Having a pre-prepared list of questions to ask at your interview or on a school tour* is vital. It’s a seriously nerve-wracking situation and you want to make the best impression and asking good questions makes you look smart and thoughtful! Check out this list and pare it down to the things that matter to you. If I’ve missed a key question that you would ask please leave a comment below! Please note – there’s no order of importance. Also, read the school website thoroughly as it may answer some of these questions.
- What are the current area of development/focus of the school’s strategic plan?
- Is there an active Union sub branch? What is the percentage of members on staff? How often do they meet?
- How often does the Consultative Committee meet, and what is the method/arrangement of representation? Be aware that this should be no more than four times a term and absolutely more than once a term. If you need to know more about Consultative Committees please read the Victorian Government Schools Agreement (VGSA 2017).
- How has the school implemented the new Personal Professional Days? This is part of the new Agreement (VGSA 2017) and teachers should be negotiating how they spend their four days per year with the school – not being mandated from above. If there is a teacher on your panel ask them how they spent their days. Schools should not prevaricate or claim they are still getting into the swing of things – this is a sign that they may not be following other aspects of the VGSA.
- What is the meeting schedule? Keep in mind that there should be a maximum of 3 hours of meetings outside class hours per week and each meeting should be adjacent to the school day (within 15 minutes) and no more than an hour long. What time did the last staff meeting end? If it’s after 5pm be wary! A meeting schedule should be set at the beginning of the year.
- What PD is the staff currently undergoing? How does it relate to the school’s strategic plan? The best PD (or PL – Professional Learning) is ongoing, not an hour on this topic, then an hour on something else (medical training excepted).
- What are the transition programs offered by the school? All schools should have a Kinder to Foundation and a Year 6 to High School transition, but there should be end of year transition programs for all levels and the more thorough the better. Is there a Foundation – Year 5/6 buddy program?
- What are the areas of excellence and areas for improvement in the staff, parent and student satisfaction surveys? These yearly surveys are given to random parents, all staff and Year 5 students (they vary for each group). I went on a school tour once where the principal, without any prompting from me, brought out all his data for me to see but this rarely happens. It’s an interesting insight into a school culture as schools are given graphs comparing the current year to the previous few years. Watch out for schools with extremely low staff satisfaction!
- How is the school day arranged? Most schools have either 50 minute blocks or 1 hour blocks. I prefer 1 hour as it means only an hour after lunch (the tired zone) rather than 100 minutes. It isn’t a huge deal to some but a big deal to others.
- What are the specialist subjects?
- How much planning time will you get and how is it arranged? Double periods for planning are great.
- When are team meetings? How are they run?
- How are Professional Development Plans monitored? What is the schedule? What are some examples of PDPs that teachers set for themselves this year?
- Camps – will you be required to attend? Where do they go? Don’t assume that just because you will teach Year 1 that you might not be asked to go to camp. Camps are fun and a great way to bond with students but this might not suit you if you have children.
- What is the school’s homework policy?
- What is the school’s Behaviour Management Policy?
- Staff social life – are there regular drinks? What are the main activities throughout the year? What was the most recent activity?
- How does the school cater for the whole child – particularly those students who aren’t academic?
- what is the cultural demographic of the school and how does the school cater for various groups?
- Extracurricular expectations of staff?
- Graduate support – when will a mentor be assigned? Will they go to the mentor training? Will there be set times to meet?
- classroom budgets – what is included? What is the allowance?
- Will you be required to hand in lesson plans each week?
I’d take my list of questions on an iPad (always pays to show you’re tech savvy!) or in a notebook so you can write down the answers. Don’t expect to be able to remember everything.
*always ask for a tour! Here’re some reasons why:
- if it’s a genuine job (there’s no one waiting in the wings at the school who is almost-definitely going to get it) the school should be happy to take you.
- this is an extra chance for you to get your face and name known to the principal and make a good impression. Obviously you should dress up.
- you can see what the school really looks like – is there lots of technology on show? Are students using it? What’s the staffroom vibe? Are you greeted warmly by the office staff? Is there a vege garden? Chickens? Art on the walls? School values? I don’t know… what’s important to you?
- do you like the principal? I cannot stress strongly enough that the principal represents the school and what it stands for so if you don’t like her/him don’t bother applying!