How the other half learns

30th May 2008 at 01:00
Charley Eaglestone, a trainee teacher, knew he had an Achilles' heel - his background - so he set out to broaden his horizons
Charley Eaglestone, a trainee teacher, knew he had an Achilles' heel - his background - so he set out to broaden his horizons

How confident are you about teaching children from diverse backgrounds?

Not at all, and I realised it was a weakness that I needed to address. I'm from a small village in Oxfordshire where there were few children from ethnic minorities. The university I'm at is also predominantly white, so I felt there were gaps in my knowledge that could have an impact on my teaching. I wanted to learn how to address the needs of children from diverse backgrounds.

What have you done about it?

I chose to do a module on diversity as part of my training. It has covered elements of pupils' social class, ethnicity and religion. There was also a section on pupils who have English as an additional language.

What is Multiverse?

It's a project sponsored by the Training and Development Agency to help trainee teachers learn about diversity. One of my tutors is involved, and I spoke at their conference recently about how I used their materials. They have a website with lots of information that I found really helpful. It includes research on diversity and points you in the direction of good resources.

Are you able to put what you learned into practice?

I've learned that even in a school like mine, which is predominantly white, the pupils still come from a wide range of backgrounds. And even if a school is predominantly one culture, you still need to reflect other cultures, religions and beliefs.

I don't know where I will be placed while I'm training, so I may not get the chance to work in a very diverse school. But during my career I could end up working in all kinds of different schools, where I will need this kind of knowledge.

Should all trainee teachers have to learn about teaching children from different backgrounds?

I don't think they should be forced to do it. It is something that they should be aware of, but it depends on their own background. If a trainee teacher is from a multicultural background, and has a good understanding of the issues, they may be ok. But for someone like me, I think it is important.

Charley Eaglestone is in the second year of his degree in primary education and teaching at the University of Chichester in West Sussex. He is currently on a placement at Billingshurst Infant School, also in West Sussex.

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