Personally speaking - 'Holiday? I spent it in Aladdin's cave'

13th August 2010 at 01:00
Diana Walton was a primary teacher for 10 years and is now head of development at Arts Award for the Arts Council England. For more information about how to introduce the Arts Award in your school or college, go to

Who has been your biggest influence?

An early crucial influence was meeting (chief education officer) Sir Alec Clegg in what was then the West Riding local education authority when I was an idealistic student wondering how to put the world to rights. He demonstrated that the primary classroom was the place to start, and also a hotbed of creativity.

What is your career high so far?

It has to be now - watching the Arts Award support thousands of young people to develop and get recognition for their creativity and artistic talent. I am very excited that our Gold Arts Award has just been recognised by Ucas, so it offers real value to students heading for higher education and may make all the difference to those with fewer "traditional" qualifications.

What was your worst moment in teaching?

Probably an over-ambitious start to my first job in a Telford primary with 37 family-grouped seven to 11-year-olds. I spent my summer holiday making the classroom into an Aladdin's cave of stimulation rather than planning a structure which would manage all their needs. But we did have fun.

Which pupil are you most proud of?

So many - but I was reminded of one on a recent trip to Liverpool. He was a young man with personal and behavioural problems attending an education unit where I was teaching. He really committed to playing a key part in my end-of-term play - and we saw him smile at last.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

I stayed with the Israeli educationalist, Shalom Herman, after university. He taught me that people learn best when there is a pretty equal balance between success and failure.

What is the most outrageous thing a colleague has done?

Not allowing a young person to perform on stage because of a clothing irregularity. Yes, you need discipline, but you also need judgment about when it's more important to build confidence than establish your own authority.

What do you do on a Friday evening?

First swim, then have a glass of white wine.

What is the worst excuse you've ever heard?

At a youth music festival where young people played key roles: "I felt it was OK to get drunk so my deputy could take more responsibility."

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