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Talking Heads

Pam Burton TALKS TO KATE MYERS. Age: 52 Years of headship: 3

School: The 420-pupil Deanfield junior and infant school in Halifax. Its Office for Standards in Education report in March 1995 said: "The head teacher has great energy and commitment . . . The school is very effective in delivering its declared priorities."

Did you always want to be a head?

Partly. I wanted to stay in the classroom but I also wanted to make things happen. I think most teachers have ambition but you are never sure you are going to get there.

I was an advisory teacher for science before I became deputy in this school just after it amalgamated. After five terms I became acting head. I knew then that I love this school and I did not want anyone else to come in and do all the things I wanted to do.

Describe your style of headship A mixture of laissez-faire and autocratic, it depends on the situation.

We categorise items for staff meetings into "information only" or "for discussion". I always talk with the deputy and never make a decision in isolation. Other people would probably say I do not delegate very easily but I am getting better at that.

What is the most important part of a head's job?

Relationships with the whole community from the littlest person in the school to the oldest. It is also the hardest thing to get right - you have to put away your prejudices and try to be objective and fair.

What do you enjoy most?

The children - their love, hugs, fun and sheer joy of living. I love teaching and still get a buzz when I see that look on their face when they have learned something.

What don't you enjoy?

Form filling.

What's the most difficult thing?

Criticising adults. I know I have to do it sometimes but I do not like hurting people and inside I am thinking "this is really hard".

Whowhat influenced your approach?

I remember what I enjoyed as a child and the teachers who made me think that school was worthwhile. I met up with Alma Girling, my tutor from college, last summer and realised what a profound effect she had on my thinking. Sidney Wadsworth was a head I worked for and I liked the way he dealt with staff and how he cared for them. I try to reflect his kindness.

What was unexpected?

Relations with new staff who treat you like a head unlike the people who knew you before. I am still the same person with the same feelings and emotions.

What would you do differently?

Pace myself a bit better.

What keeps you sane?

My family and going to watch football and rugby league.

Who are your heroes?

When I was director of a football club I met Sir Matt Busby and I was enchanted by him. I admire people who have a lot of patience and those who have done well in their field but have not grown above their stature.

If you were Secretary of State for education . . .

Pour money into early years education. Get it right then and avoid half the problems we get when they are older.

What would you like to be remembered for?

I would like people to think I really enjoyed my job and got a lot of pleasure from being a teacher.

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