On mission to engage

20th July 2007 at 01:00
Award-winning headteacher Peter Phillips ensures every key stage 4 pupil spends 10 hours per fortnight studying for a vocational qualification even though it will not be a requirement for 14 months.

But he sees this as necessary to engage less academic pupils, or simply to make others better learners by practical example.

Every school in Wales will be required to afford the timetable space for work led learning by September 2008 as part of the 14-19 learning pathways initiative. Latest guidance in the Assembly government document, Making a Difference: Vocational Provision 14-19 Guidance for Schools, will be sent out this autumn.

Mr Phillips says: "Far too many pupils embark on courses for which there is a pre-determined failure. Opening up the curriculum boosts their self-worth and shows them that learning can be about success."

Making sure less academic pupils leave with BTEC qualifications rather than a clutch of E-grade GCSEs is what the 59-year-old sees as important.

Mr Phillips was a pupil at Larkfield grammar school in Chepstow, Monmouthshire. He excelled in maths and went on to gain an MSc at the University of Bath and a teaching qualification at Caerleon College, near Newport, in 1968.

His younger brother went to the nearby secondary modern and became a mechanic. It was only then that he too showed a flair for maths. "It was relevant to his job he just needed to have the interest," he says.

But Mr Phillips also believes traditional subjects shouldn't be sidelined. His school's most able pupils can take AS-levels early in ICT, music, drama, PE and maths.

Mr Phillips was named secondary head of the year at the New Directions Inspirational Teacher Awards in Cardiff on July 6.

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