Teacher Talk

'Teaching is hard work and you need to know that to become a good teacher. With Teach First, you are under no illusions. You need to put in the time'
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The Independent Online

Jenny Sutton, 24, left acting to become an English teacher at Highbury Grove School, north London, through an unconventionalroute. Teach First ( www.teachfirst.org.uk) gives bright graduates an intensive six-week training to teach in some of London's toughest schools.

Jenny Sutton, 24, left acting to become an English teacher at Highbury Grove School, north London, through an unconventionalroute. Teach First ( www.teachfirst.org.uk) gives bright graduates an intensive six-week training to teach in some of London's toughest schools.

What drew you to Teach First?

As an actor I was working for Shakespeare4kidz [the UK's national Shakespeare company for children and young people], travelling up and down the country conducting workshops - often in challenging schools. I really enjoyed the work, and was compelled to teach. I like a challenge and to learn at a fast pace, so it was right for me.

What's different about Teach First?

Teach First aims to be more than a strategic recruitment and training programme. It hopes to create leaders with the skills, resources, networks and knowledge to reduce educational inequalities and their root causes. The programme lasts for two years; some trainees stay on in teaching, while others move into other jobs in schools or outside. A few of my colleagues are thinking about working for non-profit organisations. I'll stick to teaching, though.

What are the challenges?

I'm constantly learning something new. It has really broadened my horizons. I am from a working-class background but I now consider myself to have been privileged, as my experience of school was so different from that of the children I teach.

The first month of the programme is tough and has the highest drop-out rate. You're thrown in at the deep end and people quickly realise if it's not for them. There is a large network of support, though: there are 250 people in my year and the tutors are always on hand with advice.

Does fast-track teaching make good teachers?

I think so. Teaching is hard work and you need to know that to become a good teacher. With Teach First you are under no illusions. You need to put in the time and be prepared to observe others. Being put straight into a challenging school at the start of my teaching career will make me a better teacher.

Will you continue to work in challenging schools?

I will continue to be a teacher at the end of the course and I am going to take over as head of drama at Highbury Grove in the near future. I have a role here and I want to become the best teacher I can. I will stay in this sort of school because you really feel you can make a difference to pupils' lives.

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