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Best of times, worst of times

Kate Griffin head of Greenford High School, Ealing talks to Martin Whittaker

"I'd originally intended to become a probation officer. But at 21 I'd felt too young to do that and thought I'd just do teaching for a while. But I enjoyed it so much I stayed with it.

My first job interview was in Leicestershire in 1969. The system was, or so I thought, that you could look at different schools, go for interviews but nobody made you a formal offer until the end of March.

At the end of my first interview I was called in and I was told if I were to be offered the job at the end of March, would I accept it? I very naively said I'd prefer to have a look around the school - so they called somebody else in and they got that job.

At my second interview in Leicestershire I was faced with the whole board of governors. I made the mistake when asked what I'd do if a child was being difficult. I said I would ak for help because it could be that I wasn't that experienced.

One governor said wouldn't I just send them out to the headmaster, and I said that depended. As I thought it out afterwards, that was obviously the wrong answer because it was saying I didn't really trust the headmaster to handle it for me.

You do learn quickly. It taught me quite clearly to be very careful at interviews. Obviously be honest, but one does have to think very carefully through what one is saying.

A few years later I moved to London because my husband was taking a job there. The first question I was asked at the formal interview was where was I going to live?

They said they had been let down so often in the past with people who were put off when they realised how difficult it was. Even in 1974 teachers had problems finding accommodation because it was so expensive to live in London.

Martin Whittaker

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