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Tips on how to get an Assistant Principal Job in an Irish Primary School

Whether you have an Assistant Principal post interview coming up, or you are just thinking that you might take on an AP post at some point in your career, this article will point you in the right direction on the documents you should know about, and the things you should do so that you are as prepared as possible for what an AP post entails.

  1. First of all, you should look at Department of Education and Skills Circular 0044/2019. Chapter 3 of this circular covers the recruitment and appointment of Assistant Principals. It specifies everything from exactly what recruitment procedures need to be followed (even giving the actual marking scheme that must be used in the interview), right down to how the duties that the post will encompass are decided upon.
  2. The document “Looking at our School 2016, A Quality Framework for Primary Schools” from the Department of Education and Skills, is the next bit of essential reading you should do. Interviews for Assistant Principal posts will be based on the dimension of “leadership and management” outlined in this document. Reading it will also give you a good idea about what is expected in a school leadership role and it includes “statements of highly effective practice” for the leadership and management of schools, which tell you in detail what principals and school leaders should be doing.
  3. Excellent staff relations are part and parcel of any school leadership role. As a school leader you will be expected to promote positive staff relations, and you will need to be familiar with procedures for when conflicts do arise. You can expect to be asked about this in any interview for an AP post. To this end, you should look at the INTO’s “Working Together: Procedures and Policies for Positive Staff Relations” guidelines.
  4. If you are serious about taking on an AP role, you should sign up to do the PDST Comhar “Leadership Development for Assistant Principals” training. It is usually a 5-week course with each session lasting 1.5 hours. It will help you understand key aspects of the role of AP, including having a “vision” for the school, school culture, leading teaching and learning, change, communication, conflict, wellbeing and distributed leadership.
  5. There has been a huge focus on wellbeing in the last few years and the “A Quality Framework for Primary Schools” document mentioned above, outlines how “The principal and other leaders in the school value and support partnership with parents as a means of supporting pupils’ learning and wellbeing”, and “The principal, deputy principal and other leaders in the school attend successfully to their own wellbeing, as well as that of others.” To this end, it is worth looking at the “Well-Being in Primary Schools” guidelines as you may be asked about wellbeing in an AP post interview, and promoting wellbeing will be part of your role as a school leader.
  6. One of the most important things to bear in mind if you want to be successful in getting an AP post is that you need to volunteer to take on the organisation of things in the school over a considerable period of time to demonstrate that you have the necessary leadership skills and commitment to the school that an AP post entails. Reading the “Looking at our School 2016, A Quality Framework for Primary Schools” will give you and idea of the 4 competencies that are required of a school leader. The “statements of highly effective practice” give specific examples of what school leaders should be doing, for instance “The principal and other leaders in the school build and maintain very productive relationships with other schools and education providers to extend learning opportunities for pupils”. To this end, you could organise an event with a nearby school such as a community litter pick during An Taisce’s Spring Clean initiative, or guest speakers from the Heritage in Schools Programme. Take a look a each of the statements in the document, and start planning for what you could do in the school now to demonstrate that skill. You don’t need to have been involved in all of them, but you will be asked in an interview about times in the past when you have demonstrated some of these and you should be able to give specific examples of things you have done in the school.
  1. If you have an AP interview post coming up, I have an extremely thorough interview preparation pack available here which includes 14 pages of sample questions and answers for both AP1 and AP2 posts, 2 sample cover letters to include with your application, and copies of the main documents that I have mentioned above. This pack will help to ensure you are as prepared as possible for an AP post interview.

In terms of my own experience, I have had an Assistant Principal role for the last 8 years in an Irish primary school. Over the course of my career, I have done two AP2 post interviews and 2 AP1 post interviews. AP posts require flexibility to meet the changing needs of the school, and my post has entailed all of the following duties at one point or another over the years: Green Schools coordinator, parental involvement, SPHE coordinator, RSE coordinator, Wellbeing Coordinator, Gaeilge coordinator, and SENCo. I have also acted up in the role of Deputy Principal and Principal and completed the PDST Comhar training mentioned above.

I hope this has been helpful if you are considering applying for an AP post, or if you have an AP post interview coming up!

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