Liz Robinson, 29
University: LSE, Philosophy 1998 (1st)
PGCE: Roehampton, 2000
Job: Headteacher, Surrey Square Junior School, London
I left university with an inkling that I wanted to work in the ‘caring’ professions of some sort. I spent some time in schools and loved it.
Best and worst parts of teaching?
It’s wonderful when the kids make a real leap forward, especially if they have certain difficulties in their lives. But it can be a challenge working with children who don’t speak English or who have difficult issues on a wider social and economic level.
Teaching is changing hugely. The rewards are very, very good. It’s just amazing how endlessly stimulating it is. You are never, ever bored. It’s a full-on career choice, but if it’s what you want, then go for it.
This January, Liz Robinson becomes one of the youngest head teachers in London. Her ascent to the top has been rapid. Although Liz began her career as a classroom teacher, after two years she joined Fast Track, an initiative to accelerate teachers into positions of responsibility.
"I’d always been interested in leadership and management," she explains. "Working in different schools you see good and bad role models. Maybe I was a bit of a natural too. So I thought ‘yeah, I can do that’."
Whether or not you aspire to become a head, the teaching profession demands good organisational skills. "And that also means knowing when to stop," adds Liz. "Teaching is a job that is never finished and you can always do more. You have to have a balance and prioritise your mental health."
With this in mind, Liz performs at classical concerts at least once a month – the result of a devotion to singing that she describes as "a very serious sideline".
"I don’t think that ‘teacher-martyrs’ slavishly giving up all their spare time are necessarily good practitioners," she says. "They become pissed off and it makes them nasty people for the kids to be around."
Teaching has changed radically in the past few years, and one consequence of the makeover is that graduates expect to rise through the ranks at a faster rate. Financially, Liz adds, it’s "amazing how you climb up the scale in five years."
After starting a role as deputy head at a London primary school last March, the step-up to head-teacher became a realistic proposition. As a head, Liz will no longer teach classes. Her new role is as a facilitator: motivating, managing and organising, whether it’s finances, staff or the state of the building.
"I’m a little nervous, but mostly excited, because I have great people to work with and their feedback has been very positive," she explains. "As head you don’t do the teaching but you enable the best possible teaching to happen."