Our recent internal candidates for assistant headteacher had to deliver ten minutes on ‘practical strategies to raise achievement’; they were asked to make the presentation relevant to our school.

Here’s what we we’re looking for (and in fact we had a mark sheet to score each candidate on each of these areas).

  • presentation skills
  • content – innovation and sticking to brief
  • timing

So on presenting skills:

Use of the interactive whiteboard is good but not essential, likewise with PowerPoint. Yes it’s a skill we think senior leaders should have but most important was clarity and engagement, after all assistant heads still teach a good few periods each week.

We allowed for nerves but were looking for candidates who knew how to deal with their nerves. For instance I know I always wear a jacket with pockets so occasionally I can thrust my (shaking) hands in them! I also like to have a gimmick – same strategy as I use when dealing with a challenging class.

  • Be confident; smile, remember to say ‘good morning’ – especially if you’re in a new school
  • Practice speaking out loud, I still do this for assemblies. It cuts down on some of the waffling that you do if you’re thinking on your feet. Your brain will remember more of it and that will help with the delivery.

Content

Obviously this depends on the title but raising achievement is likely to come up and teaching and learning are a safe bet within this.

Practical means different things to different people but the key for me is SMART.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timed

One, unsuccessful, candidate talked about starting an intervention programme for Year 9 aimed at supporting those who data suggested would under-achieve in their GCSEs.

That was it – not really SMART enough.

It only needed a bit of tweaking. For instance – starting GCSE intervention early:

  • Meet with parents to get them on board
  • Share data with every body involved – student, parents, all teaching staff
  • Meet with subject leaders to devise a diagnostic tool and individualized support programme of individual subject support for these students
  • Devise a way to measure success/failure early enough in Year 10 to encourage students or to show the need to turn up the intervention.

If you’re going for a senior leadership job then you need to show that you can think strategically. If you’re an internal candidate it’s important not to simply represent the school’s own development plan and add in things you’d do differently. One of our candidates did that and I felt like the senior team was being told off for not getting the job done!

Timing

It’s not really rocket science. A ten minute presentation should be 10 minutes long.

It’s fine to check if questions and answers will be separate. Also, check how many people will be included if you’re intending to give out hand outs and think about the time it takes to give out hand-outs if you hand them out during the presentation.

It’s important to stick to time; you could have brilliant ideas to share but if you end up saying them in the 12th minute of a ten minute presentation then they won’t be counted – we were actually giving a 2-minute warning and then stopping candidates mid-sentence.

I think one useful way of structuring an ideas packed presentation is to give one idea in full detail (say about 3 minutes) and then have another 3 or 4 ideas where you just spend 1 minute on each and then have another 5-8 ideas in outline which you pack in to the time you have left. This shows that you can do strategic and in-depth but then goes on to show that you have plenty of ideas.

Practicing out loud and having somebody else time you also helps in this regard.

The successful candidate had ideas that were ready to go, presented in a way that made me think ‘I want that idea NOW, I’m going to steal it …. oh no, wait a better idea is to give you the job and then you can run it’.

If you’ve got some other presentations that you’ve been asked to do I’d be happy to post what my ideal response would be.

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