What happened next? This week: Britain's youngest head

26th May 2006 at 01:00
This term we're tracking down the latest instalment in some of the significant stories we've told in Friday magazine since 1998. Let us know if you'd like us to publish the latest twist in your tale.

This week: Britain's youngest head

Kirstyn Doherty was just 27 when she was appointed to lead St Mary's RC primary school in Boston, Lincolnshire, and so became the youngest head in Britain. She'd been a pupil there herself, but was now armed with a Masters degree and the National Professional Qualification for Headship - not compulsory back then. When Wendy Wallace reported on her story in January 2000 she'd been in the job six months and was learning to manage a 172-pupil school and a number of older colleagues.

Time has not stood still for Kirstyn, either personally or professionally.

Her husband left her later that year, though not, she stresses, because of her job. "It was a bit of a blow," she says. Kirstyn threw herself deeper into work. "We did lots of new and interesting things as a school. That was part of the remit for my appointment." The school gained an extra class to cope with a rising roll, and Kirstyn was appointed a consultant leader for the county. Then, as co-leader of an 11-school learning network, she got to know the other co-leader, headteacher Sean Canadine. Love blossomed and they married in February 2003; Mick Brookes, now general secretary of the NAHT, played guitar at their wedding in his band the Chingford Rockets.

Kirstyn - by now Mrs Canadine - stayed six years at St Mary's, mentoring two other young teachers into fast-track routes to leadership. She went on maternity leave in the summer of 2004. Beth was an August baby; colleagues asked if they had timed the conception to fit in with the school year (they hadn't), but by the time her child was four months old, Kirstyn had told the governors she wouldn't be coming back. "This is not the end of my career by any means," she says. "But I wanted to be able to continue to fulfil the role at the same pace, and I couldn't once Beth was born."

The couple wanted one parent to be at home, if they could afford it; breastfeeding, and on a smaller salary, Kirstyn opted for motherhood full-time. Earlier this month, the Canadines had another daughter, Eryn.

Kirstyn loved her job and will return to headship - probably via a spell in the classroom - later, she says. But the workload is a problem, especially in a family where both parents are heads. Sean sometimes doesn't see his older daughter awake for days at a time. And most female heads, Kirstyn points out, have already had their families by the time they are appointed.

"I want to be there for our own children as well, and with the workload the way it is at the moment that just wouldn't be possible."

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