Those unforgettable days in education

6th October 2000 at 01:00
BOB CARSTAIRS: Assistant general secretary, Secondary Heads Association

I qualified as a music teacher at the age of 21. Teaching was in my family and in the mid-1960s it seemed a very pleasant way of spending my life. I applied to five different LEAs and they all accepted me sight-unseen. I chose Bristol and was farmed out to a boys' secondary school, so I didn't actually select where I was going to teach.

I was put in charge of the music department, and it was a real baptism of fire. I had a class of 38 and many of them were on probation - it was make or break in terms of discipline.

On day one the head asked me if I could teach French. I said no. "Do you have French O-level?" he asked. I said yes. He replied: "You can teach French then." One of my tasks was to give careers advice. Once I got an Army recruitment sergeant to come and talk. At the end he asked me to come ad have a beer. At the time teachers' pay was about pound;600 a year. He told me the Army paid pound;880 a year. So I joined.

That involved what was probably the hardest interview of my life - called the Regular Commissions Board. It was a three-day residential in Wiltshire - testing co-ordination, physical ability, intellect and general knowledge.

I spent 28 years in the Royal Army Educational Corps. Part of my work was as a career consultant to help the Army with its resettlement programme after the Berlin Wall came down.

I think there are two major things which would sell anybody, irrespective of the job they're applying for. One is your CV and letter of application. The other is body language. You know within the first 10 seconds of an interview whether you're going to like the applicant or not. And if you don't like them, the chances are you won't offer them the job.

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