Staff interviews; strategic and operational matters

One of the most important jobs a governor could be asked upon to perform is to appoint the head and be involved in the appointment of the senior leadership team. These are key strategic decisions and therefore governors are, rightly, asked to be part of them. Where things get muddied is when governors get involved in appointments of staff who are not part of the leadership team. This can happen for a host of reasons. The governing board and/or school may think that appointments of all staff are part of our function. The board may have someone who has HR experience or qualifications and therefore it is thought that it would be good to involve them and use their expertise. The school may not have enough staff to form an interview panel and asks governors to make up numbers. The Head may get along really well with the Chair and other governors and values their opinion. None of these, in my opinion, are valid reasons for governors to stray into what is essentially an operational matter.

It is true that governing boards are now expected to recruit for skills. This, however, does not mean that boards are looking for free or cheap labour! If there is an HR expert on the board then that does not means that he/she should be involved in interviews as an HR expert. Schools should have procedures in place to take care of HR. Having skilled people on the board means you have people who have the skill to ask the right questions to determine if the right procedures are in place and being adhered to. They are not there to DO the work.

If the school does not have enough people to make up an interview panel then that may mean two things. The school leadership may not be doing enough to develop and train their middle and senior leaders. These interviews are an excellent opportunity for heads to develop their team. So, instead of offering to plug the gap, governors need to be looking at why these skills are not present in house. The other thing you need to consider is if it is time to admit that you are too small to be viable and look at federating or joining a MAT. This is something that is hard to hear and take on board, but if you need governors to form an interview panel then your school may be just too small to be viable.

Sometimes governors say that the head really values their opinion and therefore asks them along to the interviews. It is good to hear that the head values their views but, and this is a big but, the head should not ask governors to stray into operational matters and governors need to be clear about this. Heads, chairs and governors should share opinions and should have regard to each others’ views but this should only apply to strategic matters.

Governors have been known to say that governance take up a lot of their time. This is one example of time spent by governors on doing something which is not part of their role.

I did a search on the web for examples of questions teachers and classroom assistants could be asked at interviews. Examples of these are copied below.

Interview questions

  • What are your particular strengths in the curriculum? (Primary Teachers)
  • If we were to walk in to your classroom what would we see?
  • Tell us about a recent lesson which was good and why you felt it was good/successful
  • Tell us about a recent lesson which was not so good and why you felt it was not as successful as you would have liked
  • How is your classroom management?
  • Name some methods/strategies you use to maintain discipline in your classes
  • How do you help weaker students in your classes?
  • How do you differentiate work?
  • How do you know if students are learning in your class?
  • How do you gauge this?
  • What forms of assessment do you use and how do you use this information? How does this impact on planning and future activities?
  • Do you use formative or summative assessment in your teaching?

Teaching Assistant

  • Why do you want to be a teaching assistant?
  • Why do you think you would be a good teaching assistant?
  • What do you think the role of a teaching assistant is?
  • What do you think will be the main activities you will do each day as a teaching assistant?
  • How would you deal with a child who was throwing paper around the classroom?
  • What’s your experience of working with children?
  • Why do you enjoy working with children?
  • What experience could you bring from previous posts to your work at this school?
  • What would you do if a child complained they were bored?
  • What would you do if a child didn’t understand what they were supposed to be doing?
  • How could you support pupils’ reading?
  • How can you tell whether children have learnt something during the task they’ve just completed?

After reading these questions I am even more convinced that taking part in interviews for positions other than those of the leadership team is not a strategic role. It leads to confusion about the different roles, interference in management, governors spending time on something which NGA and DfE agree is not part of governor’s remit and also means that opportunities for development of leaders are reduced or lost.





3 thoughts on “Staff interviews; strategic and operational matters

  1. Russell

    This is a something of a contentious issue for our GB, hence my Googling and arriving here…

    Thanks for such an interesting post. For me, though, the answer depends on the reason for the request being made.

    If it is as a result of a school’s inability to adequately constitute a interview panel, then I entirely agree that is a problem for which the sticking plaster of governor involvement should not be seen as a solution.

    However, consider the case of a large secondary school recruiting for (for example) a curriculum lead / head of department. An interview panel of the principal, a vice-principal, and a suitably experienced governor seems to me an appropriate recognition of the importance of such a post. It also convey to candidates a positive message about governor support for the school, and the importance they attach to the role being interviewed for.

    Obviously the governor’s involvement would be but a part of the overall decision making process, and I would not expect them to be involved in classroom observations, for example.

    This hinges as to quite where one sees the boundary for staff appointments as being “strategic”. I would argue that there is a strong case for it to extend to curriculum leaders (and possibly their deputies). But I would also completely agree that it should not extend to all appointments.

    1. governingmatters Post author

      Thank you for your comment and kind words about the post. Always nice to discuss various view points I still maintain that governors should be involved in SLT recruitment only. I can’t see heads of departments and their deputies as strategic appointments.


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