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Personally speaking - 'Even special measures had its pluses'

Who has been your biggest influence?

The first headmaster here at RAA, Frank Bickerstaff, who came to the school two years before my arrival and turned a place that was Dickensian and draconian into an institution that became increasingly human, child-centred and generally happy. A place that had all the shades of Tom Brown's Schooldays was moved into the 20th century by this charismatic and highly intelligent figure.

What is your career high so far?

I have had so many that it would be too difficult and too unfair to pick one out. Of course, numerous promotions and the dosh associated with such promotions always helps and adds to these many highs.

What was your worst moment in teaching?

When this school went into special measures in 2000. But even this disastrous low had its advantages because it was instrumental in getting much-needed cash injections plus a revamping of the staff from top to bottom.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

Never assume you know what superficially seems to be the most obvious reason for a problem or the most obvious solution to that problem.

What would you be if you hadn't become a teacher?

I would most certainly have been involved in the horse-racing industry. On the gambling side.

What do you do on a Friday evening?

What a silly question to ask somebody who has been a housemaster for the last 22 years.

What car do you drive?

A Vauxhall Zafira, because it's got seven seats, which is very handy when going to rugby matches and even handier for carrying all the gear that an "on course" bookmaker needs.

Where did you last go on holiday - and why?

I am saving all the holidays up because I am just about to embark on a really long one.

What is the worst excuse you've ever heard?

When a scamp of a 14-year-old, whom I caught smoking, told me that it was necessary for him to do so, and had been advised on medical grounds to continue to do so, because of his incredibly nervous disposition.

Benny Jones is director of boarding at Royal Alexandra and Albert School, a state boarding school in Reigate, Surrey. He has been at the school for 35 years and is retiring this summer.

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