Schools are facing unprecedented problems in dealing with the suspension of statutory schooling due to the Covid-19 pandemic. When schooling will resume is currently very uncertain and many of us believe that it will be September 2020, at the earliest, before things get back to normal.
This raises the problem of how to deal with recruiting teachers to replace those leaving at the end of the Summer Term. With resignation dates fast approaching (May 31st for class teachers), schools will need to consider other activities to replace the traditional face to face interview and associated tasks. This advice has been prepared to assist schools in this area.
How to make virtual recruitment successful
NB Application in this document refers to the software that is used to run a virtual meeting.
- Choose one of the many available video conferencing applications such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Bluejeans, Zoom, Slack, Skype for Business. Check out the free applications first:
- Google Hangouts, supports 10 participants for an unlimited duration.
- Cisco Webex Meetings – supports up to 100 participants for an unlimited duration.
- Zoom Meetings – supports up to 100 participants for 40 minutes – LCC have expressed concern about security issues with Zoom.
- Skype – supports up to 50 participants for an unlimited duration. LCC have advised use of this application.
- FreeConference –up to 5 video and 1000 audio participants for an unlimited duration,
- Jitsi –completely unlimited
- Seek web based reviews of the applications, especially information about how easy the application is to set up and use and also any security issues that need to be taken into consideration.
- Ensure that your hardware is compatible with your chosen application. If you have an IT provider seek their advice.
- Most of the applications are already in use in commercial situations and many businesses have already moved to virtual interviews as a matter of course. However this will be new to most school based recruitment panels so it will be essential to try out the application in a dry run.
- Check your governors to see if any of them have experience of using video conferencing or better still remote interviewing.
- Once you are happy with the application start thinking about how to organise the virtual interview
- Think about the location of your camera/PC/tablet/phone.
- Make sure you get the lighting and background correct – avoid a cluttered background as this can be distracting to candidates.
- Ensure you look at your camera and NOT yourself on the screen.
- Ensure that technical support staff are on hand to resolve any issues that may arise.
- Make sure the interviewee is familiar with the application. This will require clear instructions from the outset, you will need to make access to the application/meeting as easy as possible.
- Set a clear timetable for the process with key dates and times for the various activities.
- During the interview make sure that other applications and notifications are all turned off, eg. Email pings.
- Explain to candidates that the interview panel may occasionally look away from the camera in order to write notes, etc.
- Ensure that all members of the interview panel know which questions they will ask and when. The chair should indicate when the next question should be asked.
- Needless to say in order to ensure equal opportunities for all candidates, the same questions should be put to all candidates. However, supplementary questions to clarify any points raised can be asked of a single candidate.
- At the end of the interview check whether the candidate has any questions for the panel and also ask them whether they have had a fair interview.
- After the virtual interview send a quick email to each candidate to say that the use of the application did not prevent them providing the panel with the information needed to come to a decision.
- Use the application with other members of the panel, possibly through a new meeting arrangement, to discuss each candidate whilst responses are still fresh. Refer back to the person specification produced for the post to check that the essential items have been met.
- If you have been fortunate to have plenty of potential candidates you may need to consider how a second round of interviews will be arranged for those candidates taken forward. However, this should have been discussed in outline with the panel prior to starting the process. Make sure that candidates are aware that there may be a second interview.
- Identity checks along with the right to work in the UK still need to be carried out. An initial check can be carried out by asking candidates to hold up the relevant documents to the camera (e.g. passport/photo driving licence/birth certificate/essential qualifications certificates etc). This MUST NOT replace the formal checks and candidates must bring these documents into the school once statutory schooling restarts. The DfE has produced guidance on this which can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/covid-19-changes-to-dbs-id-checking-guidelines
- If you are appointing a Newly Qualified Teacher check the DfE guidance on how to manage their induction period during the pandemic. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cornoavirus-covid-19-induction-for-newly-qualified-teachers-nqts
- Finally, things are changing very rapidly and the guidance contained in this document may have been updated or replaced by the DfE. Check their website regularly for the latest information.
Possible activities to be included in the virtual recruitment process
Delivering a lesson is a well established part of the teacher recruitment process. Seeing how candidates relate to pupils in the classroom is a key element of assessing suitability. Clearly this will not be able to happen during the present situation. Safeguarding issues for vulnerable children would be too problematic to consider one to one teaching as part of the interview and the current Diocesan and professional association advice is not to include it in the process. Schools, therefore, need to consider alternative strategies to overcome this.
- Ask candidates to prepare and email a lesson plan for a specific subject/year group using the agreed school format. Look for – stages of the lesson/ information on the resources to be used and why/ how the lesson will be assessed/ differentiation/ what will happen if things go wrong (Plan B)/ how will the lesson end. NQT/RQT/TLR/SLT
- Ask candidates to provide a critical analysis of a lesson they have delivered. What went well/ even better if comments should be included along with their original lesson plan. NQT/RQT/TLR/SLT
- Ask candidates to prepare and deliver a warm up activity in maths/phonics/English etc that could be delivered to the interview panel. NQT/RQT/TLR/SLT
- Ask candidates to prepare and deliver an Act of Collective Worship that could be delivered to the interview panel. TLR/SLT
- Ask candidates to sing a song to the interview panel (seriously, primary school teachers have to deliver Music.) This would be a good test of confidence and enthusiasm not necessarily of tunefulness. NQT/RQT/TLR
- Consider a group discussion/problem solving exercise involving other school staff. This would provide some insight on how well candidates work with others. This could be particularly useful for secondary schools where this could take place with other members of the subject department. RQT/TLR/SLT
- Ask candidates to prepare and deliver a presentation to the interview panel. TLR/SLT
- Provide sample lesson plans for subject/area of responsibility and request a critique of them. Make sure you provide a mix of good/satisfactory and poor plans (made up if needed). TLR/SLT
- Provide a selection of school self-evaluation information for the subject/area of responsibility (long term plans/lesson plans/ lesson observation notes/ student survey responses/national assessment results for core subjects/ parent surveys etc.) Request a synthesis of the information and suggested strategies to improve the subject/area of responsibility. TLR/SLT
- Choose an issue from the last Ofsted/S.48 report related to the subject/area of responsibility. Request an action plan and then follow this up with a mini-presentation to/discussion with the interview panel. TLR/SLT
- Prepare a data analysis task preferably using data from another school and in a different format than that used in their current local authority. TLR/SLT (Len Hampson can help with this)
- Consider a brief virtual interview with all applicants as part of the short-listing process BUT be clear what you are looking for from this activity. It needs to be different from a full virtual interview. NQT/RQT/TLR/SLT
- Use a commercially available lesson video as the basis of a virtual lesson observation and then ask for a debrief of the lesson as part of a presentation to the interview panel. TLR/SLT (Technical support would be needed in streaming the video and copyright issues would need to be addressed)
- Provide candidates with a virtual tour of the school using a hand held camera/phone/tablet. Then asking for comments on displays/learning environment etc. TLR/SLT
- Assemble a series of in-tray exercises/scenarios for candidates to address. (Letters/emails/boiler breakdown/ safeguarding issues etc.) TLR/SLT
- Prepare a finance/budget setting task that has some key issues. Ask for a presentation on how to address these issues. (Potential staff redundancies etc) SLT
Further guidance and support, including sample interview questions, can be obtained from Len Hampson or Fran Wygladala
NQT = newly qualified teacher
RQT = recently qualified teacher (2nd/3rd year)
TLR = teaching and learning responsibility promoted posts
SLT = senior leadership team posts (HT/DHT/AHT)