding, identifying these two terms as being highly associated with Ofsted. The fist term has, of course, disappeared from the lexical set used by Ofsted. Perhaps this was in recognition of the feeling that satisfactory no longer meant satisfactory in its description of schools, having shifted to mean something akin to “not good enough”. I shan’t include anymore discussion of the word satisfactory here because it is redundant in terms of educational discourse.

The resulting nGram looks like this: OutstandingSatisfactory

The blue line for outstanding indicates a massive rise in usage between 1920 and 1940, where it begins to ebb, but remains in use. This Google tool gives links enabling you to view the texts listed for particular time periods.

For the period 1880-1900, we see that the texts listed are mostly to do with discourses around economics, where outstanding is used to mean an owed amount of money. Outstanding1800s


Compare this to the list of texts for the period 1994-2004:



Here, most of the texts use the term outstanding to mean something akin to “standing out for being particularly good”. There are examples of outstanding personalities such as sportspeople. There’s also a biographical text with the subtitle “An outstanding life”. There’s also, amusingly for me although I don’t know why particularly, there are several texts in a series of American craft projects.

There has clearly been a shift in usage between these selected periods, suggesting a move from the economic to that of celebrating achievement: what might be labelled The Cult of Outstanding. And I think this is reflective of the trend in education in terms of usage of this term, where there has been a rise of the cult of outstanding lessons, or worst still, the outstanding teacher. It’s with great relief and pleasure that I note Ofsted’s clear attempts to move us away from the cult of the outstanding teacher by dropping lesson gradings and so on.

Now, it needs to be noted that Google nGram viewer defaults to texts published in the USA; repeating the search to include the search term UK yields a similar trend. The default settings of the nGram viewer are but one potential problem for using it in any meaningful academic research, although people have done so. However, it is, at least, an amusement. But more than that, as I said above, it can I think offer the beginnings of a potential analysis.

It might also interest (or amuse) some readers to ponder the etymology of the term outstanding too.

In my next post, I shall return to a favourite topic of mine: Teacher Job Adverts.