What are schools looking for in 2021?

It is likely that schools will be preparing themselves to open fully to all students by spring this year. Fingers crossed! What a year it has been in education! One of the major concerns that schools will have will be addressing the gaps in learning that will have widened in their students amidst the disruption. Especially in those students from disadvantaged backgrounds. So, what are schools looking for from their staff in 2021?

In the coming weeks school leaders will be looking to employ committed and hardworking staff. They will seek new team members who can hit the ground running to help bridge gaps in learning. Mainstream or SEN teachers, HLTAs, learning support assistants and behaviour mentors with pastoral experience will be needed. Whatever the role, school leaders will want new starters to understand this whole school approach to ‘getting pupils back on track.’ Above all, this is sure to be the focal point of many upcoming interviews or lesson observations. 

With the option to meet and interview virtually, head teachers are expected to interview more potential candidates. These virtual meets are much less time consuming and can be easily slotted in around busy schedules. This means there will be more competition for positions in schools. Therefore, it is really important that you think carefully about what you can offer to the school. What will you bring to the role makes you stand out from the other candidates? 

Firstly, we strongly advise that you use the time that you have before an interview to prepare. You should think carefully about your approach to supporting learning and progress with your pupils. Moreover, you should prepare yourself to be able to talk confidently and passionately about this with schools at interview stage.

Read on for some further key points on what schools will be looking for in 2021:

Schools are looking for intervention teachers and teaching assistants

It may be that schools are looking to employ ‘intervention’ support. These roles involve working closely with groups of children to target key areas of learning. This should not be viewed as an ‘easy option’ for teachers, without the responsibility of working with a full class. Schools will need you to pick up on gaps in knowledge and build progress steadily. At interview, schools will want to hear about how you are able to work autonomously and adapt your approach to meet the needs of your pupils. Any examples you have where you have supported progress in your students with a personalised approach are perfect, for instance. Be sure to mention these specifics when speaking with schools.

Activities for small group sessions

Let’s take Maths as a focal subject… When you are working with a smaller group you have the opportunity to tackle problem solving using a real life context. This can be explored with students in a much deeper way than with a whole class. Therefore, school leaders will want to hear about your approach to these types of activities at interview. Ideally, they would be able to see it in practice if observations are possible.

Think about maths activities that work well in a 1-to-1 or group setting with plenty of discussion around methods and approaches. Sitting quietly with a worksheet may not be the most productive use of time for students in need of a boost. This ‘enquiry based learning’ style is an effective method to cover a few key mathematical skills in one activity or session. It’s important that students equate ‘being a mathematician’ with having a variety of ‘tools’ at their disposal to solve problems. Often the discussion and planning or the trial and error of solving a problem are more valuable learning experiences than reaching the answer itself. Schools are looking for staff members who can understand and implement this approach.

(Check back on our blog next week for more examples of activities that would work well at interview or observation stage)

Assessment and feedback

Finally, we must be aware that although GCSEs and SATs examinations are not going to happen this year, assessment and the monitoring of progress will still be a vital part of the day to day activity in any classroom. How else will we keep track of who is where they need to be? Or monitor who has fallen behind? 

Therefore, when working with a number of smaller ‘booster’ groups or individual students, it will be important that you are able to unpick their previous assessment evidence (or to gauge their level through assessment of your own) to ensure you are planning your sessions for maximum impact. Asking yourself, how many sessions do we have? Which learning objectives must we get through in that time? Which activities can I use that will offer the simplest path to progress for these student(s)? will be vital thought processes to go through when planning your approach with a new group.

Brushing up on your strategies for assessment for learning (AfL) will be key this year. Importantly, we must rely on teacher assessment in the absence formal assessment. Therefore, AfL is perhaps the most effective way to keep track of progress when bridging the learning gaps for our students.


Perhaps now is the time for you to think about how your skills and experience could help schools and children during the Covid-19 pandemic. Interested in a new role? Prospero Teaching have wide range of roles available across the UK – take a look at our latest teaching jobs.

If you would like to get in touch with one of our consultants to discuss your next opportunity, please reach out to us.

Prospero are helping UK and international teachers find their next teaching role throughout the pandemic – browse our latest education vacancies.