From reality TV gold to 'teaching ambassadors'

9th March 2012 at 00:00
Educating Essex's stars are doing their bit to boost recruitment

Their extraordinary relationships with pupils made for some of the most memorable scenes on television last year and won Educating Essex's Mr Goddard and Mr Drew a place in the nation's heart.

Now the pair, who were the unmistakable stars of Channel 4's unlikely ratings hit, have been recruited to help solve one of the perennial problems faced by the government: how to attract the best and most inspiring graduates to the profession.

Vic Goddard, headteacher of Passmores Academy in Harlow, and his deputy, Stephen Drew, gained celebrity status thanks to the series. It laid bare the reality of working with lively teenagers and has inspired many to think about becoming a teacher.

Now Mr Goddard and Mr Drew, who are still working full-time at Passmores, are also "teaching ambassadors", travelling around the country talking to thousands of potential classroom recruits about their jobs. They are even manning the "meet the teacher" stalls at the Train to Teach events run by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), the government body charged with recruiting the next generation of the profession. The annual events attract more than 7,000 people each year.

Mr Goddard and Mr Drew have been recognised by many attendees. And their message to anyone thinking of becoming a teacher is clear: "You've got to be up for a fight."

"We had some blunt conversations with people. The room must light up when a teacher enters, rather than when they leave. We asked people if they were up for this challenge," Mr Goddard said. "It's not just standing up in front of a class - you have to be involved in children's lives. It was lovely to hear from people who had always wanted to be a teacher, and also those who said the show had inspired them to do it."

Mr Drew said that the experience was hugely enjoyable. "We got thanked by those who run training courses, and students, for making the programme. They said that Educating Essex has led to really interesting debates and conversations, and helped them in their school placements," he said. "I've never met so many physicists in my life, but I also met people who had been made redundant or those who were about to be, as well as those already dedicated in their mind to teaching."

Educating Essex is currently being shown in northern Europe. Mr Goddard and Mr Drew have had a "few hundred" emails from teachers, parents and children who live in the region about their work. "It's amazing to think that these are people from areas where nations have found the 'holy grail' in terms of education, yet these people are saying they want their school to be like ours," Mr Goddard said.

Mr Drew has been invited to appear on various prime-time television shows to promote teaching. The most memorable was The One Show, on which he shared a sofa with pop star Meat Loaf.

The Train to Teach events were held in Manchester last week, will be in Birmingham today and tomorrow, and will visit London on 16-17 March. Those interested in teaching can get advice from university academics and current teachers on training, applications and the funding available.

"Mr Drew and Mr Goddard were extremely well received: they are very popular and make excellent teaching advocates," said Paul Cohen, the TDA's director of initial teacher training recruitment. "They both came into school leadership positions when they were in their thirties and we've found that this is inspiring to top graduates."

Mr Drew and Mr Goddard are offering work placements at Passmores to those interested in teaching, as part of the TDA's School Experience Programme. The new TDA advertisements were also filmed and photographed at the school.

TDA bosses say that enquiries about entering teaching were up by 14 per cent between September and the end of February compared with the same period in 2010-11.

But applications for training courses are down by 15.8 per cent in the secondary sector and by 13.7 per cent in primary.

Mr Cohen said that he now had a "challenging job" to get those interested in teaching to sign up to training. The question of whether the Educating Essex factor will really have a lasting effect remains.

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