It’s great news. You’re prepping the interview for that teaching job you wanted. A quick skim at the school’s website should help you be ahead of the other candidates. Definitely not! A school website is a prized asset and will need much more that a quick skim.
A school website is like a gold mine; rich at the seams, waiting for its data to be mined and extracted to yield the most highly prized carats. Using its data, you can produce information and knowledge to give you 24 carat gold answers at your interview.
It doesn’t matter how easy or frustrating the school website is to navigate, or what you think of the design, it’s the information within it that‘s the prize.
A school website will feature its latest Ofsted report (either the report or a link to Ofsted’s website). Don’t just read the report, devour it for every morsel you can find on teaching standards, lesson observations and facts and figures about the school. If you’re very lucky there may also be additional comment from the head about the school’s response to the Ofsted report. This is always worth reading as it will show you the senior leadership thinking and the school culture.
Schools have a legal requirement to publish their financial accounts. As well as a heads up on the financial situation of the school (Is it in deficit? What budget was spent on teaching resources? What capital is being spent?), the commentary attached to the financial accounts can give you great insight on the school’s strategy, its curriculum developments and student successes and achievements.
It goes without saying that not only do you need to find and read but embody and embrace the school’s values and its mission:
How are these presented on the website?
What does this say about the school?
Students are at the heart of any school, so the student website zone is a must read. Look out for timetables (what do they tell you about school planning?), after school clubs and activities (what do they tell you about the diversity of the school’s extra curricula?) and admissions (what’s the policy, catchment areas and key criteria?).
Parents are a force to be reckoned with and any school needs to be working with, not battling against parents. Parent newsletter are usually online and give you a perspective on the school’s ethos to engage parents. If you search, you may even discover a parents’ handbook.
Also worth digging for, are website sections on safeguarding (every teaching interview asks a safeguarding question) and pupil premium. This will not only supply you with the student data on “free school meals”, it will also provide you with a focus on what’s important to the school as they have a statutory requirement to list the actual activities which pupil premium has been spent on.
In the current political climate of an open market for primary and secondary schools, many are now spending a lot more time and effort on their prospectuses and these are worth downloading and reading.
Lastly, let’s not forget achievements and exam results. School results data can make or break a school and your knowledge and understanding of the results data should be A*.
Is it really that important to check a school website I hear you ask? The answer is definitely and categorically yes. In June 2015, the schools website directory shows that in Nottinghamshire 93% of primary schools and 100% of secondary schools publish a school website and in Derbyshire the stats are 85% and 98% respectively.
If you’ve mined the school website as suggested, then you shouldn’t be fazed by interview questions such as:
“How would you deal with a student advising you they were being cyber-bullied?”
“How would you improve the maths lessons you will be teaching to year 7 when the current one have recently been graded by Ofsted as ‘requiring improvement’?”
“We need to close the achievement gap between English and Maths in our Pupil Premium students who are above the school average in English but significantly below in Maths. What strategies would you employ?”
Your goal is now complete; you’ve mined the website, you’ve extracted every last ounce of gold and now it’s time to sell your 24 carat knowledge to the interview panel.