#Vamoose! I’m off to @QKynaston … by @TeacherToolkit

Reading Time: 9 minutes

“A man is never the same for long. He is continually changing. He seldom remains the same even for half an hour.” ( George Ivanovich Gurdjieff )

Context:

In January 2013, I posted an online advert (on my own blog – for free) to help Find @TeacherToolkit A Job in Scotland. I continued to update everyone through the 8-month-long battle to gain registration with the (GTCS) General Teaching Council for Scotland. It was not a sensible process and assiduously bureaucratic through and through. I want to state very clearly, that despite my frustrations, I admire the GTCS for being resolute. There is nothing wrong with stipulating that everyone should be qualified to teach in their specialist subject, but, there is certainly something wrong when common-sense is not applied to each individual case. Eight months? Nah, come on! Something needs to improve …

Nonetheless, I gained ‘full’ registration to teach in Scotland in August 2013. As soon as this happened, I started to be called for interview.

My job-hunt online advert was published in The Guardian. Prior to this, and as a result of publicising my intentions to use social-media connections to find work 500 miles away, from conversations I had with @MrLockyer, we co-founded @MyEdHunt. This is a Twitter channel for teachers to advertise their own job-search needs using the hashtag #MyEdHunt. Schools can also advertise their own school vacancies for FREE using a forum etched from grassroot needs. @MyEdHunt helps schools to avoid extortionate prices and steer away from a service slowly becoming obsolete.

The channel guarantees all school and teacher adverts are exposed to over 55,000+ readers. How? Because I use my own Twitter account (@TeacherToolkit) to re-tweet every single advert. Adverts from schools looking for applicants, to teachers looking for work and publishing their own job-searches. 90% of my readers are UK-based, so there is a huge opportunity for connecting schools and teachers to an online-dating service. Interestingly, the popular online forum for UK teachers, @UkEdChat have also formed their own @UkEdJobs Twitter channel. I’m certain this will soon become the norm for schools and teachers to solve their own employment solutions, without paying for publicised adverts elsewhere …

18 months later:

So, last week, I tweeted the following message on Twitter, and this blog is the final piece of the jigsaw to my job-hunt journey:

Tweet Job Hunting
Click to open the tweet

Scotland:

What happened to Scotland I hear you say? Well, Scotland is on-hold indefinitely. Moving north was always an alternative to working and living in London and I have explained ‘Why Scotland?’ in the original blogpost. It was never the only solution. So, for fear of writing my memoirs, I will skip over this chapter and divulge the interview experiences of my hunt for a new job. I have been saving the following details of this blog post for over 6 months!

I have kept the details of each school private. Each of the deputy headteacher interviews range from September 2013 to March 2014 and this blog is more about the process involved, rather than the interviews itself.

Interview 1:

My first interview in Scotland was in Inverness. As the crow flies, 557 miles exactly and my first experience of a leadership interview in a different educational system. The interview was held at the council headquarters, 30 miles from the school. Day 2 offered a tour of the school and a final interview. Despite being given the 6 questions five minutes before going into the office, 45 minutes later I was heading back home to London. I couldn’t resist a quick drive around Loch Ness. It was a wonderful consolation. The only time I saw the school was on Google Maps! I left baffled by such an experience for a leadership interview and my inability to answer 6 or 7 straightforward questions. The headteacher provided very useful feedback and explained that the context of the school indicated what type of person they needed. I was not the answer.

Costs:

  • Flight £250 (2 flights)
  • Hotel £100
  • Car-hire £30
  • Additional costs (food / train): £50
  • Reimbursed costs: £-70
  • Days off work x2

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Interview 2 and 3:

Interview two was actually held in the school, a brand new build, south of Aberdeen. It was good to be back in Aberdeen, as it was at least 15 years since I had last visited (when my parents lived there). The oil industry is evident across the region. Inflated hotel accommodation – exceeding London prices – and helicopters flying to and fro into the airport. A cosmopolitan feel was definitely in the air and would definitely be a major-alternative to London.

As for the interview, it was a pleasant experience with another 10 or so challenging questions and a tour of the school. That was it. Job done.

