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Puttnam proposes stagecraft for teachers

Out-of-work actors should put their talents to use by helping trainee teachers to hone their presentational skills, says the prominent Labour peer and film producer, Lord Puttnam.

He believes that teachers have much in common with actors and would benefit from stagecraft and professional voice projection.

"I'm very interested in the help actors can give in terms of confidence building," he told The TES.

"Teacher training is a real opportunity to bring the two professions together. Most of the great teachers draw on what they describe as acting skills to put across the message.

"The only danger is that some- one might say you're trivialising teaching: but that would be enormously unfair to acting, which is one of the bravest professions."

Lord Puttnam, best-known for producing films such as Chariots of Fire, and The Killing Fields, has been taking an active role in Labour's education strategy and is working on a televised award ceremony for teachers.

The idea of stagecraft training was praised by teaching recruitment expert John Howson, who said that presentational techniques were an important part of the old teaching certificate before the BEd degree abolished them.

Mr Howson, a former teacher- trainer, introduced voice training for students at Oxford Brookes University. "These confidence-building things are very important. David Puttnam's idea is not a bad one at all. For a 22-year-old, going into a classroom for the first time is quite a daunting experience. These performance elements are important," he said.

Ian Kane, head of Manchester Metropolitan university's School of Education, was also enthusiastic. "Projection of your personality and voice, plus correct use of body language and movement round the classroom are very important," said Mr Kane. "I personally believe presentational skills is an important area that has been neglected.

"But there are different skills needed in presenting ourselves to an audience that is there to be entertained, and an audience that is there to learn.

"Being a good classroom performer is about having an extrovert personality and recognising the need to communicate. You can't learn to be an extrovert but you can imitate it.

"The scheme's success would depend on time and money. No institution has the money to pay specialists to come in, and the timetable is already overcrowded."

The university training departments gave the idea a cautious welcome. "We would have no objection in principle," said Mary Russell, secretary of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers.

"Some institutions may not currently be giving presentational skills as much prominence as they might. But so much is already being squeezed into teacher-training courses."

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