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Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by yelrom, Jan 4, 2009.
Anyone have any examples of good questions to ask prospective employers when visiting schools?
Primary or secondary?
I am secondary NQT, but here are some of the things I found with interview questions:
- ASK ABOUT THEIR BEHAVIOUR SYSTEM and if possible ask a teacher for the 'real' scoop. The kids usually behave at interviews anyway so you won't necessarily get a decent view of whether their system is as good as SMT say it is! Similarly you want to make sure the school as an attitude to discipline that you are comfortable with as when you are an NQT you must use it as closely as possible as it is what the kids are used to.
- If you do a subject such as PE or drama check whether extra curricular activities are included within directed or non-directed time or if it is left to voluntarily giving up time (i.e. does the school expect you to set up extra-curricular clubs through goodwill or because it is part of your contract).
- Whenever possible find a teacher who is fairly new to the school and ask them questions about what the school is like.
- Be very clear in asking about their NQT induction and if there is scope for external training courses, and the cover situation. The cover situation is very complex and it is best to ask a professional tutor about the legalities.
- Ask how their schemes of work are set up - I went for an interview in a school where you had to follow the prescribed scheme that they wrote for you (activity by activity) and this would not have suited me at all. It really suits some however so make sure the school is right for you - don't accept a job if you aren't 100% certain you could work there. I was going for this job despite the fact I would not have enjoyed it there and left the interview process just before the governor interview stage - schools don't mind as long as you are polite and sensible and take advantage of the moments where they check to see if you are still a candidate. You are auditioning them as much as they are you. Don't be taken by fear and make sure you are comfortable with the way the school works.
- Take advantage of the guided tour stage and if possible peer into as many classrooms as possible. Kids will be behaving as they normally do in these classes and it will give you a better idea of the school.
- Be confident and enthusiastic. Whether you get offered the job or not, a headteacher liking you will mean that they may be able to give you good advice on other schools or mention you to other heads.
- Ask for clarification of any questions that you are asked that you are unsure of. I went on for ages, answering a question I had got completely wrong!!
Good luck - the night before, focus on what is important to you in a school and think about what you want as the main thing is that you are happy.
Only ask questions to which you need to know the answers at that point. Contrary to many applicants' popular belief, heads do not decide to appoint people on the basis of the questions they asked whilst looking round the school.
I've known people completely kill their chances by (a) talking too much, (b) asking daft questions and (c) asking questions which have already been answered in the information sent (looks like you don't read), in the talk given before the tour (looks like you don't listen) or which are only really relevant if you're actually offered the job (looks like you're too pushy).
I have never, ever ruled out an applicant who said nothing on the tour. As someone who has been appointed to two secondary headships, however, I've watched with great pleasure as my fellow applicants have talked too much - I tend to say little or nothing on tours of schools.
Thank you for your helpful replies. Just to clarify I am a primary PGCE-er.
Middlemarch - I found your post really interesting as in my previous career turning up at a company without questions prepared was seen to give the impression of disinterest or poor preparation. I must admit to having sometimes felt a bit false when asking them though because they were more of a formality than a necessity, so I certainly take your point. I also hope that most heads share your view!
I suppose I like to feel as prepared as possible and having a couple of questions tucked away just incase I need them just feels reassuring somehow. There's nothing worse than being asked "do you have any questions?" and your mind going completely blank. Cringe.
Yelrom - it's about being 'genuine' - the best answer to 'have you any questions?' is usually 'No, they've all been answered in the information you sent me and during the tour/interview process'.
I advise that you look carefully at all the information you have about the school as part of your preparation and identify anything that's not clear, but be sure it's a 'safe' question - some heads can be easily offended if they think you're trying to be clever or catch them out.
I was once asked - by a candidate for deputy head at the end of his formal interview (after a two day process) 'Is this school going places?' Now, what kind of reply was I supposed to give to that? I was hardly likely to say 'No, we're planning to sit tight as we are and not improve at all'. It came over badly and hugely annoyed the governors present.
If your previous experience worries you too much to risk doing what I advised earlier, then ensure you identify something that definitely hasn't been covered, but which doesn't put the head on the spot (there really is nothing to gain from doing this, and everything for you to lose) - asking about induction and the types of professional development activities the headlikes to use within the schoolis possibly the safest, though if the head's already gone on about this at length it's out the window!
Another possibility is 'If I were appointed, after I've successfully passed induction, will there be opportunities for me to get involved in school development/improvement?' It looks ambitious but humble ('after I've passed induction') and plants the 'someone not afraid of hard work' seed. Similar is 'I'm an enthusiastic netball (substitute any sport, hobby or activity) player - will it be possible for me to get involved in extra-curricular activities?'
However, do beware of 'these are the two questions I am going to ask', since they may well fall within the categories I outlined above.
Hope this helps - but I'll add this to my hotlist, so do feel free to come back and ask more!
For any up-to-date queries about applications (have you seen how old this is!), do come to the Jobseekers Forum.
This, for example:
Questions to ask at the end of your interview