Exit Mr Gradgrind

23rd February 2007 at 00:00
They have been chosen to wage war on any Mr Gradgrinds, the philistine school master in Dickens' classic Hard Times. But the 11 newly honoured pedagogues in Welsh education are also on a mission to promote Assembly government education policy.

The select team of teachers, said to be cherry-picked for their high calibre, are tasked with spreading good teaching practice to all Welsh schools and FE colleges. They are not expected to adhere to a rigid job description, but the role does have one compulsory element - loyalty to the government. The new champions are expected to be the "public face" of all government-led initiatives in education at all times.

In 2005, Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, called for a culture shift in the way teachers thought about learning and teaching. It was then she used the example of Mr Gradgrind, the epitome of everything bad and oppressive in teaching practice.

Ms Davidson said only the best candidates, those who oozed inspiration and innovation, had been selected for the new role. "Excellent learning and teaching must be at the very core of our work in education," she said.

"These are the people that will guide and steer the work of the pedagogy initiative as we move into a new phase of this project."

It is hoped that enhancing the skills, knowledge and practice of teachers will in turn raise pupil achievement. The Wales Pedagogy Initiative, launched in 2005, was intended to usher in an era of new ways of thinking and learning in the classroom.

The appointment of the pedagogy champions was part of a three to five-year plan towards that goal. But critics say more funding is needed for teachers to attend courses and develop their skills in line with government thinking.

Working closely with colleagues within the Department for Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, the new champions are expected to give advice and feedback from the frontline. They are also expected to form a pedagogy stakeholder group, forging better links with the general teaching council for Wales, local education authorities, higher education and education unions.

"They have a balanced range of experience and expertise across the phases of education, in Welsh-medium education, and in different learning settings," said Ms Davidson. "Their broad range of contacts will bring real strength to our work by identifying priorities for action and practical ways to support fellow practitioners."

IS THERE A PEDAGOGY CHAMPION NEAR YOU?

Steven Bell Coleg Sir Gar, Llanelli

Vaughan Davies Monmouth comprehensive, Monmouth

Tegwen Ellis Ysgol Cynwyd Sant, Maesteg

J. Eifion Evans Plascrug community primary, Aberystwyth

Loraine Goss Marshfield primary,Castleton

Mark Isherwood Sport Train Wales

Vanessa Lloyd Christchurch community primary, Rhyl

Louise Lynn Rhws primary, Rhoose

Christopher Pittaway St Christopher's school, Wrexham

Helena Walters Caldicot school, Monmouthshire

David Wylde Ysgol Aberconwy, Conwy

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