In Tray – AHT Job Interview

‘The In Tray’ Exercise

If you want to move from Middle Leadership to SLT you will have to go through a series of tasks, these are done on the first day of a two day process.

The first day of the interview process is really for the school to get to know you better, it is normally the second day that decides if you get the job or not after a formal interview/presentation.

I hope that this post onmy blog can be used to help people make it to day 2!

Please comment on this post and try to order the tasks as you would if in an interview situation 🙂

The common ‘In Tray Exercise’

Name of Candidate……………………………………………………….
Please prioritize (number 1-7, 1 being priority) the order you would address these with a brief note as to how you would address it. You have 30 minutes

Priority insert number in order which you would deal with first

1/ New member of staff complaining about HOD who won’t support his ideas for the curriculum. Wants to talk to you today about this.

2/ Member of the public has phoned in about a girl she saw being bullied outside of school. Want to pass this onto you. She has a description of her.

3/ You have reports from pupils around school that a teacher has hit a pupil after an incident before break.

4/ Pupil has just had some bad news, you need to console her. She is outside your office.

5/ The caretaker has phoned you saying a group of boys have vandalised the toilets at break. They had shouted verbal abuse at a teacher and she is upset.

6/ You receive this email.
Please could I have a confidential word with you at the earliest possible opportunity about something that Tara said to me this morning when she arrived in school? I have had a few concerns about a change in her behaviour but a remark made to me this morning gives me that feeling that something is amiss. I need to speak to you.

7/A parent has rung school to you saying that he is going to sue the school, his daughter is being bullied for the last few months, she has just phoned him via a mobile phone as says she was again bullied outside the school gates this morning by the same pupils and it also happened at break. The school has done nothing about it. He is now going to take matters in to his own hands.


Assistant Headteacher Interview Questions?

I have been for two AHT interviews, done well in both, but hope to do better next week when I shall be interviewed for an internal AHT post at my current place of work…..wish me luck! 🙂
The general process in the past and some questions have been:
Student Interview
Formal Interview
In-tray exercise
Data analysis exercise
Planning activity
Lesson observation and feeding back
Teach a lesson
‘Round table’ activity (observed group discussion)
I have even had to tell a joke!

1. Why do you want to work in this school?
2. Why did you go into teaching?
3. Why do you want to be an AHT?
4. What do you think the difference is between being on a leadership team and middle management?
5. What leadership style do you use?
6. What leadership style do you use now and why and tell us about an occassion that you used a different style and why?
7. How would you go about leading departments that you line manage?
8. Describe a whole-school initiative that you have lead, how you set it up, ran it and analysed its success.
9. How do you think you would develop _____ (insert an aspect of that AHT particular role from the job description) in ______ school.
10. What do you look for in an outstanding lesson?
11. How do you feedback lesson observations to staff?
12. What aspect of ECM do you think is the most difficult to imbed in school and why?
13. How would you manage a difficult member of staff?
14. What would you do if a member of staff is not performing to a satisfactory level?
15. How do you ensure that staff take accountability for examination results?
16. Describe an occasion when you have worked with the local community as part of your role in school.
17. What outside agencies have you worked with? (There was more on this but I can’t remember it..)
18. Describe an occasion when you have been concerned about the wellbeing of a student and what action you took.
19. How do you think _____ (insert one of the processes they put you through) went and how would you improve it/ your performance in it.
20. What are your three biggest strengths?
21. What is your biggest weakness?
22. How would you contribute to the school ethos? (It was a faith school).

Please feel free to answer these questions by adding a reply to this blog. Thank you

Becoming an effective assistant headteacher

The transition from successful middle leader to successful assistant headteacher (AHT) is sometimes harder than it looks. Headteachers and others can help, providing the nature of this transition is understood, including those aspects of it that can contribute to feelings of insecurity and even of incompetence on the part of the new member of the senior team.

