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Job swap was winner

Welsh secondary head of the year Clive Hampton started off as a miner, writes Philippa White

Thirty-two years ago, Clive Hampton swapped a job in the mining industry for one in the classroom. He hasn't looked back.

"There isn't really anything more important than educating people," he said. "I've enjoyed every bit of it. I wasn't getting that sort of satisfaction from my job in industry."

His enthusiasm must be effective, because this summer he was named Welsh secondary head of the year.

At Eirias high school in Colwyn Bay, where he has been head for 17 years, pupil numbers have nearly doubled from 870 to more than 1,500. The proportion of pupils getting at least five A*-C grades at GCSE has grown from 37 per cent in 1988 to 80 per cent in 2002 (73 per cent last year).

Mr Hampton, 53, raised standards by only appointing staff he would want to teach his two daughters, Kathryn and Rebecca, who did in fact attend Eirias.

The school has a rigorous monitoring, evaluation and review system which sees senior staff getting together during the summer to analyse the year in detail.

In order to train up three deputies and three assistant heads, he gives senior staff a lot of responsibility and rotates their jobs so they do not get bored. Seven of Mr Hampton's former deputies are now heads.

Mr Hampton believes delegation is the only way to deal with the constant changes and paperwork, and the school lays on courses in emotional literacy and anger-management for the minority of challenging students.

"You can't be gloomy in this job," he said. "We have to do what we can to modify problems."

Mr Hampton was born in Pontypridd in the valleys of south-west Wales, home of the singer Tom Jones (his Auntie Nora was present at Tom Jones's birth).

He tried teaching on the advice of his brother, and went to Nottingham university to take his postgraduate certificate in education. He now lives in his school's catchment area.

"It's not everybody's cup of tea but I find it useful," he said. "You can pick up on misunderstandings. If someone asks about a 'riot' I can explain that it was just a scrap in the school yard."

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