With safety valve interviews expected imminently, the Create: Schools team have collated a variety of questions applicants may expect to face from the DfE. Whilst this blog has broken down questions by their section in the application, a real challenge to keep in mind will be discussing ideas such as vision, curriculum, and finances through questions which may not explicitly demand this.
General DfE Interview Questions
What is your trust’s experience of opening and running a free school?
When approaching questions such as this, ensure that any free school projects in which the trust has been involved are discussed. If the trust has no experience of opening a new free school, do not be discouraged – a detailed description of any relevant skills within the team will make for a strong response. Avoid a negative approach to answering this question, stating skills possessed by the trust demonstrates that although the trust may have not directly opened a free school, there is capability to deliver such a project.
How will your trust’s vision support the delivery of the Local Authority (LA) SEND strategy?
As important as it is to outline your trust’s vision, it is vital that interviewees demonstrate a real understanding of the LA’s SEND strategy. Quoting directly from the strategy here to link the trust and LA can be extremely valuable to evidencing your awareness of the area - as well as a genuine willingness to collaborate to deliver the vision.
The Curriculum Plan
How will you ensure adaptability of the curriculum to guarantee students are challenged/supported where necessary?
Questions surrounding the proposed curriculum can be difficult to navigate – particularly if it is based on an existing trust curriculum. It is essential to ensure this question does not cover only existing work undertaken by the trust, but how this will be applied at the new provision. There is a temptation to include vast amounts of detail here, however a succinct answer which covers broader pathways designed to support students will provide a stronger response than one which is bogged down in outlining specific curriculum content. It is essential that the response here includes reference to the specific needs of the school and how the adapted curriculum is adapted to the local context.
Capacity and Capability
Which areas of expertise do the trust team particularly excel in?
When answering questions relating to trust resources, it would be extremely useful to provide real examples here – whether this be qualifications held by members of the team or discussion of circumstances where this expertise was tested. To further strengthen the response, link closely to how the new provision will benefit from this expertise, this will demonstrate there has been genuine consideration of how the trust are a good fit to run the new provision.
Financial Viability and your Budget
How will you ensure financial viability and resilience regarding income fluctuation typically seen in the special education sector?
For questions relating to finance, ensure that colleagues with the appropriate expertise steer the response in order to instil real confidence in the financial expertise within the trust. That being said, sharing the answer between colleagues will further demonstrate a cohesive team with a common understanding of trust finances. Ensure the response here acknowledges clear strategies which the trust would employ if necessary, reference to any examples where the trust have succeeded in the face of financial challenge will further strengthen the response.
The questions outlined in this blog are just a few of those which may be asked in interview – to learn more about questions applicants can expect and our free-of-charge mock interview service, please get in touch with one of our advisors.