Though often overlooked, the emotional aspects of transition are important. Prior to taking up the post, the emotional security of the new AHT has usually, if they have followed a subject leadership route, been supported by:

•their own feelings of mastery of a subject to which they are committed and which they have taught for several years
•the recognition and respect given to them by others in their department on the basis of the daily demonstration of their professionalism and expertise in teaching the subject
•their own achievements in relation to the leadership of the department
•the physical space, or territory, they have been able to occupy. For a core subject, this is often in terms of a suite of rooms.
Upon becoming an AHT, this is swept away because:

•the expectation of competence extends over a much wider range of issues, many of them having little to do with subjects – or even teaching, in a direct sense
•respect and recognition cannot be won on the basis of subject expertise but on satisfying the needs and expectations of others, many of them not directly visible or directly involved, or even inside the school itself
•leadership is often indirect, and dependent on supporting those who lead others
•personal achievements are harder to identify and to attribute – often it is more important to credit others with an achievement which may owe much to the AHT’s own behind-the-scenes activities and overtime
•there is no physical territory – the territory now extends across the whole school and frequently outside it.

If the emotional aspects of transition are overlooked or ignored, this can lead to unnecessary periods of stress, and sometimes considerable distress, on the part of the new AHT, who feels obliged to emerge as a perfectly formed senior team member. Butterflies seem to have managed a complex transition of this kind, but humans sometimes need a bit more consideration and help. Since AHTs are not only human, but also an expensive acquisition, effort in planning for and supporting them in the first year or so of their appointment would seem to be well worth the investment.

A change of perspective
Changes of position within an organisation often require a change of perspective. What you see, and the way you see things, depends on where you stand in relation to what is happening. Although it is of course possible to transcend the limitations of positional perspective, this should not be left to chance during role transitions. It might help many new AHTs if they understood where their role had originated and what it was intended to do.

Fundamental to being able to handle the job properly is an understanding that, keeping things running smoothly on a daily basis despite the constant bumps in the road will constitute up to 90% of daily managerial activity, and the other 10% must involve giving the school a strong directional focus.

An understanding of strategy

Experience shows that top leadership teams with a poor grasp of strategy can lead any organisation to disaster. What matters for an AHT in this respect is two-fold. Firstly, they need to be able to contribute to debates about the strategic priorities of the school during SMT meetings and other meetings of strategic importance. Secondly, they need to be able to implement the strategic priorities in ways that enable them to guide work in the areas of activity for which they are responsible. If they are simply doing ‘jobs’ without any sense of the required directional steer, they are not carrying out the role as it was intended to be, that of strategic integrator. Without people who can translate and integrate vision and strategy behaviourally, both may remain little more than fantasies, the reality being that the school is simply being managed on a day-by-day basis but it is not developing and facing up to its challenges.

Making a contribution to SMT strategic discussions means being able to self-start on information-gathering. This goes far beyond the immediate concerns of the school. For example, it means knowing about the political debates within and beyond the agenda of the governing party; knowing about the state of the economy and how this affects the locality; understanding societal changes; changes in technology; changes in the law and finally, how each of these may affect the direction and daily work of the school. In simple terms, the AHT needs to be an educated citizen, alert to what is going on and eager to debate these issues with fellow professionals. It means recognising that the SMT is a significant element in the intellectual leadership of the school.

To do less is to reduce the role simply to a set of reactive and mechanistic tasks, which are inadequate for a professionally staffed organisation operating in an increasingly complex environment. This may seem self-evident, but experience shows that many SMTs become excessively preoccupied with the minutiae of managing the school and, in effect, have their noses down hoovering the ground when they should be looking upwards and outwards at the task environment and relating this to the necessary direction of travel.

Clarity of intent
Putting strategy into effect on a daily basis means being clear about what Hamel and Prahalad (1989) refer to as ‘strategic intents’. It is about being clear about a narrow set of intentions that will steer the school to where it wants to be, provide a sense of discovery of new territory and motivate staff by encouraging them to commit to what they perceive as valuable. Clarity about these means that the AHT can recognise, for example, when an idea put forward by others should be accepted, encouraged and resourced because it fits in with where the school is going, when it needs shaping and finally, when it should be discouraged because it will take the school in quite a different direction.

