Headteacher: interview questions and tasks

Select from our recommended interview questions and tasks to make sure you cover everything you need to and put candidates' skills to the test effectively. Plus, get clarity on what you can't ask, to keep your process fair and compliant.

Last reviewed on 1 December 2023
School types: AllSchool phases: PrimaryRef: 3457
  1. Use the interview stage to check candidate fit
  2. How to use our list of questions 
  3. Download and adapt our example tasks 
  4. Prepare for the process with our suite of content on headteacher recruitment 

Use the interview stage to check candidate fit

By the time you get to the interview stage, you’ll have already confirmed the candidates’ competencies through their:

  • Application form and CV
  • References
  • Interview tasks

The interview is your chance to make sure they’re the right leader for your school.

How to use our list of questions 

Our questions are suitable for any headteacher post, and include tips on what to look for in a candidate's answers.

In the download, you'll find:

  • General questions for any school type
  • Tailored questions for primary, secondary, special and faith schools 

Before you get started:

  • Be sure to adapt our example questions so they're specific to the role you're recruiting for, your school and any issues your school is facing 
  • Don’t treat our ‘what to look for’ column as a checklist – candidates' answers will vary based on their experiences
  • Don’t plan to ask all of these questions in each interview – choose those that are more relevant to what you're looking for

Use this template during the interview to record the responses given and score evidence.

Download: headteacher interview questions and record sheet DOCX, 543.2 KB

Questions you’re not allowed to ask

You must not ask candidates about the following during the recruitment process:

  • Protected characteristics:
    • Age
    • Gender reassignment
    • Being married or in a civil partnership
    • Being pregnant or on maternity leave
    • Disability
    • Race
    • Religion or belief
    • Sex
    • Sexual orientation
  • Their health
  • Their relationship status
  • Whether they have children or plan to have children

However, as a potential employer you can ask about health or disability if:

  • There are necessary requirements of the job that can’t be met with reasonable adjustments
  • You're finding out if someone needs help to take part in a selection test or interview
  • You're using ‘positive action’, a scheme to encourage applications from people with disabilities

Download and adapt our example tasks 

What interview tasks you choose will depend on the person specification for the role and what criteria you'd like to see demonstrated in practice. Download the tasks below and choose the ones that are most appropriate to the role you're hiring for:

  • In-tray exercise 
  • Data analysis 
  • Financial management 
  • 'Goldfish bowl' group exercise 
  • Deliver a presentation
  • Observe a lesson
  • Deliver an assembly 
  • Meet pupils

In the download, you'll find:

  • A summary of each task, including the skills it tests 
  • Key points to look for in a candidate's response 
  • What you need to prepare
  • A presentation scoring sheet 
  • Questions and record sheet for pupils interviewing candidates 
  • Staff observation sheet for pupils interviewing candidates 
Download: headteacher interview tasks DOCX, 551.0 KB

Prepare for the process with our suite of content on headteacher recruitment 

We have a range of articles and templates to help you through the process, including:

Headteacher recruitment training 

You can also take a training course created by our partners at Governors for Schools, walking you through the whole recruitment process.


Bernard Abrams is an education consultant and former headteacher who previously worked as a school inspector.

Sara Alston is a practising SENCO teacher and an education consultant and trainer for SEA Inclusion & Safeguarding, specialising in special educational needs and safeguarding.

Jacqueline Baker is an education consultant who specialises in senior leadership recruitment. She supports schools through the recruitment process and helps them develop leadership capacity. Jacqueline also has experience as a chair of a governing body.

Jeremy Bird has extensive experience of primary headship. He has also worked with local authorities and published guidance for new and aspiring headteachers and senior leaders.

Pete Crockett is a retired special school headteacher who, prior to that, worked as a senior leader and SENCO in mainstream education. He has extensive governor experience, having served on governing boards as a staff, headteacher and co-opted governor. He has particular expertise in SEND, school leadership support and governance.

Jenny Moss was the headteacher of a special school judged as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. She has worked in school leadership for almost 20 years.

David New, an education consultant, was the headteacher of a large secondary school for 9 years. He has particular expertise in lettings, staffing, academy conversion and the secondary curriculum.

Lorraine Petersen is an education consultant. Previously the chief executive officer of nasen (which promotes education of young people with special educational needs), and a primary school headteacher, she is also a chair of governors.

Sarah Searle-Barnes is a school governor. She has extensive experience of primary headship and performance management of staff. 

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