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Applicant arrives with imaginary friends

John Sutton is a pseudonym He teaches in North Wales

It is easier to appoint teachers. They have qualifications that you understand and training they have to go through. With associate staff it is much more difficult and all kinds of people apply.

The idea of working in a school is appealing to many. Schools have an ordered routine and yet there is the sheer unpredictability of the things that happen within. Of course, there is the desire to work with children that drives some especially now that we have clever adverts telling us how wonderful they are. They inspire a genuine desire in people to put something back into society.

We had two posts in the school office and the completed forms soon started to swamp us. Out go the checkout assistants and the bingo callers. You always worry that you are throwing away a real gem but you have to be ruthless.

As you read their applications, you become aware of how many desperate people there are out there. A first-class honours graduate applying for a reprographics job because they can't find anything else how sad? We did not select her.

We finally put a short-list together. It was then that the fun started. It was quite clear from the beginning that two of the candidates were completely out of their depth. Indeed, it seems likely that in both cases someone else had written their application forms. What other possible explanation could there be?

Daryl was first and she mumbled incoherently about her car as far as I could work out. She was escorted to wait in the office at the end of the corridor.

The brief and simple interview that followed with Jasmine was truly painful. Every question is longer than her answers. A conversation of any sort is impossible. She is 19, going on 12. Clearly pressing the big green button on the copier might be something of a challenge for the poor girl.

We stagger on, ever deeper into the mire. The process becomes ever more surreal, asking meaningless questions of people who know no answers. And these were the best of the applicants?

Jasmine is taken to a waiting room at the end of our interview. We discover that Daryl has rearranged the furniture. My secretary Jane asks her what is going on.

"Don't worry, it is not a problem. I am just getting ready for a party with my imaginary friends. They are hiding. They will come out when you have gone."

Jasmine goes to sit in the corner, clearly under the impression that she has been invited, waiting for the imaginary fun to begin. The reference that we received earlier in the morning suddenly makes sense.

"Her behaviour can be inappropriate and she can upset more formal colleagues."

Jane phones her employers. She isn't mad, they say, she is just very silly. We decide that Jasmine and Daryl can leave now. We will be in touch, we say. We then appoint a more mature lady with an even temperament and tea-making skills.

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