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Sandie Johnson

Since "Bouquet of the Week" was launched a year ago, I've heard a lot of good news about schools and the fantastic people who work in them. Today is no exception.

Sandie Johnson is what you might call a roving head. Her last three jobs have all been on short contracts with schools which needed a leader - urgently. An experienced headteacher of 20 years' standing, she's become a specialist in this kind of firefighting and stepped into her latest post at a fortnight's notice.

"She's been fantastic," says Jenny Pickett, chair of governors at Upcroft Primary in Reading, Berkshire, which has had four heads in as many years. "She has really lifted staff morale and led us through some extremely difficult times."

The previous head was granted a year's unpaid leave for family reasons and the governors knew that l998 was going to be tough. And so it proved with budget short-falls, voluntary redundancies and local government reorganisation.

Sandie's most important task was to raise morale and then to blend the teachers, pupils, governors and parents into a harmonious whole. "Once you've seen the wood for the trees, you do have to take some unpopular decisions but you try to do that with the knowledge of experience."

Sandie's family home is in Shropshire, so for a year she has commuted, staying locally with a friend during the week. She says that if headteachers are a mixture of sprinters and marathon runners, she is "definitely a sprinter".

She gets up at 5.30am and works before breakfast for a couple of hours. "During the week I really don't do anything but work," she says. "Personally, that's the only way I can do this, as it's just for a short time."

From experience, she knows that when it's all over it is essential to have a long rest and not take on another school for at least a term. But that won't prevent her from doing some Section 23 inspections for Church of England schools. "I shall do a few - to relax!" Jenny Pickett is enormously grateful that when the new, permanent head starts in January she will be inheriting a well-organised, stable school. "I have learned so much from Sandie and this is a lovely way of saying thank you. We'll never forget her."

Bouquet of the Week is given in association with Marks Spencer. Names, please, on a postcard - and why - to Sarah Bayliss, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY

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