Where one adviser found a new life

27th January 1995 at 00:00
When did you last see an advisory teacher - one of those enthusiasts, chosen for their skills and classroom credibility, who used to work on promoting good classroom practice?

Whether through shortage of money or just reluctance of schools to spend it, local management has cut a swathe through their ranks. Some have gone back into school; some were old enough to retire; some have been made redundant; some have tried to make it as freelance teachers or consultants. (And before they write in, yes, a few are even still in post).

One who chose independence was Jane Bower, a primary advisory teacher of the expressive arts made redundant in Cambridgeshire in March 1993.

In common with many other primary specialists, Jane had been attracted to her advisory work, after nine years in the classroom, by the prospect of being able "to specialise in the subjects which have always led my life and are indivisible from my personality".

She moved to Cambridgeshire, to support the arts in primary schools county-wide, in 1989. "I felt totally fulfilled. I took great pride in tailoring my work to fit individual needs." Soon, though, central funding disappeared, and the in-service team began to ply for hire as a bought-in agency. Jane's speciality, alas, was not high enough on heads' priorities, and by November 1992 she knew that she was on her way out.

The big decision, which she took over the next month or two, was to stick with her speciality and not go back to a classroom teaching job. "I knew that I had to continue teaching where my strengths lay - art, creative English, drama and dance with 4 to 11-year-olds. I was full of energy and enthusiasm for the teaching of these subjects that feed the soul of child and teacher."

The only way it could be done, though, was as a freelance. It was a big decision. "As a single person, I had to pay the mortgage."

It was a time for thinking. "I studied other single women's choices . . . I was amazed at the number of people who encouraged me to carry on on my own. Most surprising was that both my parents (teachers) supported me - I thought they would find the classroom to be a safe option."

So, armed with the knowledge gained on Enterprise Agency courses, Jane struck out into the unknown. It has not, to say the least, been easy. Primary schools do not spend lots of money on buying expressive arts support these days, and despite having a large network of heads who wish her well, the jobs are thinly spread. "I earn just under half of my previous salary."

So far, though, she has no thought of quitting, and she takes each day as it comes. "I will go on as long as I possibly can." The point is, of course, that she loves the work and the constant professional challenge. "For instance, a school has just asked me to go in next week and help them with dyeing and spinning, as part of their topic on the Vikings. Every booking I get is a thrill."

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