Coming up with the goods

4th April 2008 at 01:00
The college had found me a placement with only four days to spare. With three children, my main stipulation had been that the school was close by, even if this meant being thrown into the lions' den.

Google revealed that I might be doing just that: a socially deprived area with a high number of pupils with statements of educational need. Was this where I wanted to start my teaching career? Well, at least it was only a 20-minute drive.

Still, I am always irritatingly enthusiastic when starting anything new, even after being told I was not expected for another week.

"This is not a conventional school," said the new teacher who kindly let me shadow him without prior notice. "In a more 'prestigious school', I'd have had to prove myself for three or four years before teaching A-level."

Yet there he was, teaching Richard III to 16-year-olds. I wasn't surprised when he told me that he had been offered a job by both of his PGCE schools; I was surprised when he told me he had chosen this one without any qualms.

By the end of day two, I had witnessed a range of children with social and learning difficulties unlike anything from my own cosseted, middle-class upbringing. I had also spoken to half a dozen more teachers who had trained there and never left. "We love it here," they all agreed. "The children are lovely."

Following a disruptive child out of a particularly challenging lesson that day, I noticed that he called straight into the chaplain's office to give him a hug.

I finally had my induction on day three, with some other PGCE students. The curriculum mentor started by quoting a previous PGCE student who had constantly talked about how her next placement would be at a "good" school.

"What makes a 'good' school?" he mused. "Five years ago, our results were poor. This year, they are excellent. We try to get the best out of our pupils."

What is already abundantly clear is that, sound bites and legislation aside, this is a school where every child really does matter. And the student who finally got to go to her "good" school? She came straight back afterwards. I can't wait until next week.

Francesca Walker is studying for a secondary English PGCE at Edge Hill University in the North West of England.

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