I was invited back for day two, three weeks later and started to imagine living the job. Between day one and two, my wife and I both suffered a bout of (health) bad luck, plus a bereavement. This is what instigated my GuiltyTeacher blogpost. I was far from fit for the interview, but was pleased with my presentation and my efforts to attend the interview. I knew I may have lost the job when I asked for a coffee after the tour. The headteacher and both internal candidates looked unknowingly at each other and it was there and then, I felt I may have come across out-of-sync with proceedings. Maybe I’m just used to English system going out of their way to look after applicants and set a really good impression of the school? Even to those who will be unsuccessful …

Feedback stated that there was a distinct difference between my performances on both interview days and after sharing my circumstances, it made sense to the panel. The headteacher said , “if they had a second position, it would have been yours.” The internal candidate who was already ‘acting deputy’, got the job. I loved the school and really liked the headteacher.

Costs:

  • Flight £500 (4 flights over two separate days)
  • Hotel £300
  • Car-hire £60
  • Additional costs (food / train): £100
  • Reimbursed costs: £-140
  • Days off work x4

Interview 4:

Interview four was a one=day process to a far-flung corner of Scotland. I needed two days absent from work to be able to attend, as the school was adamant that they needed me for the first stage of the process; a 6pm round-table discussion and a school tour. After a 1.5 hour flight, a 2 hour drive was needed to reach my destination. I was blown away by the scenery I last encountered, living as a child growing up in Scotland. At one point, I stopped my hire-car to get out and take a photo and breath in the clean air. I was in awe at the wilderness before me and the Scotland dream was alive! It was early November and the snow was settling on the hilltops. It was a magical and inspiring start to the process.

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Unfortunately, the interview process was a total let down. The first day was an informal roundtable chat with the panel and some lovely students. I felt like I was at a pub quiz with a focus on ‘how much you could eat’, rather than a focus on ‘the role advertised’. The pub-quiz informal-but-actually-it-is-formal-chat-we-will-judge-you, was followed by a tour with 3 internal candidates around a locked school! There was no showcase, other than an unplanned 7 or 8 of us crammed into a small Otis lift. It reminded me of rush hour on London Underground and was my lasting memory! I felt like leaving the process there and then, but the distance travelled made me stay for the formal interview the following day.

The school had a lovely setting and a wonderful history, but so far there was (yet again), no lesson to teach, no lesson observation, no student panel, no school tour during the school day(!) and no introduction to staff. Just a short 45-minute interview! As I left the room, I knew as soon as the headteacher offered to; “reimburse your full travel expenses as you are clearly ‘not on a jolly’ and a genuine candidate”, that the process was over. The was further confirmed with a voicemail offering feedback! The headteacher was pleasant, but there was no match. During the phonecall, [they] offered some very genuine CPD offers.

Costs:

  • Flight £250 (2 flights)
  • Hotel £70
  • Car-hire £50
  • Additional costs (food / train): £100
  • Reimbursed costs: £-70
  • Days off work x2
Click to open interview locations
Click to open interview locations

Interview 5:

After a day at work, I took a flight up to Aberdeen on a Thursday night, followed by a two-hour drive to Moray Council. I reached my Elgin hotel at midnight and had the interview at 11am on a Friday. Despite leaving my hotel very early, I couldn’t find a parking space and arrived 10 minutes late! I was devastated and couldn’t believe I had let such a simple error jeopardise my chances. The headteacher showed very little affirmation. The process involved a further 6 or 7 questions over 30-minutes (as I had lost 10 already), followed by a very long-winded in-tray exercise. At least the paper exercise involved some sort of discussion afterwards to elaborate on my decisions. I was far from surprised to receive an automated email 3 days later by email.

“It’s a ‘no” and zilch – zero – nada – feedback. Nothing! I had to call the council to ask for the headteacher’s contact number.

Interview 6 and 7:

Interview six was actually on the Monday after interview five (above) in the same council. I spent the weekend revising the Curriculum for Excellence and sightseeing along the Moray coast. I ensured I was very early! The process was exactly the same as it was organised by the council, who appear to lead the majority of the process. The interview was very friendly and the head was very pleasant. The headteacher had already offered my wife a job three months earlier, which she had to refuse after our bereavement and my inability to secure a job in the same region. Our hopes were pinned on this lovely little school in the middle of the Scottish Highlands. It was breathtaking.

