Are you Paxo or Parky?

At a National College for School Leadership training session on interviewing, the course leader jokingly asked if we were Paxo or Parky?

Paul Ainsworth

At a National College for School Leadership training session on interviewing, the course leader jokingly asked if we were Paxo or Parky?

The group of leaders laughed and one primary head said with 100 per cent conviction, "Of course, we're all Parky." An experienced secondary head smiled and said, "I think I'm more Paxo." In the discussion that followed, the group was split down phase lines, with primary teachers astonished that anyone would countenance using an abrasive style.

I thought of two interviews that had occurred on successive days with the same pupil, who had been involved in bullying. On the first occasion - even though the pupil was in the wrong - my interview owed more to the caring uncle style of Michael Parkinson. But the second was more reminiscent of the Newsnight studio than the chat show sofa.

Middle leaders perform many different styles of interview, from dealing with difficult pupils, parents and even colleagues, to being faced with a crying adult. As in the classroom, we vary our role and often automatically choose the most appropriate method. But it is also worth bearing in mind different modes of interviewing. Perhaps the easiest place to observe the effectiveness of different approaches is through watching the many interviews shown on television.

So, next time, will you be Paxo and ask the same question 12 times, or Parky and risk Posh Spice underwear-sharing anecdotes. Or perhaps you'll decide on Mrs Merton and find time for a serious debate.

Paul Ainsworth, Deputy head at Belvoir High School in Leicestershire.

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Paul Ainsworth

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