Getting your first job: Tips for facing a student panel

The pupil panel section of your interview is not the soft option – the kids mean business, says one teacher as she shares her advice on securing your first job

Lisa Jarmin

Student panel, interview, pupil voice, Bernard Trafford

It can be slightly disconcerting to face a group of interviewers when one of them is foraging up a nostril with a pencil and you can clearly see that another has spilled baked beans down their jumper. But the pupil panel is not the soft option. Its members have got a list of questions for you and they mean business.

They’ve also got the adult panel hiding in the background watching your every move, so don’t write it off as the easiest part of the day. Instead, follow these tips to make sure that you are down with the kids.

1. Relax

The pupils will be impressed by someone who’s easy to talk to and has a sense of humour. So, try not to be too tense and don’t be afraid to engage in conversation with them. This is something that the adult panel will be looking for, too. They want to see that you can relate to young people and don’t feel intimidated by them.

2. Be honest

Kids are experts at spotting phonies. If you’re not genuine with them, they’ll feel uncomfortable. Give real-life examples in your answers to their questions and don’t be afraid to talk about times that you’ve messed things up – nothing fills a child with glee like hearing about adults making mistakes. Just follow up with what you did to put your mistake right.

3. Remember that they’re children

You’re not addressing a panel of teaching professionals, so leave the teaching jargon and acronyms until later. Respond to their questions in language that they will understand – but don’t dumb it down too much as nobody likes to be patronised, especially secondary-age pupils.

4. Ignore any adults…but don’t forget that they’re listening

Always respond directly to the pupils rather than to any adults. But remember that they’re listening to your answers, so watch out for anything that could trip you up.

I once lost out on a job by telling the pupil panel that science was my least favourite subject to teach. I should have remembered that science was the whole-school area for development at the time.

In my feedback, the headteacher told me that it had been the only thing that stood between me and the successful candidate.

5. Refer to your time at school

If you want to get a group of pupils hanging on your every word, tell them about when you were their age. Weave in your own experiences of teachers, lessons and what made you bored or keen to learn.

6. Be ready to think on your feet

Pupil panels are notorious for asking bizarre questions, so make sure you have a quick retort to “tell us a joke”, “what’s your secret talent?” and “what’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you at school?”

Clean answers only, please. Now is not the time for the “nuns in the bath” joke or to admit your aptitude for guessing bra sizes correctly.

7. Enjoy it

It’s always a pleasure to meet these funny, serious, friendly and downright strange characters. The kids make the job what it is, so have fun with them.

Lisa Jarmin is an EYFS teacher and freelance writer. She tweets @LisaJarmin

This is an edited article from the 12 January publication of Getting Your First Job. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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Lisa Jarmin

Lisa Jarmin is a primary teacher and freelance writer

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