PAG Explains: Free School Interviews

PAG Staff2022, free schools

PAG Explains: Free School Interviews

A vital part of the free school application process is the interview. Whether you’re applying via the central free school waves or via local authority competition, if your free school bid is successful in the first round (find out more about writing a successful free school bid here) you will be invited to an interview.

The free school interview is an opportunity for proposers to go into more detail on their vision and plans for the school as well as a chance to expand on the ideas set out in your bid and really sell your proposal. If you’re successful here, then you’ll be opening a free school in no time!

James Mellors, our Senior Managing Consultant with 5 years of experience working on free school bids and countless more across the sector, suggests the three most essential things to consider when preparing for your free school interview are:

Know your bid

This should go without saying that ahead of your free school interview, you’ll need to make sure that your team are familiar with the bid and the overall vision and plan for the free school. It may have been a while since your free school bid was written, so take some time to refresh your memory to avoid being tripped up by core details of the bid during the interview.

A good technique is to prepare an elevator pitch. This is your 60 second summary of the key threads that hold your free school bid together. In some interviews, you’ll be asked for this directly; some interviewers might ask more covertly, and some won’t ask at all. In any case, this is still well worth having to ensure that the same key threads run through your interview, and to make sure that your whole team is on the same page.

It's worth noting that the whole team doesn’t need to know your free school bid word for word, but everyone should have a clear overview of the plan and the vision.

Teamwork makes the dream work 

That brings us nicely on to our second point: make sure you have the right team with you for the free school interview. This is where you can bring in more specific knowledge around key areas of your free school bid; think about who on your team is best placed to answer any finance questions, who can speak around plans for your curriculum offer, who’s going to be the expert on governance etc.

If you take the right panel, you can demonstrate a depth of expertise and experience, as well as showcase a cohesive and supportive vision for your new free school.

There is also an opportunity here for the CEO to demonstrate how well they know their staff. The CEO can act as a medium between the interviewer and the panel, to initially field the question before delegating to the team expert.

Practice makes perfect

It’s a cliché for a reason! It’s absolutely vital that you prepare and practise before your free school interview. We’ve mentioned delegating different sections to different members of the team, but make sure to do a dry run as a group before the real thing, as interviewers will be able to tell if it’s the first time you’ve all sat down to do it together!

This is where Create:Schools can help; they’ll be offering a mock interview service for free school proposers in the current central free school waves. This aims to give you a feel for what the real thing will be like and will give you invaluable advice and feedback to help you deliver the best interview possible.

For Local Authority competition proposers, PAG also offers a mock interview service to help you prepare for your free school interview. To find out more, get in touch here.