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We need some teachers with a previous life

The recent survey commissioned by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) which discovered three-quarters of parents surveyed would like more teachers with previous different careers in post, comes as no surprise to me.

All the teachers with a previous career whom we have employed at Willows high school have been exceptional. The skills and experience they bring to the classroom are invaluable.

Teaching is a challenging career, one that requires dedication, confidence and perseverance. All teachers bring a set of skills to the classroom that incorporate all of these attributes, but those with experience in another context bring skills that have been shaped and honed through working in other environments.

These teachers are able to engage their pupils with information and experiences of their "other" life and can bring a subject or lesson alive in a way that nothing else can. The TDA poll also found 43 per cent of heads would like to see more teachers with industry experience in schools, and believe it is important to have a mixture of direct entrants and career swappers.

At present we employ seven teachers who have had previous careers and the contribution they bring to the school cannot be underestimated. Statistics released recently by the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) have shown that teaching is an increasingly popular choice for those wishing to change career.

This seems particularly marked in the 25-29 age brackets. As of March 2007, there are 546 newly qualified teachers in the 25-29 age bracket. This makes up 34.6 per cent of the total number of NQTs, and indicates a 7 per cent increase on the statistics of five years ago.

The GTCW has known for a long time the advantages of having career changers within the teaching profession. In fact, this was highlighted in our teacher recruitment and retention action plan submitted to the National Assembly in 2003 as an area for consideration.

One of the barriers to those seeking teaching as a career change was the restricted means available for training, particularly for those who could not afford to take a year off. Now the Graduate Teacher Programme offers a flexible, employment-based route for graduates.

This option has been instrumental in helping many more prospective teachers into the classroom.

However, the GTCW still strongly believes more must be done to raise the status of this entry route, which is key in targeting persons under represented in the profession and those who cannot afford to train through the traditional college route, particularly in the shortage subject areas.

We have been pleased to welcome the recent move to help career changers who are seeking on-the-job training, with a greater role for teaching-training institutions linking candidates directly with schools, and playing a greater role in their preparation. In Wales, we are keen the career change trend continues.

It is vital that our pupils are well briefed and informed about the challenges and tribulations of the jobs market once they leave school.

Equally, teachers are role models and can share their experience from the world of employment outside education.

We need more teachers who are able to present a realistic picture of the world outside the classroom.

Mal Davies is chair of the General Teaching Council for Wales and head of Willows high school in Cardiff

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