Name: Rachael Warwick... ‘Mrs Warwick’ to most students at school; ‘Mum’ to some of the more forgetful ones; ‘Sir’ to some of the less perceptive ones; I am sure there are many other names of which it is best I remain completely oblivious.

My Age in Years: 21... again!

What I do: I am the headteacher of Didcot Girls’ School, a 1,200-strong comprehensive school in South Oxfordshire, with a mixed sixth-form that is shared with the town’s St Birinus boys’ school. We are the only all-girls’ state school in Oxfordshire.

Where I live: Bampton, now famous as a filming location for Downton Abbey.

Who I Love: My family and other animals...

Happiest Year: I took a year out after university and travelled to India and Pakistan. It was an amazing experience.

Darkest Moments: One of the essential criteria in any headteacher’s job description is eternal optimist and I am fortunate to count myself as one of these. For this reason, I don’t think I can pinpoint a darkest moment.

Proudest Boast: That I am privileged to lead a fantastic school and to work on the behalf of 1,200 amazing girls and a wonderful staff, on a daily basis. Girls are fantastic. They are funny, clever, and principled. I see part of my job as making them realise how great they are, so that they become resilient, take more risks in their learning, and aim for the very top in whatever they choose to do later in life.

Worst Weakness: (es) Where to start? Coffee; chocolate; reality TV; Aerosmith; an unattractive obsession with the correct use of possessive apostrophes; the inability to tell jokes without forgetting the punchline; the ability to forgive myself for all of my weaknesses, which means that I never correct them.

Lessons Learned: As a leader, if you are going to stand up for what you believe, and put this into practice, you will not please all the people, all the time. Try to take everyone with you, but, if you fail, sometimes respect is enough.

Dullest Job: As a student, working the night shift at a pork pie factory near Witney – I’m a vegetarian. My job was to place the pork pie balls into the cases in a rotating machine for six hours, with one break. I used to dream about pork pie machines. It made me realise that everyone should have the opportunity to do a job they love.

Greatest Shame: That I won’t ever write the 21st century equivalent of Anna Karenina – or any other classic work of fiction.

LifeLong Hero: I think having heroes is quite a male trait and I’m not sure that, personally, I look to anyone for iconic status. The people I admire most are those whose talent is blindingly obvious and their humility about it genuinely authentic. Quite often the people with these qualities are younger than 18...

Oldest Friend: My sister – who now lives in New Zealand – can make me laugh more than anyone else in the world, and she is also my oldest friend.

Widest Smile: My younger son has lost his two front teeth (he is six) and has the largest, gappiest, loveliest smile that I have ever seen.

Favourite Dream: (not the pork pie one).

Biggest Regret: That politicians (of all parties) continue to treat education as a political football, and teachers with disdain. The concept of a vocational career is alive and well in education – the teachers I work with on a daily basis give far more than they receive. The assumption that school leaders and teachers are complacent and unambitious denigrates the professionals I have been privileged to work with over the past 20 years. I hate the fact that even writing this makes me sound defensive.