Those unforgettable days in education

15th September 2000 at 01:00

STANLEY GILES, aged 52, head of Sheepscombe County primary school, Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire used to operate a pool system where newly-qualified teachers were pooled and matched with the needs of schools. It was 1988 and I was newly qualified. My initial interview with the education authority was like something out of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

There were three people sitting in this huge room which was really dusty and poorly lit. You come out of college all keen and enthusiastic and with all the latest ideas, and you're faced with three people making notes while you're talking.

I was accepted by the LEA, but under the system you didn't know what school they had in mind for you. Soon the head of Tredworth Junior School, Gloucester contacted me.

I thought I was just another visitor. But after 45 minutes the head turned to me and said: "When can you start?" I was rather taen aback - I hadn't realised I was being interviewed.

I was in my mid-30s when I began teacher training. Before that I had worked with adolescents with learning difficulties. I had also worked in the National Gallery restoring paintings and as a furniture maker.

I chose teaching after a young lad came to me to train on the Government's Youth Opportunities Programme. He had a gift with wood and it struck me that the system had totally let him down.

He'd failed the written part of every interview he'd been to, but nobody had taken the time to look at his work. After six months training in my workshop, he went on to study furniture making at Falmouth College and came out with a distinction.

I'd enjoyed teaching him so much I really felt I should give it a go.

Martin Whittaker

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