From X factor to X-rated

27th December 2007 at 00:00
Adi Bloom reports on teachers who made news.

Teaching is not generally the profession for those who want to become national celebrities. But during 2007, several teachers have moved from the glare of the whiteboard into the public spotlight.

Some were delighted. Beverley Trotman, a Year 6 teacher at Icknield Primary in Luton, Bedfordshire, realised a long-held dream when she was chosen as a contestant on ITV talent show The X Factor. "It's sort of weird seeing your teacher on telly," said one of her pupils. Mrs Trotman was knocked out before the final.

Brian Ashton fared rather better. The one-time history teacher at King's School, Bruton in Somerset coached the English rugby team to the World Cup final in France this year. Although England ultimately lost to South Africa, many commentators were amazed the team got so far. Before the match, Mr Ashton could not resist taking his players on an educational tour of First World War battlefields.

A teacher also played a key role in another 2007 sporting success.

John Branch, a biology teacher in Staffordshire, captained the Chasetown scholars football club to victory against Port Vale - a team five divisions above - on the same day he had a lesson observation.

There was similar success against the odds by St Bartholomew's School in Newbury, which became the first state school to win the national polo championships.

Maureen Sims, deputy head, who took the team to their matches, said: "It just shows that it doesn't matter where you come from."

Other teachers made the news for reasons they would rather forget.

Gillian Gibbons, a British primary teacher working in Sudan, became front-page news after allowing her class to name a teddy bear Mohammed. The Sudanese authorities threatened her with jail or 40 lashes, before letting her off with a pardon after a few days' imprisonment. Clearly seeking a post under a more tolerant regime, she is now looking for a job in China.

Stephen Bell, a Bolton music teacher, hit the headlines for dealing cocaine. He also regaled pupils with tales of lap-dancing clubs and took them to the pub before open evening, which led the school to complain that he was "unacceptably familiar". The General Teaching Council for England banned him from teaching for 10 years.

The widespread flooding in July forced many teachers to wade through the final days of the summer term. Mike Cocker, head of Wootton Wawen Primary in Warwickshire, had to carry pupils to safety after the local river overflowed into his Year 6 leavers' party. And married heads Linda and Paul Rimmer educated two sets of pupils under one roof when Mrs Rimmer's Yorkshire primary flooded.

One teacher who managed to keep her name out of the papers was the anonymous member of staff who was awarded pound;402,000 in compensation after she was attacked and seriously injured by a violent teenage pupil.

This record payout was not the only precedent set in education in 2007. Kerry Callaghan, a former chemical-industry worker and school business manager, became the first non-teacher to be awarded the National Professional Qualification for Headship.

Her acceptance on the course had been greeted with derision by some of her teacher counterparts, as well as the National Association of Head Teachers.

Another unexpected convert to the profession was Ursula Holden-Gill, a former Brookside and Teachers actress. "I'm a country person, really," she said as she announced her decision to retire from television and embrace the more sedate life of a teacher. Clearly she had not been reading the news.


By Irena Barker

Another year, another education secretary.

After Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in June, Alan Johnson waved goodbye to schools and was ushered off to the Department of Health.

Mr Brown's confidant Ed Balls duly emerged from the shadows of the Treasury to take the helm of the newly christened Department for Children, Schools and Families.

John Denham was scrambled from the backbenches to take care of the breakaway Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

And Tony Blair's departure from Downing Street did not mark an end to the Blairs' involvement in education, education, education. His son Nicky was in at the deep end on teacher training with the Teach First programme.

Low-profile children's minister Parmjit Dhanda also left the education world, to be replaced by former economics teacher Kevin Brennan.

Shadow education secretary David Willets suffered in a corresponding Tory reshuffle, spirited away to the further and higher education beat after a row over the party's policy on grammar schools. He was replaced by Michael Gove, who still finds time to write a column for The Times, touching on everything from soft furnishings to politics.

There were changes at the General Teaching Council for England. The founding chief executive Carol Adams died in January, to be replaced by Keith Bartley, former children's director at Oxfordshire council.

Jean Rudduck, a leading advocate for giving pupils a say in their learning and emeritus professor of education at Cambridge University, also died.

Elsewhere, popular poet Michael Rosen was appointed as Children's Laureate, replacing best-selling author Jacqueline Wilson.

For early years pupils, this year's biggest newcomer was Igglepiggle, star of surreal television programme In the Night Garden. It first aired in March on the BBC and was an instant hit with younger children.

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