Jaynehowarth’s Weblog

Journalist and writer

“So, what is your Britain’s Got Talent talent?”

with 8 comments

Should pupils be involved in the recruitment of staff at their schools?

Some teachers think not.

A survey by the NASUWT has decried the practice, claiming that panels of empowered youngsters have asked them frivolous questions as part of the interviewing process.

According to reports yesterday, teachers have been humiliated by the questions, which are in the vein of “if you could be on Britain’s Got Talent, what would your talent be?”

They claim they have been robbed of their dignity. They also claim the process is “dangerous”.

The union, which held its annual conference this weekend, claimed schools are guilty of democratising the relationship between teachers and children.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=teacher&iid=8076429″ src=”8/1/f/b/General_Election_b9d3.jpg?adImageId=12099130&imageId=8076429″ width=”500″ height=”319″ /]

There are inherent dangers with it, of course. But as a parent governor at a primary school, I hold my hand up and say we’ve done the same and it has worked exceedingly well, thank you.

The first time – as far as I am aware – that the governing body incorporated children in the recruitment process was a few years ago when we were appointing a headteacher. It was encouraged by the local authority and the diocese.

After the candidates had undergone a gruelling test, presentation and interview, they were unleashed onto the school council. All the candidates knew this was part of the process beforehand and children were given no more instruction than to offer insights into each candidate.

I cannot remember the questions they asked, but I am certain some may have been what NASUWT members have called “frivolous”. This is because children want to know if these adults who want to be in charge of their school are in tune with what they are thinking. They are keen to see if the adult is interested in them – or if they just want to run a business that happens to have children in it.

I am not sure youngsters would really understand answers to question of policy. Although if my memory serves me correctly, candidates were asked how they would deal with a child who is upset because of bullying.

It was an interesting insight into the personalities of these apparently child-centred adults.

The one thing that struck us on the interview panel was that the children drew very similar conclusions to us.

They had a good idea which of the candidates would fit in well with the school and those who would not; they liked the people who valued the children’s opinions and who interacted positively with them.

No one is suggesting that the successful candidate got the job because of the children’s interview, but their opinion helped.

The NASUWT complain that pupil panels can be demeaning, embarrassing and humiliating.

Like everything else in life, there need to be checks and balances and there are potential pitfalls – particularly when internal candidates are in the fray. But if they are used in a sensible way, they are a valuable asset to the recruitment process.

(I might also add that I happen to think the “Britain’s Got Talent” question is an excellent one. It tests an adult’s creativity and illustrates whether or not they are on the same wave length of their charges. I wish I could ask those kinds of questions on interview panels.)


Written by CommonPeople

April 4, 2010 at 4:32 pm

8 Responses

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  1. I think trainee teachers should (and I’m sure do) have to take classes before they become qualified. That, surely, is an endurance test enough.

    Liz (LivingwithKids)

    April 4, 2010 at 6:14 pm

  2. Hi Liz – thanks for commenting.
    Yes – students have to undertake significant classroom experience to qualify (rightly so, as you say).

    There are dangers with allowing pupils on panels, but I do think that when heads/deputies are being appointed, it is another good way of assessing suitability.

    It might surprise (it did me) to discover that a teacher might lose touch with the grassroots when moving into running a school.

    I can understand some of the NASUWT’s concerns, but as for the accusation of frivolous questions, that speaks volumes as to what they think of children.


    April 4, 2010 at 6:23 pm

  3. I’ve worked with 5 or 6 student panels over the last 3 weeks of term. With every one I’d sat with them and discussed what THEY wanted from a teacher in that role. They came up with questions and we discussed them. I then “sat in” on all of the interviews, debriefed the students and fed back to the whole panel. Was never less than proud of the kids. It’s possible to see a lot from fifteen minutes talking with the students and their views were important in the decision. “Looked like Humpty”? Oh please. No school would base an appointment on that. Twice we appointed against what the students felt and twice I talked through the reasons….

    Questions were utterly professional – asked about previous experience, differentiation, how you’d know a lesson was going well and what you’d do if it wasn’t…..And I stopped them from asking “What’s your favourite cheese”. Kind of wish I hadn’t now…

    Jane Kilpatrick

    April 6, 2010 at 4:19 am

  4. […] From another governor (I mean other than me): Jaynehowarth’s Weblog […]

  5. My daughter (year 6) has just ‘interviewed’ candidates for her school’s new head teacher post.
    I asked her what she thought of the process and she told me some of the candidates obviously didn’t want to answer what she called ‘kid questions’. She also told me that she and her colleagues on the school council had worked out for themselves that the candidates were split into 3 broad categories: those with a good chance, those going through the motions and those with a slim-to-moderate chance.
    Apparently the school council recognised some of the candidates were giving answers intended to go down well with the adults present without actually answering the childrens’ questions. The children also recognised some of the candidates’ genuine interest in their questions.
    The process generated a lot of playground discussion and the apointee (the school council’s choice, funnily enough) will have a head start because the children already know a lot about their new head as a person.
    It is also a useful lesson in the workings of the real world – my daughter and her friends were amazed to know that this is what you have to do to get a job.

    I think it is an excellent idea and as a parent (customer to you, NASUWT) I wholly support the process.


    April 8, 2010 at 3:40 pm

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