How did they get there?

30th January 1998 at 00:00
Estelle Morris, 45, was elected MP for Yardley, Birmingham, in 1992. She is now School Standards Minister, and works around 70 hours each week How did you get where you are?

I had no career plan. After grammar school I went to Coventry College of Education, where I did a certificate of education course, followed by a BEd.

I started teaching humanities and PE at Sidney Stringer School in Coventry, a mixed, inner-city, multi-racial comprehensive. I stayed for 18 years. Each time I was about to leave, the school would give me a new challenge. I ended up as a senior teacher, with curriculum and pastoral oversight of a large sixth form.

I came from a political family and joined the Labour party at 16. I never intended to become a local councillor, but when I was 27 I was elected to Warwick district council. Three years later I became group leader. It took me a long time to admit to myself that I wanted to be an MP.

There are many overlaps in the skills needed for teaching and being an MP. In both jobs you have to be able to listen, hear behind the words being spoken, and communicate clearly. I always tried to raise young people's aspirations; I try to do the same with constituents who have problems.

Would you do anything differently second time round?

I would probably have left Sidney Stringer earlier, even though I enjoyed my time there.

What is the most important aspect of your job?

Keeping links with the real world. Being a minister is even more demanding than being an MP. But you cannot be effective politically unless you are in contact with the people whose lives you are affecting. I try to leave London for my constituency on Thursday nights and return on Monday lunchtime.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The variety. It's a privilege to meet all the groups and organisations in my constituency. It restores your belief in community and human potential.

What don't you enjoy?

When I've got a constituent in dire trouble and I can't deliver the goods. Sometimes adults cry in my surgery. They never intend to cry and are embarrassed about it, but when they start talking about their situation they can't help themselves. Although I can often help, there are times when I can't. Another problem is that I'm a lousy time-keeper.

What's the most difficult thing you have to do?

Keeping on top of the paperwork and prioritising decisions.

Whowhat inspired youinfluenced your approach?

My family supported me and aspired for me; I was the first generation to go into higher education. I did not have a particularly good school experience, but at college, one of my lecturers, Prue Tilley, who has since died, restored my belief in myself. I'm also influenced by the many young people I know who've succeeded against the odds. If they can do it, we can make it happen for many more children. That's what drives me.

What keeps you sane?

My family, friends and The Archers.

Professor Kate Myers is director of the Professional Development Unit, University of Keele

DAWN TO DUSK

7.00 Get up 8.00 Taken in ministerial car to DFEE 9.00 Meeting to discuss constituency papers 9.35 Leave for Bloomsbury to speak at conference on home-school co-operation 11.00 Visit to Technology Colleges Trust offices for a presentation on its work 12.40 Work on policy papers with sandwich lunch 1.00 Meet with officials about technology college issues 2.00 Walkabout with David Blunkett in Standards and Effective ness Unit to discuss and see developments 3.00 Meeting with officials about performance tables 4.00 Meeting with head of Standards and Effectiveness Unit 4.30 Interview with The TES 5.10 Work through policy papers 7.00 Go to House of Commons office to do paperwork. Eat and chat with other MPs 10.00 Vote 10.45 Home. Then watch "Newsnight" 12.00 Bed

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