Talk it over with a butty

25th January 2008 at 00:00
Mentoring system is singled out for praise by teaching council.

A reassuring chat over a "cheese butty" is just the tonic for newly qualified teachers filled with dread at facing that class from hell at Ysgol John Bright in Llandudno.

The "butty system" is part of a mentoring culture at the 1,200-pupil school that has led to it being singled out for good practice by the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW).

NQTs discuss their fears within departments - everything from coping with workload to staffroom politics - while munching sandwiches. John Bagnall, the school's induction and early professional development (EPD) manager, oversees the system in a formal and informal capacity by taking new recruits under his wing.

Mr Bagnall, who has been at the school for 27 years, offers advice as well as arranging for the new recruits to shadow experienced teachers.

He compiles training packages, sending the NQTs off to good practice teaching courses across the UK. Extra support is given by a team of mentors - heads of department or senior teachers.

"The new teachers are told our doors are always open during lunch, break or after school," said Mr Bagnall. "The lunchtime butty system is a chance to discuss how things are going."

The school currently has four NQTs in their induction year, a further nine staff in their second year and three for EPD.

The GTCW's funding comes direct from the government. The school receives pound;3,700 for each NQT and pound;1,000 per year, per teacher, for EPD.

Induction starts with a summer meeting before the NQTs even set foot in a classroom. Mr Bagnall explains the school's pastoral system of support and how it operates within the timetable.

Come September, pupil behaviour, staffroom politics and workload have often become concerns of the new recruits. Mr Bagnall takes nine hours of his non-contact time from pupils, instead of the usual four or five, to support them.

Any time taken out for courses and shadowing other teachers by the inductees or EPD staff is covered by supply, funded by the GTCW or the Inset budget.

Third-year science teacher Emma Jones, 27, has attended courses on motivating pupils and delivering inspirational lessons.

Chris Wright, 25, also a science teacher in his third year, feels fortunate there is extra two-year EPD funding in Wales, something not available in England.

Hayden Llewellyn, deputy chief executive of the GTCW, said: "Many teachers in Wales have used the CPD funding programme. They take training seriously and we are delighted to help."

Leader, page 28

Geography is hot at this school

For John Bagnall, good practice extends to his classroom and a subject where teaching standards have been attacked nationally.

In a week when geography came under fire from English inspectorate Ofsted for being "boring", and after concern from Estyn, the Welsh inspectorate, that it is one of the "worst taught subjects" in primary schools, Ysgol John Bright is bucking the trend with record numbers in its lower-sixth A-level class.

The Ofsted report said pupils were not learning about important global issues. But Trevor Taylor, the school's head of geography, claimed that environmental concerns had revived interest in the subject. And news stories, such as proposals for wind farms off the North Wales coast, had brought the subject to life.

Mr Taylor also praised the creative approach of the WJEC's geography syllabus. Looking for geography in the news is a major part of the revised curriculum to be introduced at key stage 3 and A-level in September. It will be phased into GCSE in 2009.

But all is not entirely rosy at Ysgol John Bright, where no field trips are run because of safety and teacher cover concerns - a trend Ofsted criticises.

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