The Assessment Centre

Easy to be awed by such a title, but I found the experience worthwhile irrespective of whether I would be awarded a scholarship. This probably seems like a slightly weird comment, but the preparation for the event really made me think more deeply about the issues than I had expected.

To be able to give a coherent answer to a year 9 student “….but why do I have to learn about XXXXX, I will never use it once I leave school” for the pre-specified topic was a real challenge. When I then found that I was not allowed to use PowerPoint (my support since 1990) it elevated the challenge to a “real-world” scenario but this time with me in the cross-hairs.

My first reaction to the problem was that the honest answer was “I agree, you will probably never use it”, but realised that Maths topics can often be delivered as a bag of rules and at a level of abstraction that may mainly suit a teacher, racing to cover a busy syllabus. This can leave students believing that some topics are a “cruel and unusual punishment” devised either by their Maths teachers or the (easy to blame) GCSE examiners.

I had to really work quite hard to prepare for the day, and found that the topic assigned to me had very little coverage when Googled, had almost zero useful coverage in text-books and left me to do the work for myself. And this was only for the 5 minute presentation of the assigned topic. I should also say that the other topics also needed serious thought and research, but were to be delivered at a slightly lower adrenaline level.

On the day: A long journey for me to Manchester (with the generous offer of partial travel expenses from the scheme) led me to a warm welcome from the project team. Meeting the other candidates was interesting and (with my competitive instinct reined-in) I managed to recall that I had been told that we were not actually in competition with each other.

All the assessors were both friendly and non-critical and it soon became clear that their focus was on discovering whether we had potential to be inspirational teachers of Maths rather than fine mathematicians and merely competent teaching practitioners.

The briefing note included an undertaking to inform us of the result of the assessment centre within ten working days, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear quite so soon.

The design and delivery of the Assessment Centre was both searching and calm. Having spent many hours over the last thirty years interviewing candidates for jobs, I can attest that this is no mean feat.

It is not as scary as you might think – but only provided you do the leg-work for it!

Simon (a somewhat late career-switcher)