Bouquet of the week

11th September 1998 at 01:00
Jane Colvert - nominated by two support teachers from Haling Manor High School, Croydon

GCSE results have been well digested in the past few weeks, with all the public emphasis again on the A* to C pass rate. But this week's Bouquet of the Week goes to someone who has been working minor miracles at the other end of the scale. Jane Colvert teaches maths to lower ability groups at Haling Manor High School in Croydon, Surrey - and loves it. Nominated by two support teachers, Anna Knight and Jo Ford, for her inclusive and positive approach, she is, says headteacher John Troake, "someone who really does put 'the kids, the kids, the kids' first".

Mrs Colvert's voice glows when she talks about her pupils. "I'm really delighted with last year's Year 11s. They were the lowest ability group and were forecast Us in GCSEs. But we put on extra revision classes and they turned up to every one and worked so hard. And they got their Gs. That means more to them than A*s do to the able pupils. It brings tears to my eyes."

Having worked as a nursery nurse ("a useful training", she wryly notes) and primary teacher, Mrs Colvert joined the staff at Haling Manor in 1972 as an English teacher. In 1985 she took an Open University advanced diploma in the teaching of mathematics and has "never regretted it". Nor has she ever regretted her decision to teach the lowest ability groups, groups that her colleagues may find "rude" and "aggressive". She says simply, "With me they soon learn that they can succeed. I begin every lesson with something I know they can solve."

Mrs Colvert needs no advice on dealing with potentially dangerous pupils. But for teachers who may face physical confrontations, Friday magazine offers clarification on the DFEE guidance on using "reasonable force" (page 4).

"She gets difficult pupils eating out of her hand," say her colleagues. It is, adds John Troake, a mixture of "incredible patience, empathy and understanding, alongside the knowledge that she won't take any messing about", which make Mrs Colvert such a "valued member of the school".

She attributes her success to compassion. "I make them feel secure. They haven't got a very good self-image and so they have challenging ways. Year 11 still like gold stars, a bit of shine. It's not babyish and not patronising. They come feeling failures and they need to be mended."

Bouquet of the Week is given in association with Marks 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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