What questions should you ask at your teaching interview?

The Guardian has asked a number of heads and teachers for advice on what questions you should ask when at a teaching job interview. Here’s a selection of the ideas…

Paul K Ainsworth , headteacher, Belvoir High School, Bottesford, Leicestershire and author of Get that Teaching Job

We all feel that we should have something to ask as otherwise there can be an embarrassed silence but we don’t want to blow our chances so close to the finishing line.

Don’t ask too many questions. The panel is likely to be as tired as you and they are working to a strict timescale. So it is probably wise to ask a maximum of three questions.

Remember you do have another opportunity to ask questions and that is at the point when you are offered the job. It is perhaps wise to save the most contentious points for then. So if you wish to clarify issues around pay, times of working, non-contact time, days of work or support for your masters or international sporting commitments; best to ask these at the point when the school has decided that you are the employee they need in their school.

Often the best type of questions to ask at the end of an interview are those which clarify processes in the school which you are unsure about, how PHSE is delivered for example. You may also want to ask about the headteacher’s vision for the future of the school and what key developments are planned. If it has not been covered it is also good to ask about the school’s induction process particularly if you are an NQT? Who will mentor and support you?

One group of contentious questions I have been asked are about staff wellbeing and retention. These can obviously give you an idea of how happy the school is but diplomacy is required.

If you genuinely do not have any questions, you could use this as an opportunity to thank the school for the interview opportunity, comment on why you wish to work at this school and how you could make a difference.

Chris Hildrew, deputy headteacher and media studies teacher,Chew Valley School near Bristol

Candidates should have plenty of opportunities to ask questions during the day of the interview itself, so in the interview it’s fine to say: “I’ve had so many opportunities to ask questions that I think everything I wanted to know has been covered.” This shows the panel that the candidate has come prepared with a list of what they need to know and has taken the opportunities that their well-planned day has afforded.

You might want to ask a table-turning question: “What do you think the best thing about this school is?” Although it makes you memorable it also runs the risk of making you seem like a show off. On two very memorable occasions in my experience, candidates who have come into the interview as frontrunners have talked themselves out of a job offer with a barrage of questions to the panel ranging from the self-aggrandising to the irrelevant, clearly saved up during the day in an effort to impress us. It doesn’t.

Joanna Duncan, history teacher, Mill Hill School, London

In my experience, finding questions to ask at the end of an interview is always difficult. Anything you ask always feels ‘tacked on.’ So the trick is, to plan your questions in advance, to make them meaningful and short, to really impress the people interviewing you. I find the following three types of question always go down well; but they take a little preparation.

A question relating to whole-school targets set by their most recent Ofsted inspection. Don’t mention that you learned this from reading the inspection; this question will make you instantly appear ‘on message.’ For example:

• “I noticed that you are trying to do more with gifted and talented this year, and I wondered what measures are being put in place for (insert your subject area)?”

• “I’m interested in developing ICT, and I wondered what opportunities there are for this in (your subject area)?”

Ask a question relating to the specific curriculum of the subject you are teaching. This is helpful in showing your enthusiasm and how you are already thinking creatively about the role. Such as:

• “What topics are you studying in AS/A2 citizenship?”

• “Have you looked at the new AQA specification for maths and what does your department think of it?”

• “Do you teach any medieval History after GCSE?”

Finally, ask a question relating to recent government policy and/or teaching and learning issues in your subject area. This shows you are aware of the more recent developments, and you’re thinking critically about approaching changes in legislation or exam specifications

See more expert tips at: Best questions to ask at your teaching interview

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