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New scheme aims to bring top graduates into teaching
A North-East college is taking a leading role in developing the next generation of teachers
"WHEN you've had a really good lesson which the students have enjoyed and learned well and you've received good feedback, I can't imagine any other job that would be more rewarding," says Kate Powell.
A graduate in applied biology, Kate, 21, is one of the first recruits in a new national scheme to bring high achieving graduates into the teaching profession.
She joined Emmanuel College in Gateshead in September as a trainee science teacher along with four other graduates, the first intake in the School Direct programme.
Exclusive to schools that have been judged outstanding by Ofsted and have a track record of success, it allows the best schools to play a greater role in recruiting and training the next generation of teachers. As a method for raising standards in the classroom, it's not rocket science.
Emmanuel College is leading the way in the North-East with 18 places available in the latest round of recruitment, shared between it and its sister school, Bede Academy, in Blyth, Northumberland.
It is more than any other group of schools in the North-East and represents more than twice the number of places Emmanuel offered last year as one of the designated lead schools for the scheme in the region.
Meanwhile, 100 more schools across the North-East say they want to join the scheme, which is run by the Teaching Agency.
School Direct gives graduates the chance to launch straight into their teaching career with a top performing school, combining observation and practical experience in the classroom with mentoring by experienced teachers and, typically, three days a week at the school's HE partner, which in Emmanuel's case is Newcastle University.
Although unpaid during the training period, the first positions came with bursaries for graduates ranging from 5,000 up to 20,000 for those with a first class degree in a subject such as mathematics, chemistry, physics or modern foreign languages.
While there is no guarantee, the graduate trainees at Emmanuel and Bede who pass the rigorous interview process and complete their year's training stand a good chance of stepping into a full time post once qualified.
For the schools, it offers the pick of the best graduates, the chance to develop a relationship with them, match them to future vacancies and build on already successful teaching teams.
After hearing about School Direct, Kate, from South Shields, believed it would give her a head start. She says: "I learn best by just doing it. The more I heard about Emmanuel College the more I realised what a great place it would be to start my career."
Another School Direct graduate Jessica Davidson opted for life in a secondary school over her original choice of primary teaching.
"I don't just have one mentor here, I have the entire history department who are really supportive. I've learned a lot from them about what being a teacher is about, such as what my expectations should be of the children, classroom management and to what degree my role is about teaching life skills as much as it is about teaching history," says Jessica, 23, who grew up in Nigeria and Manchester before graduating in ancient history at Newcastle University.
Colleague Joel Wood, 27, comes from Kent but spent seven years at Durham University studying a theology degree and then a Masters in faith and globalisation, split by a two year spell working for the NHS.
He was driven towards teaching through a passion for his subject, which he considers vital to young people's understanding of themselves and the world.
"With the scaling down of personal, social and health education nationally, where else in the curriculum are students going to be able to debate important issues and ask questions about purpose and meaning?"
Jonathan Winch, Principal at Emmanuel College, believes School Direct makes the profession more competitive with only the most able graduates securing trainee places, which will ultimately raise even further the standards of teaching in schools.
Other North-East schools involved in the School Direct scheme include Carmel College, in Darlington and Pallister Park Primary School, in Middlesbrough.