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'Trainees who open doors for our staff'

Kathryn Kabra (left) is training co-ordinator at Henry Maynard infants school in Walthamstow, north-east London, one of 82 training schools in England. They receive up to pound;100,000 to develop good practice.

We were well prepared to become a training school - we have a tradition of taking students from various institutions, and I have done more and more mentoring with newly qualified teachers.

So in essence the job I have now isn't much different from the NQT support I did before. The main difference is that now I can do the job properly instead of having to fit it into lunchtimes and after-school meetings.

We have 12 classes - nine of them with a trainee teacher, while two of the other classes have NQTs. Two cohorts of PGCE trainees from the University of East London come through here each year.

You get a chance to build relationships with them and they become part of the school. We also have students on the graduate teacher programme who stay with a class for a term at a time.

Trainees come in with lots of enthusiasm and skills that we can learn from. One graduate trainee is a professional musician. She has really specialist skills - it was great to see her running activities for gifted and talented groups.

Becoming a training school has also been good for the children - they get more adult contact at all times and they get different approaches to teaching, plus the fact that their own class teacher is reflecting on what is good practice.

I taught for 22 years before taking on this new role last September. And I love it - it's so inspiring. Most of the job is observing and giving feedback to the trainees. I work out individual training programmes. I also tutor at other schools and I've given lectures for the university.

No two days are ever the same. You feel as if you're really doing something useful. I think it's a great feeling for anyone who's been teaching for a long time to feel they have something more to offer.

Teachers may get fed up and feel that they're bombarded with new things to learn. But at the same time they have this great wealth of experience, knowledge and understanding to offer.

Having trainee teachers in the classroom gives other members of staff the opportunity to develop their own curriculum-based responsibilities, or to become more involved in other mattters around the school.

Because our teachers are doing lessons for people to observe all the time, they are good at supporting and troubleshooting - and that opens doors in their own careers.

One downside is overcrowding: we don't have a staffroom big enough to hold our own staff. But we can work around it. After all, that is a small price to pay when the benefits are so great.

Interview Martin Whittaker

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