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Head who rejected John Lewis

Eleven months from retirement, Brenda Spenceley reflects on alternative directions that her life might have taken.

The first job the 58-year-old head of Patchway high, in south Gloucestershire, took after university was as a trainee with John Lewis.

"It would be interesting to see what I would be earning if I had stayed."

As head of a 1,300-pupil comprehensive, Mrs Spenceley manages more than 130 staff and a budget of pound;3.8 million. After 21 years as head, she has reached point 30 on the leadership scale, earning a salary of pound;64,089. "Money didn't prompt me to become a headteacher," she said. "But people are very concerned about status, and it's a great bonus if that is reflected in what we earn."

Mrs Spenceley has no children, leaving her with a good disposable income.

She has bought a house near school, and timeshare apartment in Tenerife.

But, as the demands of the job rose over the years, expensive holidays were more a necessity than a luxury: "I haven't really seen my husband in 33 years." But she does not believe heads should clamour for more pay. "It's a privilege to touch the hearts and minds of young people. You can't put a price on that."

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