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Winners dream of becoming heads

They work up to 66 hours a week. Their spare time is spent studying for a masters degree or learning to ski. And they have ambitions to be a headteacher.

This is the profile of the exceptional teacher, according to Sheffield university researchers.

Pat Sikes and Pam Cole spent several months interviewing 10 top teachers, from primary and secondary schools and further education colleges.

Each was deemed capable of making a significant contribution to effective and inspirational teaching, and had been given pound;3,000 by the Gatsby Foundation to research and implement a project they had designed.

"These people are extremely enthusiastic, highly-committed, conscientious and describe themselves as well-organised workaholics," said the research team.

The researchers asked the 10 teachers a series of questions about their working lives and professional goals. And in their report, Exceptional Teachers: Identities and Involvement, presented at the British Educational Research Association conference in Pontypridd last week, they outlined common traits.

They work on average 53 hours and 45 minutes a week. Most said that their initial enthusiasm for the profession has never waned.

Most have other interests, such as playing a musical instrument, motocross biking and skiing. Two already have PhDs; most hold or are working towards masters degrees.

"These teachers had a clear idea of who they wanted to be," said the academics. "They also found opportunities which enabled them to realise these ambitions."

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