Interview system is still in the dark ages

11th June 2004 at 01:00
We sat together in the staffroom on a blazing May day, candidates sharing our experiences of interviews. PE teachers came and went, lathering themselves in suntan lotion. Yes, it was the time of year when heads run away from you if you approach them with an envelope in your hand and they all fear, or long for, May 31 to give some finality to the timetable, which is beginning to resemble an antique colander.

Education has gleaned so much from business. We now embrace the importance of information and communications technology, time management and leadership potential. We accept and work realistically with competition and market forces. Why then do we still retain the worst system for the interview procedure?

We tinker round the edges with what we have, one school perhaps sending an acknowledgement letter for all its applications, successful or not, another telling candidates to go home and to wait for a call instead of being publicly summoned into the head's office.

These, though, are tweaks to what is an archaic, brutal system, unless of course you are the successful, when nothing beats the warm handshake of the chair of governors as you bathe in the balmy glow of acceptance.

My colleagues and I in the staffroom shared our ideas for our brave new interview world. Louise wanted time to think. She wanted to go home after the interview, mull things over, scan the timetable for September and work out what she might do about those three NQTs she had not known about.

Karen wanted to come on her own, look around, meet people and interview them just as much as they were interviewing her. When I expressed surprise that schools were not doing this already, she insisted that in several, notably secondaries, visits were not encouraged because of equal opportunities procedures. She also wanted her formal interview to be separate.

"It is barbaric," she said, "to be herded together in this manner."

This led Stephen to argue that he found such discussions were often the best bits of the day.

We compromised. We could all come on the same day and check out each other's suits, but we would have private study areas for each candidate.

With the move towards personalised learning and leading-edge concessions on the relaxation of government procedure, is it not time for the innovation unit, or the General Teaching Council, to start a vertically-structured working group on interview and appointment procedures?

Di Beddow is deputy principal at Bassingbourn Village college in Hertfordshire. If you would like to sound off about a leadership issue, email We pay pound;150 on publication

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