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How to prep for a teaching interview

Posted by Jasmin Choudhury on Monday, 6 May 2019
Jasmin Choudhury
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With teacher recruitment and retention an increasing concern, school leaders will be wanting to recruit teachers who want to stay in the profession and who evolve into consistently good and better practitioners and eventually leaders and post holders.

According to school workforce statistics published by the DFE for 2018, more than one in ten qualified teachers are leaving the profession. The number of experienced teachers is declining and “the consistent failure to meet recruitment targets indicates that there were over 5000 fewer teachers working in schools in the UK in 2017 than there were in 2016.”

To make things more complex, the current population boom means that there will be more pupils, yet fewer teachers and …funding.

Recruiting takes time, effort and energy not to mention money. That is whether you are a school leader or a recruitment agency- the right candidate makes everything worthwhile.

Nurturing and training an NQT or an early career teacher also takes a lot of investment – so hiring the right person for the school is key.

Similarly, for the teacher or NQT who is applying for a role in a school, it is an exhausting process. If you are the candidate – things are in your favour as the right schools and leaders will be keen to develop you. They will still hold out for quality candidates and a good and better leader will be unapologetic about it. So they should!

feet interview (1)

However, just remember, an interview is a two-way process as long as you have prepped carefully. Just like schools will hold out for the right candidate, make sure you hold out for the right school for YOU!

Here are a few ways you can prep for your interview:

1. Do your research

Make sure you research the school carefully. Of course, it means looking at the school website and recent Ofsted reports. However, also look at historical Ofsted reports as they indicate the school’s journey and any changes in leadership teams and highlight the impact they may have made.

Look carefully at pupil premium figures and how well the school does with these pupils, particularly if you wish to work in schools in disadvantaged areas.

The websites below and league tables give you key information to help you:

a) Make an informed choice
b) Give you an insight into the school

Don’t be overwhelmed by the data or hung up on it but have a gist of it. If you are applying for a normal teaching post – you won’t be expected to know it in detail but being knowledgeable about the school gives the interviewers an idea of the calibre of the candidate, they are dealing with.

Get the latest league tables here, here or here

2. Check the local area and the challenges and positives the school community face

A few days beforehand – try to visit the neighbourhood of the school that you have applied to. You have already been successful at the application stage and the interview indicates that the school and you like each other – for the moment.

Visiting the local area will give you a holistic idea of the challenges faced by the school community but also what’s working well for it. Furthermore, it will inspire you to think of things you could do with your pupils if appointed.

In addition, it will help you decide whether you still want the job if successful at interview. Remember, this will be your professional home for at least two years or maybe more and it is essential that you are happy.

plan ahead

3. Keep abreast of “hot topics’ on the education agenda

You may or may not be asked about some of the topics but be aware of what is happening in education both nationally and globally. Education is on everyone’s lips whether you are a politician or a parent.

You are an educator and will be influencing the minds of future generations so you need to be informed. Be aware of topics such as mental health, teacher well-being, the 21st-century curriculum and the issues facing the teaching profession today.

Sign up to alerts from organisations like Ofsted and DFE and read the information on social media platforms such as Opogo, TES, Guardian and BBC Education etc. They do all the hard work for you to help you keep abreast with the fast-paced changes in education.

4. Dress smartly

I cannot emphasise this more. I know it is teaching you to suck eggs but the number of people I have seen turn up in t-shirts and leggings or jeans and trainers is amazing. There is a time and a place for more casual forms of attire a formal interview is not one of them.

Prepare what you are going to wear in advance. Don’t leave this to last minute. Trust me, you will have other things to worry about the night before the interview.

On the day of the interview, first impressions are important so it's good to make the image you portray as professional as possible. Wear comfortable but smart clothes and shoes. You will be teaching as well – so make sure you are feeling good in what you wear.

feet interview

5. Lesson Observation

All schools will ask to observe your teaching. It is an integral part of the interview process. It may be 15mins (usually for a senior leadership post), half an hour or even an hour depending on what the interviewers want to see. You will usually be given this in advance. If you are an agency teacher, a good recruitment consultant will liaise for you.

Primary school teachers are usually observed in a core subject such as English, Maths or Phonics. It can be linked to the school improvement agenda. Secondary teachers will be observed in their own subject.

Sometimes the lesson objective is given and other times the topic or subject is given. It is usually set to challenge you as a teacher and enable you to demonstrate your skills.

  • When planning your lesson observation, plan it around the objectives of the term that the children are in. It will give you some guidance on the pitch and expectations required.

  • Think about the timings and the pace and plan in key questions that are open-ended which help facilitate conversations and pupil voice. Ensure your lesson plan is challenging and instructional which engages ALL learners.

  • Have visual aids and speaking frames to support EAL and SEN learners and ensure your resources are of excellent quality. Think about the different levels of children and aim to cater for all of them.
  • Make sure you build in praise and behaviour management strategies that are firm and consistent.
    Have a backup plan in case technology – including the interactive whiteboard or the internet fails.

  • Organise an observation toolkit with your resources as well as blue tac, sellotape, papers which tell children your name, whiteboard markers and flip-chart markers. You can request resources you need in advance but the above things help you ensure the lesson runs smoothly.

  • Finally, if you are on teaching practice or in a school, go through the lesson plan with a trusted person and a teaching assistant. Try to teach the lesson before the interview and evaluate it carefully and adjust. Ask your pupils for feedback as they really do know their onions and will advise you on what works and what doesn’t. This is all invaluable feedback so that it goes well on the actual day. 

While it is not necessary, have a portfolio with pictures and highlights of things you have done with the children emphasising the impact of your teaching and learning. It doesn’t have to be a huge lever arch folder but just a ring binder. It gives the interviewers a flavour of who are you are and what kind of professional they are hiring.

Lesson observations are usually designed to get the best performance out of you. With people observing, you want it to go tickety boo!

I know that in my own personal experiences, it helped me get the job in a school I really wanted. On one of my first interviews, I had been up the night before, alone, dealing with a screaming newborn baby who had colic and hadn’t slept for a week. I was like a zombie and was sure I hadn’t got the job. To my delight, I did get the job and I am sure it was my portfolio that sold it.

Whether you are an interviewer or an interviewee, you don’t know each other! Most interview processes last a maximum 1 hour to 1 ½ hours so it is your job to sell yourself!

Make sure you are well rested and calm and composed the night before. CARPE DIEM!! Have faith in yourself and believe YOU CAN DO IT! Remember the old adage,” It’s not over yet and everything is for the taking!”


About our Community Expert


Jasmin Choudhury
Community Expert

Jasmin has extensive experience of working in a variety of settings which have included being recruited to work schools in special measures and concern as well as outstanding.

Jasmin has been qualified as a teacher for over 20 years and has been a Deputy Head, working mainly in some of the most deprived and challenging schools in the UK.

Topics: Career development


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