All-nations approach to tackling shortages

3rd August 2001 at 01:00
Graduate trainees from 8 countries will be learning on the job at a north London school. Sue Learner reports.

A NORTH London school has solved its teacher-shortage problem by recruiting 12 graduate trainees from Africa, Asia and Europe.

White Hart Lane secondary in Wood Green will resemble a United Nations outpost when it reopens in September with an international line-up of staff, including a former member of the French Olympic bobsleigh team.

Pupils at the school speak a total of 60 languages and headteacher David Daniels felt teachers should have a multilingual and multicultural profile to match.

Mr Daniels has taken on the extra teachers as part of the Graduate Teacher Programme which pays staff pound;13,000 to learn on the job. The school receives government grants to cover salaries and training for which the school is responsible.

It is unusual to have such a high number of trainees in a school. Schools generally have one or two.

Mr Daniels said: "We were having trouble recruiting teachers and we thought one way to solve the situation would be to take on people as part of the Graduate Teacher Programme.

"We have almost turned ourselves into a training institution. Some have been teachers in their own countries and some have worked in industry.

"We are very pleased and although we will have to give extra training and support, we have found some excellent people. Our staffroom will be a very interesting place in the new school year."

The teachers come from India, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, France and Britain. In January, an Albanian woman who is a government inspector of English in her own country will join the teaching staff.

Mr Daniels said he recruited some of the trainees "through personal contacts and networking". Others had wirtten to him directly on the off-chance he might want graduates and he also placed adverts in The TES.

The need for staff was urgent, he said. "The school has been through a major reshuffle after a critical inspection by OFSTED so we knew there would be a significant number of vacancies in September. It would have been upwards of 20 and we have 87 staff so it would have been a large proportion."

Children at the school will be taught sport by a man who competed in the Olympics as part of the French bobsleigh team. Jean-Pierre Macabee is of West Indian origin and represented France in the 1998 Olympics, with his team coming third. He has been teaching PE in France for the past two years.

He said: "It will be quite a challenge for me teaching here but it will be similar to being in a bobsleigh team where you rely on team spirit. The PE department at the school is very good and very supportive."

Esther Abredu, 30, is from Ghana and will teach science. She taught chemistry in her own country for three years and said: "I wanted to know what it was like to teach in Britain. I am looking forward to teaching in White Hart Lane school because it is a mixed-race school. I think it will be quite a challenge.

"Children are very lucky here. In Ghana we only had three computers in the whole school."

The trainees will be on an 80 per cent timetable and for at least one half-day a week, they will go and train at the North London Consortium which is made up of three universities in the surrounding area.Those who have taught before may be able to complete their training within three months. Other trainees are likely to take a year.

Mr Daniels said staff who will be working with graduates are very in favour of the idea. "They are very impressed with the quality we have got," he said. "But they do realise it will be a strain on them as graduate trainees need a lot of supervision."

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