Survival of the strictest in head race

27th April 2007 at 01:00
Ian Roe is a psuedonym. He teaches in North Wales

The candidates glare at each other warily during the bun fight. They are assembled to meet the staff, governors and students. There are many false conversations as everyone tries to impress.

I watch them from the sidelines, my heart going out to every single one.

Everyone was desperately trying to be natural, engaging strangers in light conversation. They stand and talk but their body language tells another story.

The most important conversations they can have are actually with the pupils. Children are usually more offended than adults if you snub them, as one candidate found out to his peril.

There was a real sense that the whole school was watching. The interview is a performance art. You must be yourself but push the right buttons. Oh, and a sharp suit helps.

It was our duty to preserve calm throughout the school once the interviews began. We managed to avoid any major incidents. The candidates themselves seem to be involved in truly manic activity. I am quite sure that, by the end, we had contravened several of their basic human rights. They were required to maintain high levels of performance and concentration beyond what is right or normal.

The candidates pace, on their best behaviour, not entirely sure what to do with themselves. They take short walks around the school while being stared at by pupils. Those of us outside were reduced to examining tiny clues to find out what was going on.

The student council members expressed the strongest opinions. When they emerged from their secret chamber they assured me they had chosen the strictest candidate. The staff committee also felt that its opinions should be given the greatest prominence. They found it hard to accept that they were merely part of the process. They, too, were drawn towards the idea of a forceful disciplinarian who would be there to resolve their own issues.

The governors saw that as well. But they were also seeking someone more cerebral, a candidate with vision as well as potential.

You wonder in the end what it is all about. Interviews? Don't be silly. It is all about impression and expectation.

And then, suddenly, the governors emerge, squinting in the bright light of reality. They have made a decision. All the speculation is over and we have a new headteacher after 33 inquiries and nine applications.

The disappointed make claims of injustice and absurdity under their breath as they head for the door. But, in an instant, life has changed. A new head and a new beginning.

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