Bouquet of the week

5th June 1998 at 01:00
Since Friday magazine - and Bouquet of the Week - was launched, I have received several nominations from pupils. They are always touching and often reveal children's feelings about adults and schools. "Mrs Jones is always kind and she never moans," writes the typical seven-year-old who wants to thank his favourite teacher.

This week's unsung hero of the classroom is Andy Blackwood, head of Year 11 at Budmouth Technology College in Weymouth, Dorset, who is nominated by student Hannah Jones. She writes frankly about the difference he has made to her life and progress through school.

"Without him, I really don't think I'd have made it through the past two years. A lot of people respect and trust him and I've never known him not to treat students equally."

Hannah, who was enduring GCSE exams this week, says: "We always turn to Mr Blackwood for help...all Year 11 will dearly miss him when we leave."

Andy Blackwood was quite emotional when he learned that a pupil had written to us. He joined the school as a newly-qualified maths graduate from Exeter University 13 years ago and has been year head of Hannah's peer group for the past five years.

"The kids here are smashing to work with - they're friendly and open and tell me things they wouldn't tell another adult. I remember some being very timid when they started and now they're confident young people."

It's the pastoral side of his job that gives him the most satisfaction. "I enjoy teaching children, rather than teaching maths...I would be just as happy teaching history or French."

Teaching on the Dorset coast has other bonuses for Andy who has a young family and loves sailing. Even so, he's got the usual worries about his career and that, at 35, he may have been at the same school too long - although we know his pupils would disagree.

It's easy to say: don't worry about job prospects, so long as you're enjoying life. But - and it's a big but - the pressure is on teachers to initiate their own career moves. Guidance for them is thin on the ground.

Our career development pages focus on the fact that two-thirds of the profession is now over 40. Ageism is a serious matter and for a profession with low self-esteem we don't need people to feel they've missed the boat if they're not a deputy by their late 30s and a head by their early 40s. Pages 20-27 are full of advice and reassurance.

Bouquet of the Week is given in association with Marks amp; Spencer. Names, please, on a postcard - and why to Sarah Bayliss, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY

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