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Best of times, worst of times

SYLVIA MORRIS, head of Cathedral School of St Saviour and St Mary Overie, Southwark, south-east London.

'I went straight from school into teacher-training in 1970. I made my mind up at an early age, influenced by the fact that I'd had extremes of experiences of teachers.

I'd had an excellent teacher as a role model, but I'd also been told I wouldn't be good at anything. I didn't want that experience to happen to other children.

I did my first two years in the London borough of Newham. At the time it was advised that if you could teach in London you could teach anywhere - and indeed that was the case.

My first two years I felt were more like social work than teaching, and I knew that I needed to get out of London to have a broader experience of more normal school settings. But I missed the London children and I chose to return. This is now my seventh year in my current post.

Interviews are quie frightening experiences sometimes. Everybody's on edge, including those who are doing the interview.

At the interview for this job the governing body did everything they could to make me feel as relaxed as possible. And that struck me as a very positive thing to articulate to the candidate.

They were also very honest about what needed to be done: they were not hiding things, for example, about the financial position of the school, the human resource difficulties or at that time the low levels of achievement.

The chair of governors said: "Whoever is appointed, this will not be an easy job. However, what we will do is guarantee that, to the best of our ability, we will work with you and we will support you through the difficult and challenging times ahead."

And they lived up to it; and the school has gone from potentially failing in 1994 to being a beacon primary.

Martin Whittaker

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