Doug Belshaw writes about five straightforward reasons that would encourage him to accept a head of school position. I think these are good reasons for anyone to choose a school for their child. I'm sure there are others, but these are bad ones to start off with.
1. Geographical location and buildings
By this I don’t mean what village, town or city the school is in; I mean where it is in relation to other things. For example, is there a very deprived estate right next door? Also, are the buildings in good repair? Is there a tangible sense of pride in the buildings? After all, one’s environment affects the way one thinks (or at least it does me…)
2. Pupil-pupil relations
An important thing I do is look at students as they arrive at school. Are there good relationships between students, or is there evidence of stupid and loutish behaviour? Within the school, is there evidence of intimidation and/or bullying? I always speak to students as I go around the school in time that is not allocated to the selection process. It gives a good indicator as students tend to be honest, especially if you haven’t been introduced to them as someone important!
3. Staff-pupil relations
Evidence of the quality of relationships between staff and pupils is evident when just walking around the school. Are students polite? Do they expect, for example, you to get out the way of them? Is there evidence of respect towards members of staff? The best indicator, I feel, is the way that students treat lunchtime supervisors. Another indicator is the interview lesson that you teach: how do they treat you?
4. Quality of the other candidates
It’s fairly evident - even from first impressions - how effective a teacher/leader someone is or has the potential to be. If the people who are being interviewed along with you seem to be - without sounding arrogant - nowhere near as good as you, then this could be an indicator that this particular position might not be a good move for you. It’s not just first impressions that can help here - a chat with your fellow interviewees can tell you a lot about their background. The best positions, I believe, are those you have to fight for.
5. Channels of communication
It’s important that there are clear channels of communication within a school. It can be difficult to ascertain whether this is the case, but there are two ways that I use. Informal questions to staff (for example, when visiting the staff room) and direct questions in the interview to senior members of staff can help with this. Do the latter, for example, impose things, or is there consultation. How well do staff feel that their views are taken on board?