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Talking Heads

KATE MYERS TALKS TO JOHN WILLIAMS. John Williams, 49, has been head of Pen y Dre High School, a 1,200 pupil 11-19 mixed comprehensive in Merthyr Tydfil, for three years.

Did you always want to be a head?

Once I became a teacher I always wanted to be a head. After my initial degree I did a research degree and was not certain what to do, but when I started teaching English in Luton, I enjoyed it. I then became head of department, deputy head and head of Heston school in Hounslow. I took up my second headship when we moved back to Wales a few years ago.

How would you describe your style?

I try to work in teams. I see myself in the new Star Trek style. The original Captain Kirk stayed on the bridge making decisions; the new captain calls meetings. You have to carry people with you and explain yourself all the time. You need constant feedback to improve.

What is different about a second headship?

You know what you want and are far more confident about it. In your first headship you grow into the job. In your second, you arrive as a head.

What did you do differently the second time?

I was more confident and better prepared to define and explain my targets and strategies.

What is the most important aspect?

Building the self-confidence and self-esteem of pupils. Our biggest problems are motivation and confidence. We have to convince them that there is something out there for them.

What do you enjoy most?

Changing things for the better.

What don't you enjoy?

Filling in forms.

What's the most difficult thing you do?

Achieving targets. Last year we said publicly that we would double the five A to C GCSE grades obtained by 13 per cent. There is no point in having targets unless you tell people exactly what you expect. We got 32 per cent.

What was different from what you expected?

In my first headship it was the realisation that the buck stops here and you have to do something about it. It's different from any other job in school.

What keeps you sane?

Walking, music, reading and my family.

If you were Secretary of State for EducationI I would remind people that the history of the past 20 years has not been a history of falling standards, it has been one of rising expectations.

What would you like to be remembered for?

Meeting my targets.

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