'It's good for the children to have an expert...I enjoy the variety;Primary

16th January 1998 at 00:00
Sarah Hinds, 29, has just finished her first term as a Year 6 teacher at Stokenchurch middle school, Buckinghamshire.

"I teach everything except geography, science and design and technology. We have an arrangement between the Year 6 teachers where I teach music to all three classes, and history and RE to two classes. In exchange, another teacher takes my class for science and geography.

Not teaching science and geography makes a huge difference to me. My own background is in the humanities, and I would not have made a good science teacher this year. Instead, I'm able to make use of the strengths I've got.

By year 5 and 6, I think it's too much to expect one teacher to be on top of 10 subjects. By that age, the children are working faster and they can assimilate more knowledge; the range of ability is also wide - reading ages in my class stretch from eight to 15.

Even not teaching all subjects, going in as a new teacher is a big strain: you feel as if you're running to catch up. It's not just that you have to learn vast amounts of material, you also have to find out how to teach, what works in the classroom and what doesn't.

I'm all in favour of schools finding a balance between class teaching and specialist teaching; I'd certainly be happy to do more music teaching in future. Having a specialist means the quality of teaching is better. And my children like going off to someone else for some of their lessons."

Cordelia Headlam Wells, 23, is a newly qualified Year 3 teacher at St Michael's primary school, in Camden, north London.

"Teaching 10 subjects is possible, but it's very hard. I won't teach my specialist subject, design and technology, until the summer term, but when I taught it on my teaching practice, it was brilliant: I felt I really knew what I was doing. The extra three days I had on design and technology in my PGCE made such a difference.

With subjects such as geography, you have to do a lot of reading around, and rely on resource packs - although a lot of these aren't really appropriate and you end up making your own worksheets.

Science is OK, because we've got the Nuffield science scheme, which is really helpful. PE I find very difficult, because I don't know enough about it.

I take any advice I can get from the other teachers and they've been really supportive. They gave me a very detailed pack with all the things I had to teach and I've been on the Camden induction programme. The school does have subject co-ordinators, but that's a bit of a bone of contention because they don't get much non-contact time and you don't see much of them.

It makes such a difference if there is, say, a music teacher who can take everyone for music; we did have one, but she's left. It would be nice to have a bit more specialist help too in art.

I think it's good for the children as well, to have someone who is really an expert. The only problem is that you don't then know everything that your class is doing. You would want to know that they were being taught really well."

Nick Turvey, 22, is in his first year as a Year 6 teacher at Park primary school, in Stratford, east London. "It was a tiring first term," he says. "The hardest thing has been the National Literacy Project, which the school began this term: English and history were my two specialist subjects in my training, but the methods I was taught were quite different.

Everything my class does I teach them. That's why I went into primary teaching, because I enjoy the variety. The only way you improve in a subject is by teaching it. My science teaching, for instance, has improved because I've been allowed to teach it, whereas if a specialist had done it, science would have been a subject I always feared.

I think there is a place for some specialist teaching in primary schools - in music, for instance, and PE -although I would miss it if I wasn't teaching it.

There is definitely an advantage for the children in having me all the time. I can understand their ability far better, and get an overview of how they are getting on socially."

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