Seven ages of pedagogy

21st March 2003 at 00:00
Teachers can now enhance their skills at every stage of their careers.

Martin Whittaker, with a bit of help from the Bard, explains

The new arrival fresh from college pew, Who seeks a mentor's aid on what's to do

Newly qualified teacher Collette Corcoran feels lucky to be in such a supportive school. "I know there are a lot of people I can go and see if I have problems," she says. "I have teaching friends who don't have that support network and do find it difficult."

Collette, 26, teaches English at Central Lancaster high school, where she came on placement during her training. The school encourages new teachers to watch colleagues in other schools.

"Year 7s are coming in who have been through the literacy hour, and you need to know what it is," she says. "When I was studying, I was hearing about it all the time, but I'd never seen it in action. When I was here on placement they sent me into one of the feeder schools. It really does help with the kids in class - you can see where they've come from.

"They have offered for me to go out to another school. I'd like to see another English department in action. And I've been on lots of courses for my own professional development. I have been to one on schemes of work in English, and one on teaching poetry. Things like that give you inspiration and imagination in your lessons. I have also been on placement in not such a good school and I've seen the bad side of it. But I'm really fortunate to have this good, secure network - they are fuelling me for my future."

Chris Bonney, assistant head in charge of personnel, says the English department at Central Lancaster High provides a strong first layer of support for new teachers like Collette.

"There is a series of entitlements she can access," he says. "I will get material into school about courses, discuss it with her head of department and she will find something Collette is interested in. We're a very close, supportive school that believes passionately in continuous professional development."

To foreign climes and with fair grace and stealth; She learns to make the best of youth's good health

Kate Harbon, in her second year of teaching, has benefited from the Government's pound;25 million Early Professional Development programme.

This offers staff who are two or three years into their career up to pound;2,100 annually to spend on professional development. It allowed Kate and a group of colleagues to observe teaching at Thomas Jefferson middle school in New York, last October half-term.

"My brief was to look at the role of personal and social education (PSE) and social studies. Behaviour management was a cross-curricular thing we all focused on. It was good to look at how it's done differently, so we were able to make comparisons with our own system. Then in subsequent INSET we did a debrief for the whole school. Another valuable element was just getting to know colleagues we work with on a daily basis. We built on the relationships within the school."

Kate, 31, teaches PSE, sociology and health and social care at Sydenham girls' school in Lewisham, south-east London.

The local authority thinks the programme it is piloting with 11 other LEAs may have had an impact on recruitment and retention in the borough.

Lewisham highlighted the scheme in a marketing campaign aimed at newly qualified teachers. It admits it would be hard to prove the link, but the number of NQTs joining the authority last September was 35 per cent higher than the average in previous years. Retention is also increasing, which again it attributes partly to its commitment to CPD. And teachers' perceptions are upbeat. "I think it's a fantastic idea," said one. "It raises the status of the profession and will attract more people. I have benefited greatly."

The early professional development pilot started in October 2001 and is scheduled to run until July next year.

And with th' encroaching years comes advanced skill, To pass it back to youth is now her will

Sashi Siva describes becoming an advanced skills teacher as "one of the best things I ever did". She has taught for more than a decade and is in charge of humanities, RE and PSE at Aylands School, a special school in Enfield, north-east London.

"The advanced skills status allows professional development within my working role," she says. "I've been a head of year already in previous schools and I've done a management role, but I think the advanced skills keeps me in touch with teaching. It develops my teaching and helps me to develop other people's teaching, whereas I think if I had kept on the management route I would not have done that - and that would have been a shame. It's what still excites me and it's still what makes the day-to-day bit good. It's an alternative career."

Sashi, 35, is now expecting her second child. In five to 10 years' time she sees herself moving into an advisory role with a local education authority.

And her advanced skills appointment has helped that become a more likely prospect. The ASTrole has involved mentoring newly qualified teachers and visiting other schools to help staff to develop and plan their curriculum more effectively.

"It's given me confidence in my own teaching," she says. "It's helped me to look at my own teaching and look at what's effective - what works and what doesn't. It allows me to change my teaching and to experiment . I don't think a lot of teachers have the room or the time to experiment. If you try something and it doesn't work, a lot of teachers can't afford for that lesson to fail.

"With this I have the time to do that, and the avenue to look at a lesson - not just mine but somebody else's as well - and say yes, that was effective, or maybe that wasn't effective enough."

A mirror for her craft she now shall seek To separate her mighty from her weak

Anne Bulley teaches Year 1 and is ICT co-ordinator at Wembdon St George's CE primary school in Bridgwater, Somerset. A National Union of Teachers scheme is helping her to take a look at her own teaching and share good practice with colleagues.

The union's Teacher2Teacher scheme is one of its CPD "flagships".

Participants attend a residential seminar on a chosen theme and apply what they have learnt in the classroom. Then they attend a follow-up residential after three months. Anne, 34, said she benefited from the pairing of teachers and from the way the scheme brought her into contact with colleagues. Anne and fellow teacher Nina McKechnie, who teaches Year 3, took a course in the use of ICT across the curriculum. The NUT paid the cost of the course, travel and accommodation, while the school met the cost of supply cover.

