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Recognise them through the tingle factor

"IS IT a bird, is it a plane, it's super teacher!" Or in this case, it's Mark Taylor, arriving to take Year 11 for sociology at Beauchamp College, in Oadby, Leicestershire. The moment he starts to speak, the class falls silent.

After a sociology degree at York University and a postgraduate certificate in education at Leicester, Mark, 27, has been teaching for less than five years. He has been told he is the youngest "super-teacher" in the country.

So what is special about his teaching? As he gets on with the lesson about Karl Marx and social class, it is his energy and enthusiasm which shines through. His principal, Maureen Cruikshank, describes it as "the tingle factor that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up".

Mark himself thinks "the key is enthusiasm". But equally important is "liking the pupils". He says this may seem obvious "but some teachers are not very student friendly".

His lesson is punctuated with pep talks. Like a sports coach from the sidelines, he urges them "now is the time to give it your best shot". He adds "if you lose it for two seconds - if you think about the rain outside or the pizza for lunch - you will lose it". You can feel the class straining to concentrate.

There is also plenty of praise. He urges them "this is among the hardest things you'll be doing, but you can do it". Mark teaches mainly from the front, using the white-board. There is lots of the Government's favoured "interactive teaching". He peppers his lesson with humour and personal anecdote, for example telling the class about his time working as a wage-slave in a Coventry number-plate factory.

A quick straw-poll among the students found unanimous endorsement for Mark's "super- teacher" status. "Mr Taylor is a brilliant teacher, I had him though GCSE and now for A-level", says Ryan Garner.

The grade of Advanced Skills Teacher has meant a pay rise of Pounds 6, 000 for Mark. Beauchamp College awards five incentive points for the grade. As Mark had no points previously it has meant a big job. For Beauchamp's other ASTs, the pay rise was much smaller as the system means they gain the five points but lose all their existing points.

Mark is a member of the National Union of Teachers which advised him against applying until the scheme has been clarified further. But he has had no trouble with either the union or fellow members of staff apart from "the usual staff-room banter" about being "super".

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