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Best of times, worst of times

Headteacher of Redruth School, Cornwall In a sense, I never left school. I went straight into teaching at the end of a degree and a post-graduate year. Why I chose teaching is hard to know. Nowhere down the family line are there any education links, but it's something I wanted to do from about the age of 14.

There were very powerful role models in my education. I can think of three or four very strong influences. I looked up to them, I liked what they were doing, the way they encouraged and motivated me and I thought yes, I'd like to do this.

I started in September 1968 at a direct-grant grammar school in Coventry. Having been there six years, I moved into the state system and have been hugely committed to comprehensive education ever since.

When I came into teaching the frustrating thing then was that you didn't really get any debriefing after a job interview. In some cases you were sent away and a letter would come in the post saying 'sorry'. Now Ithink we're very careful about saying 'this is why you didn't get the job and this is how you can work at it'.

I had one strange interview. I went for a deputy head's job and the interview lasted 15 minutes. I thought that was a little short for a key post - especially as they then took over two hours to decide who to appoint. I didn't get the job, nor was there any debriefing. I think we've moved on from that.

And I once went for a headship interview in front of 37 people on a panel. It was in the days when governors and local authorities did the appointments together. It was like sitting in an auditorium - the nearest thing to Mastermind. It was very daunting.

Interviews are much more professional now. We put more time into the recruitment and selection process, because in many cases you are appointing someone for quite a long time, and so getting it right is important. You can't base it just on 15 minutes. That only gives you a flavour.

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