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Best of times, worst of times

BRIAN LIGHTMAN head of St Cyres School, Penarth, South Wales

At university everybody told me not to go into teaching. People said awful things like "go and get a proper job". But I felt that it was a really worthwhile career. My mother was a teacher, so I had an education background. I felt very strongly about it and I must say I've never regretted it. I have enjoyed every minute.

I started in 1979 as a modern languages teacher at a comprehensive school in Sussex. Having been through the grammar school system, like many people I'd been led to believe that comprehensive schools would be awful places.

But I was amazed and delighted at how high standards of behaviour were, how easy it was to teach and how motivated the children were.

I was very lucky to get the first job I had applied for. The interview was run very professionally - we were shown round the school, introduced to staff, given a chance to visit thedepartments and then there was a formal interview.

However not all interviews have been so painless. My worst experience was a deputy head's interview. I was taken into a room where there were 12 pupils sitting and Iwas told "you have half an hour to talk to them". I then discovered there was somebody sitting in a corner observing me.

Clearly you wouldn't go into a class without preparing your lesson. And to then be assessed on something that you had no idea was going to happen was just ridiculous.

It's very important that if you don't feel the school is for you, you should withdraw, because it is a two-way process. When I run interviews now I always make it a full day and give people ample opportunity to see the school. I make sure that they feel they can ask anything they like.

If they feel it's not for them, that's not seen as a failing on their part. They've got to feel right about the school.

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