Best of times, worst of times

28th September 2001 at 01:00
Colin Harris Headteacher Warren Park Primary, Havant, Hampshire

Back in the late 1970s I was doing A-levels, not having a clue what sort of work to go into.

My girlfriend's parents were both teachers. One day, I argued with them: anyone could be a teacher, I insisted. I don't think they wanted their daughter going out with a long-haired yob like me. Before anyone knew what had happened, I was off to college to do teacher training, all the way down to Swansea where her family came from. I thought: "This will be really romantic." But then she packed me in.

So there I was in Swansea, training to be a teacher. I never regret one minute of it, though.

One of the funniest interviews happened after I had just started as head of my present school. About a week or so before term started, I was contacted by someone who had applied for a learning support assistant post. Because I was new, her application didn't get into the pile, so I felt morally obliged to make sure that I interviewed her just as I had interviewed everybody else. I had to do it on the first day of term.

We sat down for the interview. It would have been early afternoon. I'd done my bit, and then we were into the boring part where you have to listen to everybody else. I turned to my deputy head and said: 'Did you hear that cow?' He looked at me as if I was completely off my head. But we were on the edge of the countryside and I was sure I'd heard a cow.

Suddenly, all hell broke loose. The door flew open and the caretaker rushed in: 'We've got a stampede,' he said. Some secondary school pupils had stampeded a herd of cows through our school grounds.

We ran out, the deputy and I, to see what we could do and we forgot all about this poor candidate: we just left her sitting there. We were outside rounding up the cows - we must have been 25 minutes - and when we came back she was still there. Now it might be against all the criteria we had, but she got the job.

Interview by Martin Whittaker

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