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Teachers working on both sides: could this be the future of school-university transition?

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Last summer, the government announced plans to introduce the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to monitor and assess the quality of teaching in England’s universities. Its introduction makes it more important than ever for schools and universities to cooperate with one another to ensure smooth transitions.

This year, I began splitting my teaching time between a secondary school and the University of Manchester. I teach three days at the university and two at Bolton School Boys’ Division.

I wrote a proposal to work in this way after taking part in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s school teacher fellow (STF) scheme. This Stem-funded project supported secondary school teachers to work in their local university chemistry departments.

When I am in Manchester, I deliver tutorials in general chemistry and organic chemistry to students from foundation through to second year. I also work with academics who want to know more about the school curriculum so that they can better support their incoming students.

At school I have a Year 13 form group. I still help to prepare them for university in the usual ways, like assisting with the administration of Ucas, but my time at the university has added another dimension to this work and has changed the way I look at my sixth-form students. I now view them less as pupils finishing off their secondary education and more like students embarking on their tertiary education. I can see the study traits of successful students in my undergraduates and find myself looking for ways that these can be developed in sixth-formers.

Working across institutions can be a difficult balancing act. School and university both make demands on my time and I have to be flexible to accommodate this. When everyone else at school has two weeks off between terms, I still have undergraduates to teach. Similarly, I have to embrace cloud-based working so that I can get back to school for parents’ evenings.

I believe my role works well as a model for cooperation between schools and universities. There are mutual benefits and it has allowed me to develop my career as a subject specialist rather than following a traditional management route. I would love to see an army of teachers in roles like mine – or even lecturers working the opposite way.

I was lucky that the STF scheme existed and both my headteacher and the head of the school of chemistry at Manchester were keen to encourage me. If others are to follow this same model of working, more support is needed to pave the way for them.

Dr Kristy Turner is a teacher of chemistry at Bolton School and an honourary fellow at the University of Manchester

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