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The Interview - 'I taught juggling to children'

Jacob Sibley is operations manager at the National Teaching amp; Advisory Service, which provides support for children at risk of exclusion. He started his working life as a circus performer and then trained as a drama teacher

Jacob Sibley is operations manager at the National Teaching amp; Advisory Service, which provides support for children at risk of exclusion. He started his working life as a circus performer and then trained as a drama teacher

  • How did you get into teaching?
    • I started going to circus workshops when I was 18 in Derby, and very soon after I started working for the company that organised them. Having worked as a circus performer, I often taught circus skills such as juggling and plate-spinning to children. I also taught drama to adults while working at the Leonard Cheshire Foundation, which provides care for disabled people. Although I hadn't seen myself as a teacher during my youth, I thought that getting into a different sort of life would be an interesting change.

      • What influenced you to train as a drama teacher?
        • I couldn't imagine teaching within the confines of a classroom, so drama seemed to be the perfect choice. Since there is no national curriculum in drama, it gave me room for my own creativity. It also allowed me to focus on the specific needs of certain young people.

          • What does the NTamp;AS do?
            • A young person may come to us after having been excluded from a school - it is our job to get that child to engage with the national curriculum and to equip him or her with the academic and social skills needed to succeed in mainstream education.

              We work with about 300 young people, some of whom have special needs and many that are in care. We also work closely with teachers and schools to try to provide them with the support they need to deal with children's specific needs.

              • What have you learnt from your circus workshops?
                • I think the key skill is adaptability. When you're travelling around putting on shows you have to be ready to change plans at the last moment.

                  • Is drama still an important tool in your work?
                    • I do mess around in the office, and sing and dance a lot. My work also involves a lot of public speaking, talking to local authorities about what they can do to improve outcomes for children.

                      Motivating people and keeping them engaged is much the same as doing a circus performance - no matter how tightly you plan a show something will always need to be adjusted and the audience needs to be entertained. My ability to improvise under pressure also stems from drama experience.

                      • What's behind your commitment to mainstream school inclusion?
                        • Many of the people I worked with at the Leonard Cheshire Foundation had been through a special school setting. Reintroducing them to the community after long periods of being separated from mainstream society proved to be difficult. This led me to the conviction that children's special needs need to be met in mainstream education, so that all children become equipped with the skills to deal with different societal groups at an early age.

                          • What do you enjoy most about your work?
                            • Witnessing successes, seeing a child reintroduced into mainstream education who is enjoying academic and social aspects of school life gives me immense pleasure. On top of that, working with a dynamic group of like- minded people is fulfilling, especially since we are all working towards one goal.

                              • What's your single biggest achievement?
                                • My greatest achievement has been to be given the privilege to manage the organisation, because it is something I believe in passionately. To be in the position of being able to influence the work of more than 90 teachers and the opportunity to challenge the status quo is a great achievement.

                                  • What would you like to achieve in the future?
                                    • I would like to stay with the society and see it grow into a bigger, more widely-known organisation. I want to get the message out that children can achieve, academically as well as socially, despite circumstances that have gone against them, and that children with special needs can indeed be a part of mainstream education.

                                      • What do you do in your free time?
                                        • I have a black belt in jiu-jitsu and have for the past 10 years run a club that offers classes for beginners. It enables me to continue teaching teenagers and adults - which I am passionate about - and to pursue my own hobby at the same time.

                                          • Is there a motto that you would advise other teachers to apply?
                                            • View every child as an individual with hisher own needs and capacities. I would also advise teachers to think laterally - there are many different ways of tackling a situation. You can always find new, creative ways of attaining a goal, as long as you are clear about what you want to achieve

                                              Curriculum vitae

                                              • 2007 - Operations manager at the National Teaching amp; Advisory Service
                                              • 2000-2007 - Other roles at the NTamp;AS
                                              • 1998-2000 - Drama teacher at Standish Community High School in Wigan
                                              • 1997 - PGCE at Manchester Metropolitan University
                                              • 1996 - Art and drama teacher at the Leonard Cheshire Foundation
                                              • 1993 - Circus performer
                                              • 1992 - BA Drama, University of Derby.

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