Dr John Sweetman;Bouquet of the week;TES Competition

29th January 1999 at 00:00
John Sweetman could have become a research scientist, investigating the chemical properties of plants. But in his mid-20s he realised he was a "people person" and, having got his PhD, didn't want to be stuck in a laboratory all his life.

So he left university and spent a summer at Camp America which changed his life. He met his Dutch wife Janny and came back to Britain for a job in a residential field centre. Then, he and Janny, who trained in child and youth care, joined Stanbridge Earls in Romsey, Hampshire, a small boarding school for children with learning difficulties. "It's a way of life, now," he says, 10 years on, "living where I teach."

Liz Attenborough, whose son Nicholas attends Stanbridge Earls, nominated Dr Sweetman for Bouquet of the Week because he is the kind of teacher we all want for our children. He has "endless patience" and is "totally devoted" to his job as housemaster to boys aged 11 to 13. He's also head of science and an inspiring enthusiast.

Stanbridge Earls, where one pupil in four is local-authority funded, teaches dyslexic children and others who might flounder in a bigger environment. "The impact of teachers such as John Sweetman is in the personal attention they give to individuals," says headteacher Howard Moxon. "By developing self-confidence and helping children shine we can turn them around."

The Sweetmans have two young children, and Janny is warden of the girls' house next door. It's a 24-hour day job but, says Dr Sweetman, very worthwhile.

Computers for Beginners is our new subject of the week. We hope it will inspire you to think favourably about training. No teacher can ignore this revolution, so "join the world," as Gerald Haigh writes.

The real world can be grim, as our first feature describes, but even in the most neglected communities you will find gifted teachers giving their all. Campaigning headteacher Julie Murray and the staff of Fitzwilliam junior and infant school succeed against terrible odds. No one reading this story could fail to be moved by the plight of children living amongst paedophiles, smackheads and men with shotguns. Mrs Murray has written to Tony Blair asking among other things for "recognition for what my staff are up against on a daily basis".

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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