'Last time I was in school teachers just wrote on the blackboard'

10th July 2009 at 01:00
Potential trainees get a taste of the modern classroom - with real pupils

They came from all walks of life, curious about modern schools. It had been 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years since they had last seen a blackboard.

And thanks to a new university-run scheme for potential teachers, the disparate group were able to see a modern classroom before deciding whether to enter the profession.

Lecturers at Bath Spa University have enlisted the help of local pupils in their efforts to select next year's trainees. Their Taste of Teaching event also enabled those who have just completed postgraduate courses to show off their talents.

The new teachers ran "real" lessons in shortage subjects such as maths and science, using the children - bussed in especially - for those considering joining the profession.

Taste of Teaching is designed to help lecturers pick a new cohort of students and to provide candidates - particularly career changers - with a "current experience" of schools. They also have the chance to put questions to newly qualified teachers and lecturers.

This year, Bath Spa, like many universities, has seen a boom in applications, many from those who have been made redundant or have become disillusioned with their jobs.

Phil Rochford-Smith has spent 20 years working as a designer but says he now finds it monotonous. His view of teaching was transformed by his daughter.

"She has been videoing her lessons and showing them to me. They are so interesting and exciting and she is so inspired by them," he said.

"Her science teacher is always blowing things up, so I've started thinking teaching would be a fascinating thing to do.

"Today has been a great experience, especially meeting the children. I want to share my life skills and it's time to expand my brain, so I'm very interested in training."

Alan Carrington, from Swindon, is self-employed but thinks he could put his masters degree in information technoogy to good use in the classroom.

"The last time I went to school, teachers just stood and wrote on the blackboard - there was very little interaction, so what I've seen today is completely alien," he said. "I think becoming a teacher is a possibility for me, though."

Other potential trainees were amazed by new technology such as whiteboards and the changed atmosphere in schools.

Taste of Teaching organiser Susan Haywood said: "Most people who have come are thinking, `I wouldn't mind doing that', but are at the early stages of planning - especially if it involves a career change.

"I've noticed an increase in mature students wanting to do courses this year, either because of the current economic climate or job insecurity or for moral reasons."

More than 100 children from two local secondary schools, John Bentley at Calne in Wiltshire and Culverhay in Bath, contributed to the day.

They were treated to lessons in Spanish and Japanese, an ICT podcasting session, an Apprentice-style challenge in science and instruction in how to keep a rhythm in music. The talented bunch who taught them had only officially become teachers a week before.

But not all have found jobs, especially those who want to stay in the area for family reasons.

Anna-Marie Perry, who has a son in Year 7, trained in design and technology after spending years teaching cookery in primary schools and working as a chef.

"People today have been asking how training fits into family commitments and which subject to specialise in," she said.

"I thought (because of) choosing a shortage subject like technology it would be easy to find a job, but it's not if you can't move. I had teaching practice in two wonderful schools, though, and I plan to do supply work if I don't have any luck."

Clare Furlonger, who runs key stage 2 and 3 ICT training courses, was impressed by the visitors, who pitched in to help her students run the podcasting lesson. "You can't tell who is the teacher and who is the potential teacher," she said.


Ceilia Green provided a Taste of Teaching Japanese, but sessions like this are not the only "real life" tasters run by Bath Spa.

There are also opportunities for potential recruits to spend a day in a school and lecture halls learning about education and getting practical advice and guidance. This year, the courses were targeted at men intending to work in primary schools and those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds - both under-represented in education. There are also informal drop-in morning and evening sessions.

Staff at Calder High, near Halifax, held a similar "taste of teaching" event earlier this year as part of its work with the training school.

West Sussex County Council has also brought graduates and undergraduates into its schools to see educational practices.

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