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New interview process for heads

HEADTEACHERS ARE facing a shake-up in the way they are appointed with some councils making them sit tests as part of the interview process.

Perth and Kinross Council is one of a number of authorities which has reviewed the way it appoints its heads in the wake of the new Parental Involvement Act. It has dispensed with the old practice of asking candidates to make a presentation on a pre-notified topic.

Instead, applicants who reach stage two of interview, will be subject to testing as part of a more "robust and flexible" process. This could involve personality profiling, and tests of their managerial skills, and verbal and numerical comprehension abilities.

Immediately before being interviewed by a panel, candidates could be asked to draft a response to a letter of complaint, show how they would prioritise incoming mail, prepare a short presentation, and take part in role-play.

Chris Webb, head of education services at Perth and Kinross, said his authority had done a lot of research into other education authorities' procedures.

The new system should give candidates the chance to show how they would apply their skills and knowledge in context, rather than simply deliver a prepared presentation, he argued. Teacher union representatives on joint negotiating committees had welcomed the more rigorous approach.

"Everyone has a vested interest in ensuring that we appoint the best leaders in schools," Mr Webb said. "There is a feeling that, too frequently, the process does not enable candidates to display their rull range of skills."

Rather than insist on applicants having the Scottish Qualification for Headship, his authority wanted to match applicants' range of skills against the Standard for Headship, as set out by the General Teaching Council for Scotland. The council would look for evidence that candidates were committed to pursuing some form of study or qualification.

Bill McGregor, general secretary of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, accepted that the present 25-minute interview for heads needed to be replaced with something more professional in form and by a panel more representative of the whole school.

Judith Gillespie, development manager of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said a key leadership quality in a head was the ability to take other staff with him or her and that was a very difficult thing to measure.

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