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Exercise for the mind

Professor Kathryn Riley, facilitator for the Thomas Tallis weekend, believes the speed of change in recent years has left teachers with little time to think.

"But given the chance to reflect," she says, "they have much to say."

Professor Riley developed the card-sort exercise undertaken by the Thomas Tallis teachers and support staff as part of a project for the General Teaching Council for England. The theme of the work was "What does it take to be a good teacher in the 21st century?"

GTC member Valerie Dennis says: "The aim of the card-sort exercise is for teachers themselves to explore, along with headteachers, pupils and parents, the skills and values that teachers need to be effective for the schools and, crucially, the students of the future.

"A key part of the exercise is how teachers, as well as their pupils, can be supported to be learners. The exercise presents teachers and schools as a whole with the opportunity to reflect upon this challenge."

Professor Riley is keen to emphasise the benefits of holding events such as the seminar for Thomas Tallis outside school hours and school premises. She says the conference centre she used at Sundridge Park offered a context of business-like professionalism.

To stress that they are valued delegates, each participant was presented with a bound conference guide: as they leafed through, several murmured appreciative comments about the quality of the paper.

And they, too, welcomed the change of environment. "Our school is a tatty old building," said Tim Joyce, who teaches English and film studies. "But here you feel you're being pampered and spoilt. And in school there's always the temptation to nip into the office and finish up a piece of work."

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