Talking Heads

24th May 1996 at 01:00
Age: 53 Years of headship: 5 School: South Camden Community School, London, a mixed 11 to 19 comprehensive for 750 with a unit for students with physical disabilities

Did you always want to be a head?

I always wanted to be a successful teacher but I was never ambitious to be a head. I came here as senior master in 1974, was promoted to deputy and became head in 1991.

How would you describe your style?

Collaborative, facilitating, being a catalyst and giving the school a focus - which for us is raising achievement and self-esteem. Although ultimately the senior team and governors have to take responsibility for decisions, we consult with the staff, pupils and parents. I don't care where initiatives come from as long as they take the school forward.

What is the most important part of a head's job?

Getting the best out of people you work with - staff, children and parents. Some children come here from extraordinary circumstances and need to feel secure and supported, but not patronised.

What do you enjoy most?

Getting things done and the variety. No one day is the same as the next.

What don't you enjoy?

Not having enough time. Some changes have been needed but the pace of change and the lack of resources to support change have not been helpful.

What is the most difficult thing you have to do?

Disciplining staff or students - making judgments about people. I find selecting staff difficult too because it means rejection, and that sometimes includes good people.

Who influenced your approach?

My own teachers when I was a pupil. And one of the things that influenced me most was becoming a parent myself because I could then value children as a parent as well as a teacher.

What was different from what you expected?

The isolation and loneliness. I under-estimated the pressures that generated from all the different audiences you have to respond to - staff, students, parents, the education authority, the Department for Education, OFSTED, the public and local and national politicians.

What keeps you sane?

Making sure that I get a decent holiday once or twice a year. I no longer have time for hobbies.

If you were Secretary of State for Education .... I would make all schools comprehensives serving their local communities and education would be secular and co-educational. It is remarkablehow we divide children up into sheep and goats and then expect them to reintigrate into society.

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