A word in your ear, Miss

18th May 2007 at 01:00
Trainees get plugged into Bluetooth for advice as they teach

SPIES AND television presenters are not alone in having instructions relayed to their earpieces.

A West Midlands school is pioneering an approach to classroom observation that it believes makes the experience less stressful for trainees and helps give them eyes in the back of their heads.

Holyhead school in Handsworth, Birmingham, has devised a simple system that allows teachers to observe trainees via two cameras rigged up in the classroom. They watch from an office in another part of the school and give trainees advice through a Bluetooth headset.

To start the observation, the trainee simply has to call the senior teacher on a mobile phone.

The school said the system costs around pound;300 to set up and does not require particularly advanced technology. The cameras can be moved easily from room to room, so trainees can be observed in their normal classroom environment.

Shelina Choudhury, 22, an English PGCE student, said the method seemed weird at first. "It takes a while to get used to having someone talking in your ear, but it has been very useful," she said.

"I talk very fast and the teacher will tell me if I'm going too fast, or if I need to explain things better.

"They are an omniscient eye, so if there's a pupil scrunching paper under the desk behind you, they tell you. It really helps with classroom management, and after a couple of tries I've seen improvements in my teaching."

The only problem the school has encountered is the temptation for trainees to reply to the instructions coming through their earpiece.

Lorraine Thomas, the school's training co-ordinator, said that pupils had quickly grown accustomed to the video cameras and that teachers observing the lessons always tried to intervene as little as possible. "We usually talk at transitional points in the lesson, so they are not too distracted,"

she said.

"It is a relatively cheap and simple system and, unlike other systems, allows trainees to give lessons in their normal classroom."

Video cameras are increasingly being used in schools, along with kit such as one-way mirrors, to monitor newly qualified teachers.

Graham Holley, chief executive of the Training and Development Agency for Schools, told The TES last month that he expected these forms of classroom observation to be used more frequently in future.

Schools are expected to monitor staff to see how they measure up against the new performance management structure, which allows young teachers to leapfrog up the pay scale.

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