Personally speaking - 'What car do I drive? A blue one'

7th May 2010 at 01:00

Who has been your biggest influence?

Joan Challis, who taught me at drama school, was the first teacher to truly believe in me. Incidentally, her son played Boyce in Only Fools and Horses. Also Professor Reuven Feuerstein, who wrote that if the child fails to learn, the fault lies with the teacher.

What has been your career high so far?

The publication of our own curriculum, the Profound Education Curriculum, after 11 years' hard work. It was devised by the St Margaret's team when we realised our learners could not meaningfully participate in the national curriculum, and is now being used in special schools in the UK and abroad.

What was your worst moment in teaching?

In mainstream junior school, before I knew much about special needs, I had a pupil who was not progressing in the normal manner. An inspector was sent to assess her. When he asked the girl how many feet he had, she replied "both of them". I now wonder whether she was autistic.

Which pupil are you most proud of?

Every one of them, for participating in opportunities to the best of their ability and for every small yet significant achievement they make.

What was your worst field trip experience?

Losing a pupil in San Francisco. She wandered off in Macy's and was found by a kind person, who telephoned the school in the UK to find out where we were staying.

What is the best advice you have been given?

From my father: "To thine own self be true, be honest and fair."

Reveal the most outrageous thing you have seen a colleague do?

Streak at a cricket match.

What is the first thing you do on a Friday evening?

What every stressed headteacher does: head for the vino.

What car do you drive?

A blue one.

What is the worst excuse you have ever heard?

Surprisingly, it was from a member of staff, not a pupil: "I can't get back from Spain - the plane hasn't got any fuel."

Jan Cunningham is head of St Margaret's School in Tadworth, Surrey, a special school and part of national charity the Children's Trust.

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