Best of times, worst of times

Jaspaul Hill, headteacher, Mayfield primary school Cambridge

I had one interview early in my career where I was told: "No - you're never going to make it as a teacher." From the start, I'd never quite got the interview on the right footing. I probably argued my case, which I do sometimes, and this member of the interview panel obviously didn't like it.

I was shattered. You start to think: "Is it really the career for me?"

It did put me off for a little while. I thought there was no point in applying.

Fortunately, I ended up ina secondary school with some absolutely marvellous teachers. Then a maths adviser told me: "You'll go far. You ought to be looking for maths posts." My career went on from there.

In those days, they called everybody at the same time for interviews and kept candidates hanging around. We all had to wait until they had made their decision. Then they would come into the room and call one of us in. You knew that person was about to be offered the job. It's very nerve-wracking: six of you sitting in a room, thinking: "One of us is going to get this job and five of us are going to be upset in a moment."

I think that's one thing that has changed for the better. We let people go after interview and don't have them hanging around - that just adds to the stress levels.

Now we try to get people up for interview in batches rather than having everybody there together. And then we telephone candidates or write to them after the interview so they're not waiting around.

There's much more care taken now and more in the way of feedback, which is much more positive. Unsuccessful candidates have an opportunity to ask why they didn't get the job. It helps them go forward and move on to their next interview.

What I never found out from that early interview, where I was told I'd never make a teacher, was why? Why did this person feel like this? It would have been useful to know.

Interview by Martin Whittaker

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