So, you submitted your application for your dream job at a secondary school and to your delight an email pings through in the following days inviting you to interview. However, that delight quickly turns to dread, the butterflies take flight in the pit of your stomach and you suddenly feel nervous beyond belief. Whether you're a hardened pro or an ECT looking to secure their first role, we have all been there.
The interview jitters are completely normal, and in fact are a good measure of how much you want to work at a new school, and also how much you care about appearing in the best possible light to potential employers. So by all means, jitter away, but the following information should help ensure that the jitters don’t turn to a full-on wobble and put you off on your big day.
Firstly, it is so important to take a moment to read the whole of the interview offer email. Don’t assume you know what a school will be asking from you. The format of interview days is invariably straight forward, but trust me, there is nothing worse than being unexpectedly thrown on stage to give a lunch time assembly to starving Year 10s on the school values, all because you didn’t take the time to read the email properly.
Depending on the type of role you are going for there will likely be (not necessarily in this order) a tour of the school with leadership, a short lesson to prepare and deliver and then your interview. There also may be a data task, but as I say, this is dependent on whether or not you are going for a role with a TLR.
Whilst you may see the school tour as an opportunity to run through interview answers in your head or to go over the behaviour management strategies you intend to implement in your lesson later in the day, it is actually as valuable an activity for your employers to get the measure of you, as it is for you to get the measure of the school. It is an opportunity for you to show your eagerness to work there. Ask questions during the tour. Find out what the pastoral structure of the school is, how do rewards work (focus on the positive rather than punitive)? Ask about reading in the school, how is it embedded across the curriculum? Ask about extra curriculum activities and don't be afraid to mention ideas for after-school clubs! Be positive, praise things that you like. Stand out and don’t be a wallflower. Remember, you are being assessed for suitability as soon as you walk into the school gates.
The next task we will focus on is the short lesson. My big piece of advice here is keep it simple. Believe it or not, the assessor here is not checking on the amount of complicated arithmetic you can impart to a Year 8 class in twenty-five minutes. This task is all about how you interact with the students and how you manage a classroom.
A staff member I currently work with was employed by my school despite being asked to teach Year 9 twenty-five minutes of Spanish verbs - despite the fact that due to an administrative error the class selected for her interview had never spoken a word of Spanish and were in fact the German speaking side of the year. She cracked on with the lesson, and because she had kept it simple, was able to get through the basics of Spanish verbs whilst managing the inevitable uproarious excitement from the students when they realised the hilarious error that had been inflicted upon this poor candidate. Don’t worry about racing through content, speak to the students, enjoy their company, create a relaxed environment for them to work in and the content will take care of itself.
That being said, simple does not mean disorganised. Have your resources printed, perhaps have some with larger font and some that have been scaffolded so if you have an opportunity to see a classlist beforehand you can differentiate to some degree. If you don’t get to see a classlist, at least make it obvious to the assessor that you have taken this into account. Perhaps offer them the resources to look at.
In your actual interview it is really important that you have done your research into the school. Examine the school's history and make every effort to chart its progress over the last 5 academic years. Look at your school's geographical setting, the number of students receiving free or reduced-price meals, the proportion of students with special needs, and their academic progress.
You should also consider the options available and subject take-up. Plot your answers around this knowledge once you have taken it in. Having this knowledge to hand is beneficial for two reasons: first, it is impressive and will encourage interviewers to sit up and take you seriously, and second, looking at your personal long-term strategy, you can see whether or not you have a place at this school. Where are you going to take these pupils? What will you add to the conversation? What are your goals?
Hopefully these tips will give you a starting point to begin to appease your nerves surrounding a secondary school interview, however the most important thing to do is to see yourself. Be confident in your ability and remember to appear keen. At every available opportunity, let the school know why you are their ideal candidate.