Heather Daulphin, 38, has been deputy head at Hampstead School, Camden, for nine months. Her main role is to support staff and pupils. The school has 1,308 on roll and 30 per cent take free school meals. More than 78 languages are spoken at home and the school has 140 asylum-seekers Describe your career path
I am the youngest of 10. From about the age of 12, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. Istudied history and politics at Warwick, then did a PGCE at the Institute of Education in London. I had a wonderful teaching practice at Hendon school, then a year covering long-term vacancies in ILEA, which gave me experience of two different types of school: Our Lady's Convent in Stamford Hill, where I learnt how to teach, not just control, and Henry Compton in Fulham, where I learned how to survive.
I moved to Archbishop Tennison in Lambeth, where head of department Ian Colwill, a chief examiner who did advisory work, supported me. After my second year, he left and I was persuaded to apply for his job, which I got.
In 1992, I moved to become head of history and social science at Hampstead. It was larger and mixed. Also, I wanted more experience of teaching my subject at A-level. I had just started a masters course in assessment, so I became an examiner, too. I felt intimidated at first because I'd never been in a school with so many middle-class children. They were articulate, aware of their "rights" and I found that you can't short-change them. But when my first A-level group all got As, I felt better.
I became interested in computers and we got involved with BECTA, the Goverment's technology agency, which meant I got experience of running in-service training. After four years as head of department, the head of sixth-form left and I applied for the job. I served on the citizenship working party after receiving a phone call from David Blunkett's office. I was head of sixth for three years and then one of the deputies left, so I applied for the job. Now I enjoy seeing the whole picture.
How would you describe your management style?
I try to be democratic, discuss things and to share. I find difficulty with things that aren't negotiable. I can be an old harridan but I try to be controlled. I am firm but fair with pupils and I try to look after people. I make my A-level group stay to finish their work, but they get tea and biscuits while they do it. I play down my intellectual side, so I think people are unaware of my academic rigour. I'm not good at deadlines. I wonder about being a working-class black woman in a school with so many white, middle-class children, but my craft is teaching and you do it anywhere as long as the school is receptive.
What do you enjoy?
I like innovation - setting up new courses, for example. Teaching lets me to indulge my love of history. I love working with children and helping them to achieve. I also love the excitement and diversity here - faith, language, ethnicity - and I meet all sorts of people. It's the perfect place to take risks and be adventurous.
And not enjoy When you get promoted to deputy within a school, overnight you become an expert on everything and people off-load problems onto you. I approve of some of the Government's initiatives, but there is too much emphasis on the gifted Our government is schizophrenic. It seems to understand social justice, but is underpinned by a culture of blame.
What's the most important aspect of the job?
Listening - to staff and children - and having your finger on the pulse. I tell kids that a sign of maturity is thinking long-term and trusting your antennae. I'm not a systems person. I see myself as a teacher preparing children for adulthood.
The most difficult aspect?
Keeping up with paperwork and making the distinction between important and urgent.
Who are your influences and role models?
Gordon Small, one of my secondary teachers - I still see him and I copy his teaching style. Ian Colwill , Tamsyn Imison and my mum who is a hero. All of her children have been successful.
What is your professional development experience?
It took a long time to complete, but I loved doing my masters. I learned much from being a GCSE examiner and from my PGCE course. I'm thinking of doing the headship qualification (NPQH) when the revised version arrives, but not the fast-track. If I do it, I want to learn from it.
What is your relationship with your headteacher?
Only when I became deputy did I see she has a naughty streak, which I like. She is inclusive and this goes beyond superficial liberalism. She is a crafty and radical woman who has been successful without emulating men. We think alike and we are both finishers. I think she thinks I'm scampish, but she respects what I do and I have a healthy respect for her. I've seen her chop heads and she's given me a few slaps in the past.
What sort of support networks do you have?
My senior management team is important to me and I learn a lot from them. We argue, but still make each other cups of tea. I have a few close friends from schooldays and university. We are a close-knit group. My own community is also important.
For 15 years, I was involved in a Saturday school run by WISE (West Indian Self Effort). I am particularly close to my eldest sister who is twenty years my senior - also to my mum.
What sort of head would you like to be?
I'm not sure I want to be one. Maybe the headship qualification will help me to decide.
Professor Kate Myers is director of the professional development unit at Keele University
* THE VIEW FROM ABOVE
Dame Tamsyn Imison is head of Hampstead School: "I'm very fortunate to have worked with some wonderful deputies, and Heather is remarkable. She has been highly successful and portrays a very positive image, which affects the number of female pupils we attract. We have a natural rapport. Heather is a natural leader and her contribution to the SMT is huge. She has a directness that rubs off on others. It's interesting that we both have roots in St Kitts. She takes both the academic and pastoral sides very seriously. She more than proved herself as a head of department. She came from a very different school but this is often the best kind of experience. If you can help youngsters with difficulties to achieve, you can get the very able to do so too. She will make an outstanding headteacher."
* Heather Daulphin (left) and her headteacher, Tamsyn Imison
Contact numbers: School: 020. 7794.8133 school fax 020.7435.8260 Home 020.8385.1926