Best of times, worst of times

16th February 2001 at 00:00

head of Wath-upon-Dearne comprehensive school, South Yorkshire

"I rather drifted into teaching in the mid-Sixties. There wasn't that positive an image of teaching then. Perceptions of teaching now are not radically different from the mid-Sixties. There was a teacher shortage then just as there is now.

For me it was a toss-up between teaching or the Civil Service. Teaching didn't seem as competitive, and that was confirmed in my first job interview, when I turned up and found I was the only one.

I am in a rather curious position: I have stayed at the same school throughout my career. I'm now head of the school that I came into as a very green history teacher back in 1965.

There was a period in the Seventies and early Eighties when I tried to seek senior posts elsewhere. I was successful at getting interviews, shortlisted for interviews, and performing moderately well, but not well enough.

My iggest disaster was at a secondary school and when we got there we were told that the school was likely to be converted to a middle school. Did this make any difference to our application? I thought it was an extraordinary thing to say on the morning of the selection. I was the only one to say yes, it makes a lot of difference.

On each occasion with these interviews I was happy to jump back into the frying pan from what looked like a fire. And that is an experience and a feeling which an awful lot of staff here now tell me they share. It's a very low turnover in this school.

Being at the same school all these years has been a mixed blessing. On the plus side you know where all the mines are planted and where all the skeletons are buried.

You know the place pretty well, but it knows you, so you come with a certain amount of baggage, having been part of the management for such a long time.

Martin Whittaker

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