During Senior Leadership Team (SLT) meetings this week, we have been preparing for an upcoming recruitment process – a pivotal part of our school’s next step to achieving ‘outstanding provider’ status (awarded by Ofsted in the United Kingdom). Coinciding with this, I have been reading numerous articles, blogs, and internet feeds on “perfect applications”, “how to get your first job”, and “securing promotions”. Coincidentally, within 3 days of each other, 2 ex-students and an ex-colleague asked me for advice on their first or next job teaching physical education! I began by asking them all the same question, “what have you read already?” and they all replied, “Lots! but nothing PE teacher specific”.
And so my first blog idea was born; some great tips on getting that Physical Education job.
The following advice is solely based on the interview day. Although the application letter is the ‘foot in the door’, I believe this should be personal to the School and the applicant. I have now been involved in the recruitment of 11 PE jobs, including my replacement as Subject Leader, second in departments, School Sports Co-ordinators (SSCo’s), and 1st and 2nd-year teachers.
All of the advice and tips mentioned here are taken from real-life experiences, and many of the job prevention hindrances have been seen by myself on multiple occasions, and although this is by no means an exhausted list (please do share your views/experiences), this hopefully serves as a starting point to help people avoid making the same mistakes I have seen made before.
Top Tips for a PE Teacher Interview:
Here are my top tips to keep in mind when interviewing to teach physical education.
1. Plan for all learners to be successful in their PE class
It is good practice for candidates to ask for data and information on the students they will deliver the physical education program to. This will almost certainly involve a conversation with the Head of the PE department.
You will need to know the following information: KS2 (Key Stage 2) levels, reading ages, SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability Information), G&T (Gifted and Talented) numbers etc. Additionally, you will also need to know information only the PE department themselves will be able to tell you. For example, any expected non-participation (you should plan sensibly for non-doers!), how the micro-populations affect PE lessons (e.g. SEN (Special Educational Needs) students categorised as SA (School Action) or SA+ are very likely to be in your high attaining band).
Finally, to develop a developmentally appropriate curriculum, you will need to know what the students have studied already if they’re an examination group, practical assessment scores and unit levels. Failure to obtain this information will almost always result in all students failing to make good progress in your lesson, or a lack of sufficient challenge for all learners. #LeaveNothingToChance
2. Space, Equipment and Set up
Linked to point one, you must be prepared to teach in all circumstances. Remember, although this is your PE teacher interview, it is a normal school day for your class. The best candidates can adapt and be flexible, especially within the PE setting. For example, if it rains and you were told you were teaching outside, you will still be expected to conduct your PE class outside. Plan for it! You are in the real world – being able to adapt is a key feature of a good PE teacher.
You will also have limited time to set your lesson up, so make sure you can teach with impact and motivate students. You must carefully consider the pros and cons of planning a heavily resourced PE interview lesson. Have your learning aims pre-written on large paper as the sports hall may or may not have whiteboards and no one wants to see a physical education teacher spend the first 5 minutes writing on a board.
Think and plan drills/transitions carefully. A drill that takes 6 minutes to set up, uses 45 cones, and then requires packing away before the next activity is a waste of valuable time.
Lastly, although we would all love to teach classes of 24 (so all the team numbers work), this will very rarely happen, so you must prepare for uneven numbers. No observer will ever accept, “it was an odd number!” #KeepItInTheRealWorld
3. Be a Role Model
There are two steps to this process. Firstly, you must dress suitably and look the part. Candidates often spend a long time choosing the right suit, shirt, blouse and shoes. However, PE kits are just as important to the physical education curriculum. It is never acceptable to wear your university hoodie with your nickname across the back. You must dress suitably, with shorts at a reasonable length, and only wear a sports watch as jewellery! Stick to a classic white polo shirt and tracksuit bottoms; you will look similar to credible physical education teachers.
Secondly, it is all about gaining credibility. When you teach, you are the expert, and students want to be inspired by your leadership skills. Show them what you are good at! Make sure you demonstrate this – whilst ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ is true, by simply demonstrating something correctly, you prove to the class you are a skilled PE teacher. Fail to demonstrate, and those questions go unanswered. #IncreaseCredibility
4. Past vs Future
Throughout the day, you will speak to several other teachers. Remember, whoever you speak to, you are still in the interview process. Some staff members will be directed to ask questions, whereas others (e.g. receptionists and catering staff) have very influential opinions. The key here is to learn about the school, be friendly to all (especially students) and give interview answers anytime.
Avoid talking about how great you are, and do not speak derogatorily about any other candidate. Also, think yourself into the role, and link your previous experience to what you can offer to this new role. Keep it relevant – you may have been a great swimming teacher with great numbers at extra-curricular clubs, but if the new school doesn’t have a pool, it’s not worth repeatedly banging that drum. Find out what you can offer the school and evidence of your impact and experience. #KeepItRelevant
5. Be Honest and Genuine
Don’t try to guess answers. If you do not know something or are unsure, ask a question or say you don’t know. This will be far more beneficial than making something up that you’re not certain about.
Control the things you are in control of! You may be asked about your previous results, so make sure you know the numbers, including percentages and value-added numbers. If they are poor, ensure you include what you have learnt and what you would do differently.
Make sure you know the numbers of the school you are interviewing for too – headline figures are ok, but knowing percentages of attainment bands and areas of strength and development from a recent Ofsted report will show you have done some research. You will not be expected to know everything or have all the answers, but you will be expected to have done some homework! #ControlTheControllable
Finally, I will close with a final thought which happened very recently (and may help in the closing stages of your interview). Note: It was not a PE job interview. When interviewing four candidates for the same job, they were all asked, “what do you consider to be your areas of weakness?” (A very common question) All four provided a similar response along the lines of “I am a perfectionist, and I work too hard” (or words to that effect).
Please, please, please do not answer that question like that. Although it may be true for some, it merely shows a lack of thinking and general ignorance. Instead, think hard about which areas you want to improve in – this will be a much better answer and help make you stand out from the others.
I appreciate this is just a basic list, and I really do not wish to patronise anyone, but I promise you in the past 7 years I have seen all the explained behaviours. Please add to this list, use it as a starting point and to your advantage in securing your dream job.
I also recommend this blog post that highlights some more PE teacher interview questions that might come up. And do come back and read this blog if you are successful at interview as it will help you get off to the best possible start in your first PE teaching role. Good luck!