Last week was an exciting time as we were interviewing for our first teachers to join the school! I have been very determined that the process would be thorough and rigorous, but also enjoyable (or as enjoyable as possible for the candidates...!). If Sandymoor is going to be outstanding, then we need to make sure that every aspect is outstanding and this includes, for me, the process of selecting staff.
Last week, we interviewed five exceptional teachers for two posts. This followed a detailed selection process, where we had to shortlist from 25 applications for just these posts. As an aside, there are two things that I've realised through this process; first that there is a lot of amazing talent out there in the education profession - every application we received was a strong one, and secondly, how much of a passion there is to have the opportunity to be involved in real education from the beginning. I have really had my faith in my profession re-affirmed.
After shortlisting, we then had to ensure that we would be able to find the best candidates through the interview process. This, for me, had to include seeing them in front of students as it's that rapport with young people you can't test any other way. I am extremely grateful to Daresbury Primary School for lending us one of their classes for this process! Over two mornings, each candidate had to deliver a brief micro-lesson on a topic around skills for learning & each candidate rose to the challenge! In fact the class teacher (who observed each lesson with me) said how impressed she was with quality & variety of the lessons, saying that I had a difficult choice to make, because they were so good.
Then we visited Sandymoor, so that they could see where the school will be. This was important and I remember visiting the sites when I was interviewed & the impact it had; the location, in the heart of the community, is just right. And we were blessed with good weather, which helped...
After lunch, the serious business then began, with a formal interview and various tasks to test different aspects of the jobs. This included a presentation to a group of parents (on a topic they were only given 1/2 hour earlier) - the inclusion of every element of the school's community is important and thank you to the parents who took part.
Through all this, we also gave the candidates time to talk and ask questions; I believe it's so important to give candidates time to feel the ethos and see if they want to be part of it - Sandymoor School is so much more than a job & I wanted to give time for them to understand that.
And then decision time. It was a hard choice, but because all the candidates were so good. However, there were two candidates who stood out and we are very pleased that they both said yes. I would like to thank the other candidates, who put a huge effort into the process and showed themselves to be outstanding professionals. I would consider it a privilege to work with any of them. It was hard to break bad news to them.
But now we are three! Joining me, delivering the science at first, is Emma Simpson, Assistant Head and Maths, and Sarah O'Hanlon, SENCO / learning support and English. We will put more details about them on the website soon, but here's a brief biography of each:
Emma Simpson comes to Sandymoor with 14 years of teaching experience behind her, a degree in Maths from UMIST, Manchester and further qualifications in coaching & mentoring. She will take on responsibility for ensuring the quality of our curriculum is outstanding and work with me to develop all our staff procedures.
Sarah O'Hanlon joins us with 6 years of teaching experience and a degree in English Studies from Manchester Metropolitan University. She has travelled widely, teaching in both Japan and Abu Dhabi, where she joined a school that, like Sandymoor, was starting from scratch. Sarah will take responsibility for student monitoring and the personalisation of the curriculum.
I know that both Emma & Sarah are keen to be introduced to the community and I will be working with them to arrange a number of events for them to meet everyone.
Looking ahead, we are interviewing for the remaining teaching posts this week; Humanities, Spanish, Art & Technology. Again, we had over 50 applicants for these posts and have shortlisted an outstanding set of candidates. They will go through a similar process and I wish them all the very best of luck - I am excited to meet them all. We are also finalising the interview processes for all remaining posts, and will have the full team by the end of June.
We are also going to be on national radio: if you can, listen into Women's Hour this Tuesday, where they are doing an article on Free Schools and Sandymoor is the example they are discussing!