Bouquet of the week

9th October 1998 at 01:00
Schools need people who can inspire others to achieve - not only their pupils but also their colleagues in the staffroom. Recognising the potential of this kind of teacher, and giving them the time and space to work their magic, is a wise investment.

At The Collett School for children with moderate learning difficulties in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, deputy headteacher and curriculum co-ordinator Alison Beane has inspired many on the staff. Since she joined two years ago, the school's curriculum for five to 16-year-olds has undergone a total review, planned meticulously by Alison.

"She is extremely hard-working, her planning is superb and she listens to everyone," says headteacher Margaret Lemarie, who was appointed to turn the school around. "Things were in a sorry state, but now we can say we are a school on the up."

Alison is also responsible for the dozen classroom assistants in the school and for mentoring new recruits to teaching, like Marijke Miles, who joined the school fresh from the mainstream. In nominating Alison for Friday magazine's Bouquet of the Week, Marijke wrote: "She is an inspiring example as a teacher, a superb organiser and always has time to support, encourage and listen to staff."

In her first year Marijke had weekly meetings with her mentor. "Alison gave me lots of guidance about adapting to special needs," says Marijke, a music and modern languages specialist. "She gives you the courage to try things."

When Alison arrived at The Collett School, pupils with a range of learning difficulties - including autism and Down's syndrome - were commonly working at a key stage below their age group and were not expected to gain qualifications. Now, pupils work at the correct key stage, and can expect to leave with six certificates of achievement. This summer three pupils gained grade Bs in GCSE art.

"We no longer say our children cannot do something," says Alison. "We say, 'Yes, they can. How can we help them get there?' " Her interest in special needs grew from having a daughter with Down's syndrome and she undertook an advanced diploma in special needs with the Open University. Now Marijke has started a Masters degree in education and is enjoying her career. Thanks to Alison Beane.

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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