RUNNING an inner-city comprehensive school has been the challenge embraced by Dinesh Ramjee since 2002. The Henry Compton headteacher announced his retirement this term and GREG Burns caught up with him to find out how teaching has changed and what his legacy will be.
DINESH Ramjee is greeted by two old students as he waits for his interview with the Chronicle.
The pair have made the trip to give their old headteacher a farewell gift and wish him well for the future.
It is a clear sign of the impact Mr Ramjee has had on his past pupils and he took as much pleasure in stopping to chat to them as they did in being able to show their gratitude.
Mr Ramjee, 57, began his maths and IT teaching career in 1976 before joining Henry Compton School, in Kingwood Road, Fulham, in 1983 as Head of IT.
In 27 years at the boys comprehensive school, he has held a number of senior positions including Head of Faculty and Deputy Headteacher before being given the top job in 2002.
Under his tenure, he has overseen pupil numbers rise from 400 to 600, improving Ofsted reports and a performing arts building – with the theatre named after him.
It is all a far cry from the darkest days in their history when it was placed into special measures in 1996 and deemed a failing school.
Mr Ramjee said: "It was a difficult time. The local authority was searching for other heads and I was the most senior person in the school and was put in charge of school for one day because they couldn't get anyone else in.
"Eventually the chief inspector came in here and he was meant to run the school until a head they had identified could come and work here. And he made me deputy head because we needed to go about our daily business.
"It was a baptism of fire. I didn't set out to be a head and it just sort of happens. I have never been one to plan my career but I have thoroughly enjoyed it."
Henry Compton can count itself one of the most diverse schools in Hammersmith & Fulham with more than 50 languages and pupils from both privileged and tough backgrounds.
But is the challenge that running an inner-city comprehensive that has inspired Mr Ramjee for more than two decades.
He said: "The challenge has always been about getting good teachers to the school and to stay here because it is a tough school to teach at. But once the boys know you and you understand them then people are very happy.
"We have got a low turnover of staff now and are getting good results and are consistently above targets. So it is a good time for me to go.
"We have have children from extremely deprived backgrounds but we also have some embassy children and middle class children. This is a truly mixed school and very comprehensive in its nature."
Teaching in the modern-era is a polar opposite from the days when Mr Ramjee embarked on the career as a fresh-faced 23-year-old hoping to forge out a career.
While some of the changes are for the better, he believes there are some aspects of 21 st Century schooling which are not ideal.
He said: "It is a totally different landscape. There was not the same accountability in the 70s. In the first five years of my career I was observed once.
"There is a lot more scrutiny and teachers want to be observed more. If a teacher is doing well then they need to be told that and if someone is struggling then you need to put scaffolding around them to help them develop.
"Teaching is a craft that you need to develop. You need to create that support so that they get better and emotionally more resilient and feel more confident in class management and being able to challenge children.
"It is about forming relationships with the children but also challenging them and pushing their knowledge boundaries.
"But I think there is issues around the number of the number of assessments the children go through. As the saying goes 'you don't fatten the calf by weighing it' and by repeatedly testing children you have to wonder about the wisdom of that."
As for the future, the father-of-two admits he does not have the type of character to sit around at home and read and is planning to keep busy.
With his wife teaching in Brussels, Mr Ramjee is planning to spend more time with her and also taking on some voluntary projects.
He said: "I thought long and hard and decided it would be best and was a timely time to go.
"I have always wanted to do voluntary work and I have been looking into this. We work with schools in South Africa, some schools in Afghanistan so would be keen to continue this.
"I have been interested in global dimension of school improvement. I am a keen traveller and I want to continue doing that and merging the two things."