Please don't enclose SAE;Talkback;Opinion

14th August 1998 at 01:00
Andrew Wright has had enough of so-called training experts

Professional development is a subject close to my heart. As faculty manager, I am responsible for ensuring that science staff get quality in-service training, and over the years I've had my fingers burnt a few times - often at the hands of self-appointed experts (SAEs).

Self-appointed Expert 1: the Bearded Bumbler. These people have a permanently baffled expression and will start by apologising for being late. They are usually male, bearded and appear unperturbed that the school caretaker is better dressed than them. They rarely, if ever, get to the point -assuming they had one in the first place.

They may hail from the voluntary sector, from among the plethora of small, well-meaning educational charities. On paper their ideas are wonderful, but they have little experience of putting them into practice or communicating them to large audiences. The links such speakers have with education are oblique at best - their best friend's aunt's brother's mother once went on a visit to a school. They are thick-skinned and seem oblivious to the catatonic state of their long-suffering audience. Such speakers can be summed up in the standard SAE equation: the depth of their passion and intention to do good is inversely proportional to their ability to achieve a realisation of that good.

Self-appointed Expert 2: Slick Jims. Members of this group wear suits, own - and even know how to use - mobile phones, and carry briefcases. They may approach the school initially and ask for some time to talk to staff about their project. They will speak in pseudo-educationaljargon and will appear to know what they are talking about.

Often they are piloting a training programme and come offering a free sample and, contrary to that dictum about the best things in life, they will let you down big time.

Their slick presentations are built around a disastrous misapprehension of the relevance of their ideas to education. They will have - without exception - a vision for schools, which they want to share with you. Our particular Slick Jim was into meditation and the psychology of self-esteem, and spent two hours talking us through a post-mortem of his thinking on such topics. As with Bearded Bumblers, Slick Jims have little awareness of how irrelevant and out-of-touch their message is. Their only saving grace is that they're slightly more pleasant to look at.

The pain of my experiences with these characters still haunts me today. No one likes to be duped, particularly when the cost is measured in teacher time and enthusiasm. But Bumbler and Slick are still out there. I hope they will not darken your doors and curdle the goodwill and tempers of your hard-working staff.

Andrew Wright is a faculty manager for science at Angley School in Cranbrook, Kent

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today