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Leaving his pestle for a mortar board

Steve Campsall, right, spent 20 years in marketing and management for an international pharmaceuticals company before becoming an English teacher.

It was an enviable job. The money was good, there was a company car, lots of travel around the Mediterranean and Middle East and, until the industry's profit motive pushed caring for people into the background in the early 1990s, was without ethical problems for Steve. The nascent teacher was there already, though: one of the activities he most enjoyed was training asthmatic children to use their inhalers.

Steve came into the profession the hard way, via an Ordinary National Certificate in chemistry. He worked for a while as a chemist before moving into marketing. Then he decided to follow his love of English and newly discovered enjoyment of teaching by taking a degree at Loughborough University, followed by a PGCE.

It wasn't all straightforward, though. Despite his expectations, his experience in industry wasn't recognised in terms of pay points and, because he worked in Leicestershire, where secondary school transition takes place at the end of key stage 3, he risked being trapped without exam experience.

He wanted to teach GCSE and A-levels, so he picked up English evening classes at a local agricultural college to gain experience. After teaching for three years, he moved to Beauchamp College in Oadby, Leicester, where he is happy and has contributed to one of the most successful English faculties in the county.

Steve feels his life experience to be a real advantage in the classroom.

Marketing enhanced his communication skills and he found the potential of ICT as a tool. Used to working with adults, he brings adult expectations to the classroom, and finds his pupils respond maturely.

It's worth listening when Steve talks about ICT. His "Englishbiz" (www.englishbiz.co.uk) is a sharply focused GCSE revision website, its language finely tuned to pupils' needs and abilities. Although he is no romantic about ICT - "a potential sponge or sink for time" - his GCSE students nevertheless have to include a PowerPoint presentation in their speaking and listening portfolio, and he uses voice notes to comment on written work they email to him.

"Multimedia offers different ways of learning," he says, "but people are at the centre of educational processes: machines can never offer what people can."

Although he's now working more hours and harder than he ever did in industry, he has clearly found his niche. His pupils, he says, demand straightforwardness, and he responds to their needs with enthusiasm. It's real dialogue with real people that matters most to him.

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