Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Appointing a Head Teacher

How much do you really learn about a candidate during an interview? As I write notes for this blog post I am listening to the candidates for our headship in the whole staff interview.

I am wondering what I am to take from the session. Is it about personality or what they say? Will the questions give the opportunity to differentiate between candidates? What can I find out about someone when they are "on their best behaviour" like this?

The first question is: Would you rather have no hearing or no sight? Interesting, but what does it allow us to find out? One candidate has gone with sight and the others with hearing.

Second question: How would you ensure that individuals within the staff reach their potential? Interesting to hear heads talk about leadership potential but not teaching and learning potential. I actually think this is a major concern because we can't all be leaders, and in my opiniion our school would benefit from more concentration onto being proud of what is happening in the classroom and not about who can get promoted the quickest. One candidate talks about using the teaching school, but we would be part of the teaching school, so my question would be how do you use it to develop your teachers when your teachers are the ones that should be leading it?

Workload is a big issue at out school as we teach 2.5 hours longer per week and 5 days longer per year than maintained schools. It was enviable that someone wold ask: Give an example of how you have looked at workload. Answers involved: Duty, meetings, valuing the contribution of staff, teaching happiness, reducing cover and decreasing absences. Only the candidate that talked about reducing cover seemed to have a coherent idea, but I wasn't convinced they could bring that to or school.

A question that I would have loved to answer is: Which Olympic event best describes you as a leader? Marathon - long time to prepare you for a leadership - looking at drive and determination, resilience and barriers. Decathlon - variety, and looking at everything to make sure it takes you across the line. Gymnastics - balanced, agile in mind. I was very disappointed with all the responses, I would have liked to have seen one candidate at least light up at the thought of the olympics, but the answers lacked passion and imagination.

An interesting question was: How have you used local and international firms to support learning of students and staff? Only three of the candidates could answer that question. One of them seemed to have great ideas of how to make links and use industry to help prepare students for the outside world. Other candidates talked about links with other schools, and using universities to support their work.

The big question. The question that if you watch the apprentice you know you have to be able to answer. The question that I have been asked (in a slightly different way) in every job I have applied for: Why do you want to be the head of this school? So why were all the answers vague and lacklustre? The candidates wanted to make a difference to people's lives, by improving and making things better, but not really touching on how. They are keen on federations and the teaching school, one said because working within a federation means we can pool resources. Why would you put yourself though all the hoops you do for a headship if you are not convinced about the positive reasons for working at that particular school?

How would you like the school to develop in the next five years? And where would you see yourself? Most of the candidates talked about making the school world-class. None defined what that would be except one who said he wanted to see a school that exceeded its targets for all the students. One candidate did mention retaining staff, and another showed his cards as being very ambitious, he wants to be a national leader in education. I just thought: you don't need to be a head to do that. The most impressive answer of the night was in the section when one of the candidates mentioned that they wanted the staff trained to the highest level possible with respect to teaching and learning.

Last question of the evening was How emotionally intelligent are you? There is only one answer to this: Highly. That is what they all said in various different ways.

To be honest I will be very interested to see how things turn out tomorrow and which one the governors appoint, if any. I hope that at least one of the candidates can show more personality and imagination tomorrow though.

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