The tea bag that bagged me my job

23rd May 2008 at 01:00
"I'm sorry, but you weren't successful today," I tell candidate number four over the telephone, pausing to sense how the news goes down before offering a few pointers and good wishes
"I'm sorry, but you weren't successful today," I tell candidate number four over the telephone, pausing to sense how the news goes down before offering a few pointers and good wishes. I can remember the disappointment, if only at the thought of having to go through the whole wretched process yet again.

Tired of rejections, I threw the application form for my present post in the kitchen bin. The next day, I had second thoughts. Just one-tea bag splat and I would have been forced to apply elsewhere. Such is destiny.

In fact, most of the applicants at this time of year are more than appointable. By June it will be harder to find a language teacher than a buyer for a Gateshead semi with a view of Northern Rock. So, heads race to get their advertisements in, process them with the speed of a ready meal and keep an eye on the competition.

If my colleague at Kingsbridge Community College, for example, is interviewing for an English teacher on Tuesday, I will do my best to call the applicants on Monday. And I justify my actions by telling myself I am saving them from a dull job elsewhere.

The first to arrive was unaware that I happened to be watching from my second-floor window. He got out of the red sports car and carefully placed his notes on the roof. The driver - his girlfriend? - smoothed his hair and helped him fasten his tie. Unluckily, at that moment a gust of wind sent his notes flying and the next five minutes were spent in a hasty dance of retrieval. Predictably, his interview was just as chaotic.

The teaching presentation causes the most concerns among interviewees. I explain that it is just one of the many ways we assess them. If it goes badly, they can explain why in the interview. All factors will be taken into account. We can understand if they can explain.

If only schools had the same leeway: "Sorry, but results are down because we ran out of time."

Towards the close of the interview, we ask if they have any questions. I groan inwardly when they take out their little notebooks and prepare to grill us for 10 minutes. Warning: "Can you account for the severe dip in your 2007 results?" is not a great note to finish on.

Selection involves considering many factors: the application, reference and performance on the day. A governor once confessed to me that he chose by imagining who would make the best dinner companion. It's not as silly as it sounds. If only the DCSF, the Department for Creating Statistical Fatigue, would use such measures in ranking schools. That would be good news for the next generation of teachers.

Ray Tarleton, Principal of South Dartmoor Community College, Ashburton Devon.

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