"The fact that you have an ally means that you can work together," she says. "You agree between the two of you what you're going to do and you help each other move forward," she says. "It's based on trying to find time to observe each other teaching. You're always there to feed in ideas, and you're always there to say no, don't give up-keep going. And it's not done in a threatening, but in a supportive way."

After 13 years in teaching, Anne says the scheme has allowed her to recharge her batteries. She is now on another Teacher2Teacher course with another colleague.

"It's really good because we've been through all the changes: we've been through the literacy hour, the numeracy hour and we've had the book training.

"This is a chance for us to get together with teachers from other areas of the country and swap ideas, which is really important."

With chimeras and visions of their schools Do modern managers hone their teaching tools

After 21 years in teaching, Ian Raper wants to move into a senior management role. Ian, 43, is head of science at St Edwards C E comprehensive school in Romford, Essex.

He is one of 200 subject leaders on the Leading from the Middle programme, a scheme for middle managers being piloted by the National College for School Leadership. Two other members of staff at his school are also on the programme and the head, Giles Drew, acts as their mentor.

Part of the three-term programme involves a computer-simulated "virtual school". Participants are faced with everyday problems encountered by subject heads. There are also three days of face-to-face training and a school leadership project, which is effectively a guided walk through a three-term school improvement cycle. Participants have the chance to practise skills such as negotiating, giving feedback to colleagues and handling sensitive situations. Ian likes the programme's flexibility, since much of it is online. Chat rooms and bulletin boards allow him to study at home.

"Of all the professional development I've done, this is the most closely focused and probably the most useful so far," he says. "With the virtual school there are a series of scenarios and a number of possible solutions.

"You have to choose and it monitors how your decision affects the school.

It gives you a chance to try decisions and make judgments without it being threatening. If you get it wrong, it's not the end of the world. " The programme will be available nationally from September, with 1,000 participants, and will be extended to include other middle-level leaders, including year heads, special needs and ICT co-ordinators.

Time for the fairer sex to climb the rungs; Embrace authority, speak in leaders' tongues

Paula Dickinson has taught for 18 years and has gradually worked her way up the career ladder. She is the learning manager for Year 7 at Crown Woods school in Eltham in south-east London.

Ms Dickinson has put herself forward for a pilot Women in Leadership and Management programme being developed by the National College for School Leadership and expected to start in the summer term.

"For someone of my age group who has made a conscious choice to stay in the profession I see this as a unique and wonderful opportunity to get my foot on to the next rung of the ladder," says Paula, 42.

"I certainly believe that I have a great deal to continue to offer the profession. I'm looking to move up to assistant head and hopefully then into deputy headship."

The programme will offer two-day residential courses involving a range of activities to help women in middle management in schools to develop their leadership skills and overcome barriers to promotion. The courses will aim to help them understand their own strengths and boost their confidence.

Deputy head Vanessa Ogden says she is pleased with the response to the NCSL course: 20 women in middle management roles at Crown Woods have said they would like to take up places on the programme. Because of the difficulty of accommodating this number without upsetting the running of the school, Crown Woods has set up regular discussions to allow those taking part in the pilot to share their experience.

"The head is very supportive of women moving through the programme," Ogden says."A large proportion of our middle managers are talented women who have made a big impression in the school."

With fading eyes, the sage with silver hair Reviews the whole with wise and stoical air

Apart from a three-year break to have children, science teacher Jean Cade has been in the classroom since 1968. She plans to retire in four years' time, when she reaches 60.

"I find it very hard to envisage retirement," she says, "and so I tend to go on as I've always done, which is that if there are opportunities that interest me I'll go for them. I have never been one of these people who had a particular career path in mind. I've always just enjoyed teaching. And so most of my career has been spent as a basic class teacher."

Jean teaches at Deacon's school in Peterborough. She first qualified as an advanced skills teacher in 1998 and now co-ordinates all initial teacher training at the school. She believes the AST role has benefited her enormously.

"Many trainees are young people with lots of good ideas and enthusiasm," she says. "And these days the vast majority of trainees are very competent.

"It also makes me examine my practice and makes those in the department examine their practice, so that we're looking fresh and constantly trying to improve what we're doing, because we're the role models. So I get a tremendous amount from doing that.

"It also makes me keep up to date with my subject knowledge. Biology is probably the fastest-moving, fastest-changing subject on the curriculum.

Being an advanced skills teacher helps me to keep abreast of recent developments, but also gives me a chance to share some of the expertise I've built up over the years in teaching children."

During her career Jean has seen a dramatic improvement in professional development for teachers.

She recalls the early days of her teaching career: "You were either a classroom teacher or a head of department and you went on to be a deputy head if you were that ambitious, and then a head. And that was it.

"Now, with the AST initiative you can carry on teaching but you can do other things as well. I have the opportunity to get involved in some mentoring research, which is something that never would have come my way when I first started teaching."

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