The SI concept also allows prioritisation of tasks, another difficulty for an AHT lacking strategic awareness, because without it all jobs seem to be of equal importance. Strategic, directional jobs are the most important, though this does not mean that they are necessarily the most immediately urgent or that they need to take up much time. They can for example, be enacted through a snatched conversation, a progress chase or a phone call, just as much as in a lengthy meeting or position paper. What matters is whether these behaviours play a role in moving the school forward towards the goals that have been set for the future.

Problem-solving is an essential ability for AHTs and it is not easily taught. The difference between an expert manager and a novice manager is that the former has encountered a far more extensive range of problems than the latter and usually has a richer repertoire of strategies for dealing with them. It is important for the newly appointed AHT to be able to draw upon the experience of more expert managers in order to fatten up their problem-solution portfolio as quickly as possible. However, this needs to be against a background of understanding that management decisions are seldom made with all the information necessary to make the best possible decision. In addition, context and contingency are crucial; there are no how-to-do-it manuals that will tell you exactly what to do regardless of context and contingency.

For this reason, managers must be reflective and reflexive; a reasonable injunction is, ‘Do your best with what you know, look for evidence of success or shortcoming or failure, and think how you would do it better next time.’

Training during transition
Perfection is elusive in managerial work. This is particularly true in education because, unlike medicine, where one starts out as a generalist and becomes a specialist, education works the other way around. As one becomes more senior, there are more and more general tasks which one does not, at first, know much about. While this is not unique to education – engineering specialists often find difficulty in adapting to management and leadership roles if they have progressed through a specialist route – it does draw attention to the need for adequate training and mentoring during the transition, a period that should relate to the needs of the AHT and not be time-limited nor be confined to one form of support offered by a single individual or course.

The training, or skill-related elements of a programme for an AHT relate to capabilities, which are usually important for the role. These include making meetings more effective as both chair and participant; influencing skills: improving personal organisation and time-management; carrying out performance reviews and writing accurate statements; project planning report writing; speaking in public; handling poor performance and disciplinary problems; and minimising conflict.

There appears to be very little of this kind of general management training for AHTs, although there are many suitable courses leading to qualifications such as those offered by the Chartered Management Institute. These have the additional benefit of being taught either with a group from the same school, a group of schools or with people from outside education, thus giving a wider perspective on the management role.

Coupled with a good grounding in strategic thinking and with the kind of supported problem-solving carried out with regular mentor contacts, such a three-fold programme can have significant benefits for AHTs and for the effectiveness of the SMT as a direction giving group within the staff. By implication, it also helps the headteacher, whose leadership is mediated by – and may indeed be partly shaped by – these key members of staff.

My Own #5minute Lesson Plan

Many of you must have had a look on twitter at all the tweets about the famous #5min lesson plan, if you have not….then check out the TES and the resources from @teachertoolkit.

I have made my own 5 Minute Lesson Plan, and based it on looking a bit like a ‘blue print’ – just to look a bit more ‘Design and Technologyish’

Please use it, retweet it, share it, make it your own and maybe even give the pupils a copy?!

Lesson Ideas


Four plenaries to think about over the weekend and try out on Monday

Exit Ticket

At the end of the lesson ask the class a question. Give each pupil a piece of card to write their answer on – collect these ‘exit tickets’ in as the pupils leave your room. You can now use these cards to help plan the next lesson based on how much you know the pupils have understood.

The Real World

Pupils write down how what they have learnt in the lesson could be used in the real world or in another subject.

Find the fib

On the board write three statements, questions or answers about a lesson topic. Two are correct, one is wrong. Ask the pupils to tell you which is the fib and why.

Pupil Teachers

Ask the pupils to write what they think the learning objectives should be in the next lesson, based on what they have learnt in the current lesson.
Planning a lesson

You really must check out this resource:

It really is a 5 minute method of writing a lesson plan!
As soon as an observer gets your lesson plan they will know exactly what you are doing, and if you are not being observed – YOU will know exactly what you are teaching as the 5 minute lesson plan is a great way to get your lesson ideas down on paper.