So you’ve applied for a promising teaching job and the school are impressed with your application. You’ve been invited to an interview with the head teacher, along with another interview… with the students themselves! You’re used to interviews by now, you’ve done plenty of them and you usually know what to expect. You can usually walk confidently in to the interview room, but this has thrown you. The thought of sitting in front of a panel of students somehow seems more daunting than the main interview. Don’t worry, here’s what to expect.

What is a student panel interview?

Student panel interviews can be for teaching, teaching assistant or even senior roles. There has been some controversy over student panel interviews in the recent past with some arguing that they are unnecessary and give too much power to students. But don’t worry, these types of interviews are not there to catch you out. A student panel interview is there to compliment the interview process and gives your employer a chance to see what you are like with the students, similar to a mock lesson interview. The students will also give feedback to the headteacher on how they think you performed.

As a teacher, the students are the ones you’ll be spending most of your time with, not your colleagues, so it’s important that schools get an insight in to your manner with students and what kind of teacher you are. Look at it like market research: the school are taking on the feedback of students because they are, in effect, the customers- they are the ones who will be benefitting from your teaching. Student panel interviews are also an indication of the fact that the school gives their students a voice and cares what their students have to say. That’s a positive and healthy sign of the school’s culture.

What can I expect from the students?

In the majority of cases, the student panel have been carefully selected, often providing a mix of abilities and ages, sometimes including sixth formers. This is usually a small group of around four or five pupils. Sometimes they may be student council members or prefects. They will usually have been briefed beforehand on how they are expected to act and what kind of questions to ask you. So relax, you’re not being thrown in at the deep end here. In fact, you may be pleasantly surprised with the interview experience, the student’s behaviour and their perceptive and intelligent questions.

From the student’s point of view, they will be made to feel that their opinion is important while being given greater responsibility may give them greater pride in their school. Remember that the students are also there to represent their school. They are an indicator of the sort of students you will be teaching. If you don’t enjoy talking to them, are you going to enjoy teaching them? So take some of the pressure off yourself and use this as an opportunity to get a deeper insight in to the school, its students and whether this is the right role for you.

Student panel interview questions: What will I be asked?

Unlike in your main interview, the students are unlikely to ask you about your qualifications, your career experience or gaps in your job history. Instead, they want to know what you’ll be like as their teacher. They want someone who will engage them, understand them and respect them. Here’s some examples of the kinds of questions you can expect:

  • How would you help a student who was finding the subject difficult?
  • What would you do if a student kept interrupting or was being disruptive in class?
  • What kind of homework do you set?

Other common interview questions also involve how you would deal with bullying, like “How would you help a student who told you they were being bullied?” So it’s always a good idea to brush up on your knowledge of safeguarding policies as these are usually brought up in most ordinary teaching interviews anyway.

Of course, there will likely be the odd silly question like “If you were a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would you be?”, “What would be your talent if you went on Britain’s Got Talent?” or “Can you dab?”. In these cases, you can either go with it or politely deflect, just like you would if a student asked a silly, off-topic question in one of your classes.

Relax, this isn’t a deal breaker

A student panel interview only compliments the whole application process; it’s not the be-all-and-end-all. It is there to provide some depth to the employer’s decision on who to hire, allowing them to make an informed decision aided by student feedback. In most cases, the school will hire their first choice anyway; they’re not going to make their decision based purely on the student’s comments. The school makes the final decision, not the students. So relax and have fun with it; you might even enjoy the experience!

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