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Your CV has made the cut, now it’s time for presentations, demonstration lessons and psychometric tests. Here’s how to prepare for success:
Interviews for teaching jobs used to involve a half-hour chat to a panel of well-meaning governors. But these days, they are more like physical and psychological assault courses with presentations, demonstration lessons, psychometric tests, observations and in-tray exercises. And if you’re applying for a senior teaching job, you need to prepare yourself for the practical tests as well as the formal interview.
Even for senior teaching posts these are common; schools want to know you can still “walk the walk” in the classroom.
Read the brief carefully. In secondary schools it might be quite detailed, particularly if you’re expected to take a practical session in PE or science. Primary briefs can be more vague: you could be asked to take an assembly on a topic that tests your initiative and creativity.
Find out what year group you will be teaching, how many kids, whether student data will be available, how long the session will be and whether resources will be provided. Ask whether there will be any English as an additional language (EAL), special educational needs (SEN) or looked-after children – or a teaching assistant – in the class.
More than anything you will be expected to demonstrate a good model for teaching and learning, particularly in a middle or senior management position. Do you know your subject and can you manage a class? Do you have charisma in the classroom?
Give a lesson plan to the observers beforehand so if it all goes horribly wrong at least they know what you intended to achieve. Detail how you plan to differentiate and show progress, even if there wasn’t time during the demo lesson.
Mary Glynn, candidate development manager at Prospero Teaching, says: “The first question the panel are likely to ask at the formal interview will be about evaluating your performance in practical things like the demo lesson. Focus on answering this well – show you are a reflective teacher and can justify the decisions you made.”
Be ready to explain at interview how you differentiated, especially for EAL or SEN, how you planned for progress, justify why you changed tack or improvised and acknowledge any mistakes you made.
Don’t expect parity, though. You could get a tough year 9 group when another candidate gets sweet little year 7s. Your lesson might have to be taught after the formal interview while another might be interviewed before.
You are likely to be asked to do a 10-minute presentation on the role you are applying for. You might be asked about your vision for the English department or how you would take forward safeguarding, pastoral care or behaviour in the school. Here’s how to deliver a cracking presentation:
Plan a beginning, middle and an end – basically tell a story in about why you are right for the job.
• Your beginning (maximum two minutes). Think A,B,C and D:
A is for attention – get the panel’s attention with an arresting quote or statistic.
B is for benefit – what is the interview panel about to learn from you in next 10 minutes? Summarise it in 15 seconds.
C is for credentials – tell them (again in 15 seconds) what your credentials are.
D is for direction – give them a 20-second outline of the structure of your presentation so they’ll remember it once you have finished.
• Your middle (maximum seven minutes). This is your content, the meat in the sandwich. Give a compelling outline of your vision supplemented perhaps by a diagram or infographic, maybe a few stats, a very short video clip all on half a dozen PowerPoint slides.
• Your ending (maximum one minute). Finish with a call to action or an inspiring line that sums up you and what you will do.
You are required to observe someone else’s lesson to test whether you can identify outstanding teaching. They’ll be looking to assess the quality of your written and oral feedback, your confidence to assess what you observed or a coaching tip to develop skill and technique. You also need to show a wider appreciation of your subject knowledge or leadership potential.
These test your ability to prioritise and cope under pressure. Can you deal with a dozen things coming at you at once? How will you prioritise urgent matters like multiple staff absences, coursework deadlines and the school boiler breaking down all on the same morning? You can prepare for these by searching for examples on the internet. Search for “in-tray exercises for teachers” – Exeter University and @TeacherToolKit has them. There are no right answers but practising helps you prepare.
These are a harder to prepare for because they are supposed to objectively test your mental ability, aptitude and personality. You may be asked to engage with a variety of exercises that test your verbal and numerical ability or your abstract, spatial or mechanical reasoning. I did one for a headship with the three other candidates for the job that involved building a three-foot high tower with paper clips and sheets of A4. It was worse than an episode of The Apprentice.
You can find lots of examples on the internet. Loughborough University website has a good section on how to prepare for these with a list of companies offering useful example tests. You can’t cover everything, but it will help prepare you for the experience.
However long you’ve been in teaching, take nothing for granted if you really want that next step-up in to middle or senior management. Prepare, rehearse and practise – and that’s even before you get to the interview room. Good luck.
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