Youth Interview Panel – SEND Programme Manager



In July 2023, two young people who are part of the Youth Voice Executive Committee helped to appoint a new staff member at the Council. The job role is called SEND Programme Manager.

The new SEND Programme Manager will help to make services for young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) better.
Their job will focus on inspections of SEND services, and one important aspect of their role will be speaking with children and young people receiving SEND support services about the inspection process.

The hiring manager, Lucy, wanted to involve young people in the recruitment process, because she wanted to know how well the candidates communicate with young people. She wanted to make sure the person in the role would be good at explaining things to do with SEND inspections to young people, so that the young people they work with feel fully prepared to talk to inspectors.

The Participation Team approached two members of the Youth Voice Executive Committee who have SEND, Laura and Pippa, to ask for their help with the interviews. Laura and Pippa kindly agreed to help.

Together, Lucy and Krissie from the Participation Team came up with a plan for a youth interview panel involving an activity, to help the young people assess the candidates’ abilities to explain things to young people.

Preparing for the interview panel

In advance of the interview panel, Krissie from the Participation Team met with Laura and Pippa in a coffee shop. Together, they…

  • discussed the arrangements for the youth interview panel
  • chose an icebreaker question for the start of the youth interview panel
  • discussed the activity for the candidates to do during the interview
  • discussed strategies for how to conduct a good interview, including positive body language and how to communicate with candidates
  • decided that Laura would act as the chair of the interview panel

The icebreaker question that Laura and Pippa chose was, “Please tell us about yourself, including your favourite animal and your favourite type of holiday”.

On the day, Krissie, Laura and Pippa had some time before the interviews started to settle in the room, talk through how everything was going to run, and do some practising.

Pippa’s feedback on the preparation for the panel was,

“The prep session was good, and the run-throughs too.”

The Interview Panel and Activity

The youth interview panel took place in person at County Hall on a weekday evening. It was part of a wider assessment day for the SEND Programme Manager candidates.
Krissie was present in the room during the interviews to support Pippa and Laura to take part, but she was not part of the interview panel.

At the start of the interview, Laura, acting as chair, welcomed the candidate. Laura and Pippa introduced themselves, and then Laura explained the format for the youth interview panel. Pippa asked the icebreaker question at the start, and Laura asked the questions for the activities.

In the activity, the candidate was asked to select from one of eight face-down cards. They turned the card over and were presented with a word or phrase to do with SEND inspections. The candidate was asked to explain the meaning of the phrase to the young interviewers. Laura, Pippa and Krissie had discussed all of the phrases in the prep session prior to the interview, so they had a good understanding of the definitions of the phrases. The words and phrases were:

  • SEND inspection
  • Child and young person focussed
  • CQC
  • Alternative Provision
  • Local Area Self Evaluation Framework
  • Quality Assurance Audit
  • the Integrated Services Board
  • Evidence of outcomes for children and young people

After the interviews had finished, Laura and Pippa discussed the responses and came up with a score.

After the youth interview panel, Lucy and two colleagues met with Pippa and Laura to hear their feedback. Both panels were in full agreement about which candidate they wanted to offer the job to.

How did we listen, act and respond?


The hiring manager listened by ensuring young people fed into the recruitment process for this important role. The Participation Team helped to make this happen by facilitating a youth interview panel.
The young people were provided with the information, training, and resources that they needed to take part in this opportunity effectively, as well as the freedom to decide the questions and lead the interviews themselves.
The young people were supported by the Participation Team to process and articulate their opinions on the candidates and the responses that the candidates gave, so that their voices could be effectively heard by the hiring manager.
The hiring manager and colleagues came to meet Laura and Pippa after the interview panel to hear their thoughts on the candidates directly.


The young people’s panel provided their feedback and candidate preferences to the professionals panel at the end of the day after the interviews.
The feedback given by the panel to the hiring manager was used to help decide which of the candidates were offered the role. Their feedback was treated with as much respect and importance as the feedback from the professionals panel.
Feedback from the young people about their experiences of taking part in an interview panel and the value of their involvement, was also shared afterwards with the hiring team.


The young people were kept up to date with the progress of the recruitment process via WhatsApps and emails with Krissie.
On the day of the interviews, the young people were provided with refreshments.
The young people will also receive a £25 One4All voucher and a certificate to thank them for their time, effort, and valuable contribution.

Impact and Learning

The youth interview panel was a success. The young people enjoyed being part of the project and gained useful work experience, and the hiring manager received valuable input from young people that was useful in deciding the candidate to appoint to the role.

This was Pippa’s first experience of being in a youth interview panel, and Laura got to act as chair of a youth interview panel for the first time.

The hiring manager feels confident that we have made a good appointment, and that the successful candidate will communicate effectively with young people, especially in terms of explaining things to do with SEND inspections so young people feel fully prepared to talk to inspectors.

Feedback from the hiring manager

Lucy, the hiring manager and Head of Improvement and Transformation, said the below about the youth interview panel:

“Laura and Pippa were brilliant interviewers.
Their feedback to the professional panel was comprehensive and they were able to explain really well what the candidate had said that led to their conclusions.
I feel confident making the appointment knowing the candidate will be able to work alongside young people on improvement activity in a really collaborative way.
Thank you both for your insights, they are so valuable.”


Feedback from Laura and Pippa

Pippa and Laura both scored the opportunity top marks in our Youth Voice feedback form!

Laura said,

“I enjoyed this youth voice panel. It was amazing!
I enjoyed being a chair because it’s the first time that I’ve done it and I really valued the experience.”

Pippa said,

“The experience was interesting and I felt that myself and my voice was valued.
[If you’re thinking about getting involved…]
Give it a try! It’s less scary than it seems.”


From a Youth Participation perspective, the format proved effective and efficient in meeting the needs of the hiring manager. The targeted activity meant the young people could assess the candidates’ abilities to communicate to young people within a 20 minute youth interview.
This was more efficient than hosting a full interview panel with 5 or 6 questions, which usually takes about an hour.

Interested in getting involved?

If you are interested in taking part in an opportunity like this one, please contact the Participation Team.

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