Wanted: One Time Lord, Tardis optional

6th May 2005 at 01:00
History teachers could be the new Time Lords, according to an advertisement published in The TES.

Capitalising on the success of the BBC's new Dr Who series, St Augustine's Priory secondary, in Ealing, west London, has advertised thus: "Time Lord required. To teach history, government and politics."

The advertisement refers to the enigmatic hero of the science fiction adventure series, played by Christopher Ecclestone, who travels through time, battling ghosts, aliens and Daleks.

Frances Gumley-Mason, head of the pound;5,500-pound;7,600-a-year Roman Catholic girls' school, said: "If you really understand history, you can live in a different dimension. You have the ability to think about how people lived 100 or 1,000 years ago."

The comparison is welcomed by many history teachers. Sean Lang, who teaches at Long Road sixth-form college in Cambridge, believes it lends an element of glamour. "History can take you to another time and another world," he said. "You will touch documents that someone touched 400 years ago. And I've known pupils who are probably harder to handle than Daleks."

But teachers in the real world can only wish wistfully for a time-travelling Tardis. Christina Downey, history teacher at Robert Clack comprehensive, in east London, said: "We have our pupils try on chain mail.

But it would be a lot better to take them to the Battle of Hastings.

"Sometimes they have an over-glamorised idea of what history is like. A lot of children say they would like to live in the Middle Ages. They are unaware that there were no toilets, no deodorant, and they would probably have died of toothache.

"Time travel would let them find out what it was actually like. And, obviously, I'd be perfectly happy to be shut in a Tardis with Christopher Ecclestone," she added.

But others are less convinced. Alf Wilkinson, of the Historical Association, said: "Dr Who is so far-fetched. One of the challenges of history teaching is getting children to focus on what is real, rather than what is just fantasy."

Nonetheless, if a teacher Time Lord does materialise, Mrs Gumley-Mason believes he would have definite advantages in the classroom.

"Dr Who always has a glamorous assistant, and once you get to senior school, there aren't any glamorous assistants in the classroom.

"And he can unlock any doors. I have a couple of cupboards in my room where that would be very useful," she said.

LEADER 22

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