How one head solved the problem of interview lessons

Interview lessons rarely show you the best of a candidate, says Chris Dyson, so he did something different

Chris Dyson

interview lesson

In this year’s recruitment window, I did something different: I let the candidates teach the interview lesson with no one watching. 

Interview days make even the most confident teachers nervous. That means you have nervous candidates teaching a class they have never seen before, teaching in a room that is unfamiliar with unfamiliar IT, and with a time limit. 

If that was not enough, you then get the headteacher, deputy headteacher and a governor wandering in with a clipboard and a pen. 

Better interview lessons

I asked myself: am I going to see the best of these teachers? The answer is no. 

So I decided to do something different.  

After shortlisting, the candidates were asked to teach a lesson of their own choice. The class teacher emailed the pupil groups and their current attainment levels and the teacher was told to plan whatever lesson they wished to teach. 

After setting up, I introduced them to the students. And then I left. 

Not only that, but no-one else entered. The teachers did as they pleased for the hour they had with the pupils. 

Informal assessment

At the end, the teacher and I sat down with the pupils’ books and they explained the lesson and the work achieved in the time. 

Meanwhile, three children were then randomly selected to explain their learning and their experience. And the teaching assistant was then asked how the lesson felt, and whether they thought the teacher matched our style – or, if not, if they could adapt to it. 

Did it work? There were multiple benefits. I felt I got a better sense of what the teachers were capable and how they would teach on a normal day in their school. The emphasis was also not on the performative aspect of teaching, but what was learned – and isn’t that what we are all here for?

In short: it gave me a better chance of getting the best candidate. 


But what about the candidates, what did they think? Here’s a glimpse of the feedback:

  • “The fact that I got to teach for an hour while not being observed allowed me to really get stuck into my lesson without the added pressure of being watched.  I enjoyed the discussion afterwards about the outcomes, it felt like an informal chat between colleagues. It allowed me to discuss the lesson I had taught and the intended learning for the children. Having a full lesson with the children enabled me to get to know them, making it easier to discuss what went well, what I would adapt, how I would extend the learning further and support those who didn't quite meet the learning objective.”
  • “When the screen froze, I didn't have to panic, I did as I would normally do in a real-life situation, sent for the ICT person to unfreeze the screen while still talking to the children (without having observers' eyes glued to me). I got to express myself to get the very best out of these warm, happy students.”
  • “I have never enjoyed an interview ever as much as this one. It was so lovely just to be able to teach without having lots of people watching and it was so lovely to do a lesson for an hour as opposed to 15 minutes or 30 minutes that I have experienced before.”

We have a recruitment crisis in teaching. Might this go some way to making the whole process a little more human? We might get a few more people applying as a result. 

Chris Dyson is headteacher at Parklands Primary School in Leeds. He tweets @chrisdysonHT

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Chris Dyson

Chris Dyson is headteacher at Parklands Primary School in Leeds. He tweets @chrisdysonHT

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