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Jewel of a course helps Ros inspire children

From silversmithing to outdoor pursuits, teachers are finding studies that both liven up lessons and reflect their own passions

From silversmithing to outdoor pursuits, teachers are finding studies that both liven up lessons and reflect their own passions

Ros Houmoller, an art teacher, has made it her mission to ensure her lessons are "fresh and exciting".

Thanks to her passion for learning unusual new skills, Ms Houmoller's pupils at Gwernyfed High School in Brecon have already tried their hand at stone sculpture and screen printing.

Now they are draping themselves in hand-crafted jewellery after their teacher took a course in silversmithing - the traditional art of working silver.

Ms Houmoller, the school's head of art, used a continuing professional development (CPD) grant to fund a five-day course at the jewellery and metalwork studio at Central St Martins College of Art and Design in London.

She said: "I definitely feel that I'm continually able to bring more to my role as an art teacher because of the extra skills I'm learning."

Meanwhile, children at Litchard Junior School in Bridgend are learning about the great outdoors in a nature reserve set up by Geraint Howell, a Year 3 teacher.

Mr Howell, keen to pass on his love of the open-air life to his pupils, used CPD funding to attend a two-day woodland activities course at St Fagans National History Museum near Cardiff.

Teachers like Ms Houmoller and Mr Howell - taking advantage of courses to help them "remain at the top of their game" - are increasingly ditching dry, desk-bound training courses in favour of learning new and innovative crafts, according to the General Teaching Council for Wales.

The council administers the Pounds 3 million annual CPD fund provided by the Assembly government, which allows around 4,000 teachers a year to claim up to Pounds 2,500 each for training and research.

The demand for funding is high. Last year's cash ran out within six months. But there has been no increase in the amount provided this year, so once again those who apply soonest are likely to have their requests granted.

The council said it had already received more than 1,200 applications since the start of the new financial year in April.

Teachers can claim cash from four specific project areas: up to Pounds 650 for a professional development activity of their choice; up to Pounds 1,500 for research into an area of their choice; up to Pounds 2,500 for a senior teacher to undertake a prolonged period of study or develop new skills in a different environment; and up to Pounds 650 per member for a group of teachers to work together regularly over a period of time.

Gary Brace, chief executive of the council, said: "Teachers in control of their own CPD often see a greater impact compared with that achieved by participation in other types of more prescribed courses.

"Many teachers see this (form of) CPD as infinitely more effective than that funded through the Better Schools Fund.

"The GTCW is committed to encouraging the highest standards for the teaching profession in Wales and believes that CPD plays a key role in ensuring that teachers remain at the top of their game."

Hot courses

2008-09: CPD projects

- Active approaches to teaching Shakespeare

- BBC website news reporting

- Makaton (a form of sign language)

- Enriching maths

- Bringing science to life outdoors

- Gardening with children all year round

- Developing creative connections with autistic children

- Outdoor poetry

- Leading a successful creative arts department

- BA theatre studies

Five most popular Leadership and management

- Early yearsfoundation phase

- Teaching strategies and methodologies

- Special educational needs

- English, eg, literacy, English exam board courses or phonics

Source: General Teaching Council for Wales.

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