Those unforgettable days in education

10th November 2000 at 00:00
Margaret Griffin, head of Axton Chase school, Longfield, Kent "My first teaching job, when I was 20, was in a really tough school in Elephant and Castle, south London. I was head of an English department by the age of 26 and got my first deputy headship at 28.

The job was in Manchester and I was offered an interview for what was called, at that time, senior mistress. My husband and I were living in Streatham, and I remember leaving at 3.30am to catch the milk train. I had the interview at the education office at 9.19am in the centre of Manchester and was taken out to Wythenshawe, which I'd never heard of, to see the school - after I'd been offered the job.

I was elated. At the age of 28 and with two children, I was staggered that anyone should appoint me to a deputy headship.

But looking back, having been given the job without seeing the school was a very difficult thing. I wish I had met the staff. I had a lot of wining of people to do when I got there. I was terribly young. It would have been good to have had the opportunity to have met these people and to weigh up the situation.

They were lovely to me, but I made some mistakes and I don't think I would have made them if I'd had the opportunity to see the situation in greater depth before I was appointed.

My experiences then have influenced how I conduct interviews now. I think it's very important that every individual - interviewers and the interviewees - have the opportunity to have a good look at each other to get the best fit. So this is what we do.

We ensure that whoever we shortlist, they come and spend some time in the school and they can decide either like it or they don't. I think it's better for people to withdraw and say this is not my sort of place. They have to pick up the ethos of the school and see if they can fit into the team.

Martin Whittaker


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