Inspiring one's subjects

16th November 2007 at 00:00
The Prince's Teaching Institute has launched a programme that aims to revitalise teachers' passion for their lessons.Committed teachers could soon find themselves working with royal approval, following the launch of a programme by the Prince of Wales.

Concerned that teachers are not required to update their subject training during their careers, the Prince's Teaching Institute will attempt to fill the gap.

English, history and science departments in state secondaries can now apply to join the Prince's schools programme, which is limited at present to just three subjects, but plans to expand in future.

Successful applicants will be given lesson materials, training days and free summer school places. And those who pass muster, by "demonstrating annual development", will be granted permission to use the institute's crest as a royal seal of approval.

The scheme has grown out of summer schools run by the institute to bring teachers up to speed with developments in their subjects. The days have included seminars from Stephen Fry and Melvyn Bragg and authors Alan Bennett and Seamus Heaney. The scheme is open only to state schools, which means no places for teachers at Eton College, where the Prince sent his own sons.

Schools applying for the programme will not have to pass exam or Ofsted benchmarks. Instead they will be judged on how committed they are to teaching their subjects, which they might demonstrate by running extra-curricular activities, teacher training or developing subject knowledge with other schools.

Bernice McCabe, co-director of the institute, said: "There is no requirement for teachers to update their subject knowledge after they qualify. That is where we come in. We offer teachers the chance to revisit their subjects and be inspired."

Teachers who have attended the summer schools since their launch in 2002 have described them as some of the best training they ever received, she added.

More than 90 per cent said it had reinvigorated their passion for their subjects, with nine out of 10 saying the summer schools would have a direct impact on what pupils learnt.

Ms McCabe said research showed that pupils ranked excellent subject knowledge as the most important attribute a teacher could have.

Scott Baker, head of history at Robert Clack School in Dagenham, east London, who helps run the summer schools, said: "For most teachers, there is almost no subject-specific development on offer. There is a danger that teachers stop learning when they start teaching."

The summer schools have proved popular with teachers. Lesley Pemberton, head of English at Spalding High in Lincolnshire, said: "I first came to a Prince of Wales summer school in 2003 and it was a wonderfully inspiring occasion that really put me back in touch with the reasons why I wanted to teach English in the first place - a love for literature and wanting to pass that on to young people."

And Lesley Bilby, head of history at Brookfield Community School in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, said: "These schools are valuable because it is subject-specific professional development, which teachers so rarely get. What is usually on offer is pedagogy, rather than what makes you passionate about your subject."

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