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Those unforgettable days in education

Richard Chambers, 47, principal of Sir George Monoux College, Walthamstow.

I began my career as a clerical officer with the Inner London Education Authority in the early 1970s. The ILEA used to model itself on the civil service - so the first step up was to apply for a panel and if you got through they would put you on a list, and then eventually they would allocate you to a post.

After a few years I got to executive officer 2 level - and that was the end of it - you couldn't get any further unless you could cross over to administration. So your career came to an end in your early twenties.

I tried to get through these administrative class interviews. They asked questions like: "What do you think about the strategic role of the Greater London Council?" I didn't have a clue and kept getting turned down.

The big change for me came when I got sent on a certificate in management studies course at Bromley College. A techer there gave me the best bit of advice I ever had - try to get into teaching, and then do your Masters course. So my career started late - I was 31 by the time I'd settled into teaching.

I have had my share of bad interviews. One was for an adult education administration officer. I was interviewed by the chair of governors.

He asked me general questions to start with, but it got more and more confusing because I didn't know what he was talking about. And it suddenly became clear that he was reading the wrong application form.

My first principals' job interview was done over two days and it was a mixture of psychometric testing and then two interviews with small groups of governors.

I was a bit thrown by some of it - I got kicked out at the end of day one.

Martin Whittaker

Tell us about your job-related triumphs and tragedies. Contact Susan Young at with your story

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