The Teachers Who Give Us That Lightbulb Moment

“Just when you think you know something, you have to look at in another way. Even though it may seem silly or wrong, you must try……No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

All of us can look back on our education and training and find at least one teacher who inspired us to change the world – we all have our own John Keating, the inspirational teacher played by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society who uttered those words. It is these teachers who are so passionate and knowledgeable that are needed to inspire a whole generation of students.

With incentives of up to £30,000 now available for new teachers – Further Education could now become the top career choice for maths and English graduate teachers.  Is this all that it will take to attract those teachers that are needed to grasp the challenge of GCSE low pass rates in these subjects?

teaching maths

Around 40% of 16 years olds are still failing to get a Grade C in GCSE maths or English as they leave school.  The numbers are worrying, and people aren’t just another statistic. It means a whole generation of students are entering further education or going into work do not have the core skills to a recognised standard. Or they can, but they have nothing to prove that they can.  That’s not good for individuals’ life chances, nor for the country’s economic and social well being. Hence the new requirement that all young people who lack a GCSE in maths must continue to work towards it.

But why are more teachers needed? Research by the Education and Training Foundation shows that more than 25 per cent of experienced, qualified teachers are approaching retirement and there is a shortage of new recruits. Currently one in three maths teachers aged over 55 has a maths or related degree. That drops to just one in ten for teachers aged 34 or younger.

That’s why the Education and Training Foundation is promoting bursaries and incentives worth up to £30,000 to encourage high-calibre graduates to consider teaching maths in the sector

Key Role for Further Education…

So why go into teaching? And why particularly Further Education? 846,000 16- to 18-year-olds choose to study in FE colleges, almost double the number in maintained school and academy sixth forms. “The FE sector has a key role to play in providing the skills that are vital to future employment,” says Helen Pettifor, Director of Professional Standards and Workforce Development at the Education and Training Foundation.   “And there are huge benefits for teaching in this sector, aside from the bursaries we are currently promoting.  Teachers who work in FE often say to me that Further Education in particular gives them the opportunity to be much more creative with the curriculum, and that there is a much greater diversity in who they are teaching whether it’s the age of students age or their personality.  Students who come to Further Education are often more determined to succeed either because they are looking for a career change or because this is their chance to get that vital qualification for their next job.”

Case Study…

Laura Spencer teaches students with specific Special Educational Needs and made the switch to teaching early on in her career. “It really gives me a buzz to see results. It makes me feel so proud of what they have achieved and the distance they’ve travelled. We want to help students, whatever their ability, to realise their dreams.”

Teaching young people with physical and learning disabilities has to be one of the toughest yet most rewarding jobs anyone can do. Laura knows this. She is a teacher of special educational needs (SEN) at Beaumont College of Further Education in Blackpool, in charge of five young people aged 18 to 25, all with physical and learning disabilities.

Laura graduated from Lancaster University in 2001 with a degree in Criminology and Applied Social Sciences. Her initial idea was to become a probation officer, but after an initial spell as a support worker at Beaumont College Laura knew that this was where she wanted to be. She then completed her teacher training (PGCE) whilst still working, which led to a promotion into a learning support role and her current job as lead tutor.

Some people go into teaching straight from university. However, there are others who become teachers as a second career bringing with them valuable experience of the other workplaces.

Anne Townsend…

Anne Townsend, is passionate about maths and retrained as a maths teacher later in life.  “Maths is a universal language. Hardly anything happens without maths. You see it in all walks of life.” And now after working 4 years in Further Education she has found that teaching inspires her.  “It’s the most rewarding job ever,” she says. “Having struggled with maths myself, I am more conscious of other students’ difficulties”.

“FE provides a great opportunity for young people to learn, from A levels to higher level vocational training as well as GCSEs and the early stages of vocational learning, it is vital that it steps up to provide them with the quality of maths skills they need, for them – and our economy – to stay confident and competitive.  FE has a unique role to play in providing subject specialism, building confidence and self-esteem for either young people or those who are thinking about a career change,” said Helen Pettifor.

If you have a particular skill or love for maths, English or special education needs you have the chance to not only benefit financially from the incentives that are available, you can also through teaching enjoy the rewards of enabling students to have that lightbulb moment.  Teaching is more than a job, you are giving students the skills that will touch their lives forever.

To find out more about how to become a teacher in FE or the bursaries that are available you can click here and to find out more about the work of the Education and Training Foundation –

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