Sea Scotland

The interview was held in the same council, despite it being at one of the farthest points in the area. I used the weekend to visit the school and look around the area. I left the interview feeling better about the process and I was invited back two weeks later for interview seven. The second day interview was at the school. One internal candidate and three external (including me). The internal candidate opted out of the school tour which always irks me. It was a lovely school, doing wonderful things for the community. I wanted the job badly. The second part of the process was back at the council headquarters 20 miles away with 6 or 7 members of the council. I actually recall more people in the room; 2 or 3 observing the panel!

I was offered good feedback and felt as though I had made a friend.

Costs:

  • Flights £450 (4 flights over 3 interviews). I also used my own air-miles to reduce costs.
  • Hotel £270
  • Car-hire £250
  • Additional costs (food / train): £100
  • Reimbursed costs: £-140
  • Days off work x6

 Interview 8:

After returning home disappointed from the interview seven, I received another letter to confirm a 6th deputy headteacher interview; the 3rd in Moray council. I withdrew my application as I felt I would be too well-known and that the in-tray exercise would have been easier to do in my sleep. My job-hunt mojo was off the boil. This was further confused by a school asking me to apply for a headship, after not short-listing me for the deputy headteacher advert!

@MyEdHunt:

As indicated at the start of this blog, when I co-founded @MyEdHunt I never considered that it would actually lead to my own job-hunt solution. Part of monitoring this Twitter account, means I have to preview every job-advert to ensure that they are genuine school and teacher-based requests. Over the Easter holidays (2014), as the job-hunting season gathered pace, I continued to retweet job adverts for others. I had ignored all my email alerts and any deputy headteacher adverts in London – knowing I may be tempted and that this was not part of my plan – I came across a particular advert. I previewed the job description and as ever, I retweeted the advert and then set about conducting ‘my own’ research.

Quintin Kynaston:

Well, as you may well know reading this blog, my Scotland story has come full-circle and after 6 attempts in Scotland, I am now pleased to announce that I will be Deputy Headteacher at Quintin Kynaston in Central London. My first deputy application in London. I will be working alongside newly appointed headteacher, @AlexAtherton100, leading on teaching and learning and staff development. A new-building is due to open in January 2015 and I cannot wait to get started!

The process was incredibly challenging. Much, much harder than the process I encountered in Scotland. I feel the job description was written for me and was too good to ignore. I spent days preparing for the process and will blog about this in the future. I will say here, that Sapuran Gill (@ssgil76) and @Simon_Warburton‘s blogs on leadership interviews were extremely valuable revision. They are here:

  1. Preparing for Deputy Headteacher interviews. Sapuran Gill
  2. Job applications – the interview stage: Simon Warburton.
Sketchnote by @PW2Tweets

 With thanks to Paul Wright for the wonderful illustration of my job-hunt journey.

Thank you:

There are a few messages of thanks I need to give as part of this blog. My journey to deputy headship has been a huge breadth of support from a variety of people. Firstly, to former headteachers @KennyGFrederick and @JillBerry102 who have provided a constant source of inspiration, feedback and challenge over the past 18 months. To @cijane02 (Mark Healy) and @LeadingLearner (Stephen Tierney) for constant pep-talks before and after every Scottish interview. Coaching me in many interview situations and proof-reading my presentations online via Skype before my air-travel north.

To @ClerkToGovernor (Shena Lewington) for help with governance preparation and to @SSGill76 (Sapuran Gill) and @PivotalPaul (Paul Dix) for their constant words of encouragement behind the scenes. I’d also like to thank @MaryMyatt whose article on ‘the 7 things top leaders do’ I hosted on my blog, I quoted during my own interview.

A final massive thank you must also go to two superb headteachers. @VicGoddard for proof-reading my final letter of application and providing me with no-nonsense feedback, and to my incredible ex-colleague, @HeadGuruTeacher (Tom Sherrington) for being part of this process since day one, and for being my referee and a constant source of inspiration.

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@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account in which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in Britain' in The Sunday Times as one of the most influential in the field of education - he remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing online as @TeacherToolkit, he rebuilt this website (c2008) into what you are now reading, as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the number one spot at the UK Blog Awards (2018). Today, he is currently a PGCE tutor and is researching 'social media and its influence on education policy' for his EdD at Cambridge University. In 1993, he started teaching and is an experienced school leader working in some of the toughest schools in London. He is also a former Teaching Awards winner for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, London' (2004) and has written several books on teaching (2013-2018). Read more...

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