Busman's holiday;Personal Finance

20th March 1998 at 00:00
Going away for Easter? If not, you could earn some extra cash teaching at a holiday revision school. Elaine Williams explains how

Most secondary teachers will breathe a big sigh of relief when the Easter holidays arrive - after the frenzy of getting pupils through coursework assignments, they can take a few days' stock before the onslaught of exam preparation.

But not everyone takes a rest. Some carry on teaching, earning a substantial amount of cash in the process. Easter revision courses have become big business as pupils chase the grades they need for a university place or to carry on into the sixth form. And the schools and businesses running the courses are constantly seeking teachers.

Justin Craig Education is an Easter revision business that runs holiday courses in independent schools and colleges, such as Mill Hill School, London, The Mount School in York and St Edmunds College in Ware, Hertfordshire. Teachers can earn up to pound;1,300 on a two-week Justin Craig course.

But you can earn even more. Harrow School, which has recently entered the Easter revision market, pays pound;800 for a 45-hour week, with accommodation, meals and sports facilities thrown in. Harrow seeks current teachers with examining experience, knowledge of the maximum number of exam boards and several years' teaching under their belt.

Justin Craig employs at least 230 teachers, all teaching GCSE or A-level full-time in schools and colleges. Candidates are interviewed and need references from their head of department or headteacher.

Course director Marilyn Craig says: "We employ teachers from top-notch public schools and inner-city comprehensives, but they must all have the relevant experience and enjoy what they do. They teach in small groups, no more than eight, but they have pupils from all backgrounds - state and independent - and at all levels. Some will be scraping two Es, others will be chasing a string of As for medical school.

"They must be approachable and able to establish a relationship with students quickly. In that first hour of that first class they have to make students feel it was worthwhile coming. It's very intensive and they have to hold students' attention. Although there are no formal extra-curricular activities they have to join in. There's always five-a-side football or basketball on the go between staff and students. On one course a Trivial Pursuits match between staff and students carried on over four days.

"There's a lot you could whinge about. It's a long day (9am-8.30pm), it's school accommodation and school food, and it can be cold at Easter. But staff come back time and time again."

John Gogarty is one of those who does. A 38-year-old biologist from Norton Knatchbull, a state grammar in Kent, he has worked as an Easter revision A-level tutor for Justin Craig for the past eight years. The cash, he says, is useful, but there are probably easier ways of earning it. He values the experience as much as the money.

He says: "It gives you experience of a range of exam boards and syllabuses you wouldn't get in your normal job. It gives you a broader view of your subject." He also believes the intensity of teaching and the chance to take students of differing abilities and backgrounds has "honed" his professional skills.

"In OFSTED-speak, it improves your challenge and pace," he says. "It helps you focus. You have, say, three hours to cover respiration when you might usually cover that topic over two weeks. You've got to make the subject fun - or, after 13 hours over two days, the students would be bored rigid. My lessons are quite lively."

Mr Gogarty enjoys the "college" atmosphere of the courses, joins in with football and uses the squash courts. But it's not easy money. "It will appeal to a certain kind of teacher," he says. "For many, the Easter holiday is sacrosanct. They need the rest. But my wife is not a teacher and doesn't have my holidays anyway, so it doesn't seem like such a sacrifice."

Justin Craig, tel: 01727 827000 Harrow School, tel: 0181 426 4638 28 personal finance

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