We'll let you know

Martin Bell got six of the the worst before he finally struck lucky in south London

I had six interviews after leaving teacher training college before I was appointed to my first post. That might be more common now, but it seemed a lot at the time, and they included two horrendous experiences.

For one interview, I got a letter asking me to travel to Tiverton in Devon. It meant taking a day off from study, but I decided to go.

It was a long journey - across London to Paddington, a train down to Tiverton, then a taxi to the school. When I arrived, I was asked to wait in a side room. There was coffee, but that was all. I sat in this small room on my own for 20 minutes or so. Nobody had spoken to me apart from to say:

"Could you wait in there?" Finally, I went into the head's office and there was another person there. I'm not quite sure who she was.

They quizzed me for about 10 minutes and then asked if I had any questions. I said: "Is it possible to have a look around the school?" They said: "No, it's not convenient at the moment because it's nearly lunchtime."

And then the head pointed out of his study window: "See the road over there? There's a local pub. You can get lunch there and ring for a taxi to the station. Thank you very much."

I did have a good lunch, mind you - and I charged Devon for it.

On another occasion in Essex, there were two jobs and three of us being interviewed. And I was the one who didn't get the job.

That was awful because three of us were sitting in a room. Someone walked in and said: "Mr Jones?" Then another person came in and said: "Mr Wilson?"

And I was left in the room waiting for about five minutes, becoming totally disenchanted.

The adviser came in and told me he knew of a job going on the other side of Essex. "I'll take you to it," he said. So I went for that interview in the afternoon as well. I didn't get that job either.

Eventually, I was appointed at a school in south-east London. I had the flu that day, and because I was ill I didn't have any nerves.

My experiences certainly affected the way I interview job applicants. My school is geared to making people feel welcome from the moment they step in. I speak to everyone before they come to an interview, and try to have some time with them beforehand. Our chair of governors is very calm and puts people at ease.

At some places I've been, it's more of an inquisition than an interview.

Martin Bell is head of Woolaston primary school, Lydney, Gloucestershire. Interview by Martin Whittaker

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you