Best of times, worst of times

15th June 2001 at 01:00
TONY RICKWOOD Head of Parkside School, Bradford

'My first teaching practice was back at my old junior school. All these images from the past and all these teachers who I'd dreaded as a youngster were thrust back at me. And they took great delight in saying:

"Well, this is what teaching is all about Tony. There are 35 kids in that class. I'm now going to shut the door and leave you alone with them."

Being a physicist, it was reasonably easy to secure a first post. The interview was almost too relaxed: I began to wonder, when I walked from the place, whether I'd actually gone through an interview or not.

The principal of the sixth-form college invited me in for what I thought was an informal chat, which usually means a look around and if you're really interested you apply, but at the end of it he said: "Right, you start in September."

I have had the other extreme, too. I went to Kent for an interiew for a deputy headship. I walked into this room and it was exactly like Mastermind. It was an old library and the lights seemed to dim around me. I was led to this chair and it was almost "You have three minutes to answer the questions." When the lights went up at the end, there were about 30 people in this room, surrounding me.

It was absolutely fruitless. I didn't get the job. When I received the feedback it was: "Well, you got 19 out of the 30 questions right." It was pretty valueless, other than it gave a result. Any process can give you a result, even if you draw lots.

I like people to meet each other. Certainly at important interviews, for assistant head and deputy head, we start off the selection process at a meal, where we sit down and talk with governors. It's not quite death by canape, but it does give a little opportunity for people to judge initially whether they like you and you like them.

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