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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
From parent to teacher
Lorraine Marcer
Lorraine Marcer found studying "frightening" at first
By BBC News Online's Gary Eason

As one way of tackling the shortage of teachers in England, the government is encouraging mature entrants to the profession - people such as Lorraine Marcer, who decided seven years ago, while bringing up two boys, to go back to college.

She began by helping as a volunteer in her sons' primary school - a forces' school in Germany, where her husband was with the RAF - listening to children read.


I thought, 'I'm not clever enough' - I think all the mature students felt that

"And then I thought, I like this and I could do it."

Back in England, at the age of 31 she began a four-year honours degree in English and education at Bishop Grosseteste College in Lincoln, a higher education college specialising in teacher training.

She got a full grant - enough to buy a "clapped-out little old Mini" for the half-hour drive to college. But she found it difficult combining study with raising a family.

"I couldn't have done it without having support," she said - indicating husband Paul, an electronics engineer.

"He did lots of practical, household tasks. Childcare was an issue, but we were quite lucky in that there were after-school facilities at the boys' schools, or nearby."

Scary

Mrs Marcer did find it daunting, returning to academic work so many years after leaving full-time education.

Financial facts
Grants have been replaced with loans
Degree students pay tuition fees of up to 1,075 a year
There is no fee for the fourth year teaching certificate (PGCE)
PGCEs get a 6,000 bursary
4,000 "golden hellos" for secondary school shortage subjects
Graduates with classroom experience - such as voluntary work - can get up to 13,000 to qualify
"I was frightened. I thought I wouldn't be able to do it. I thought, 'I'm not clever enough' - I think all the mature students felt that.

"But once the initial shock wore off it was OK and I think on the whole the mature students tended to do better than the younger students because we were much more motivated," she said.

"It was our second chance, so we went for it."

The college made no special allowances for them.

"We had to do a residential course for a week, which was supposed to be for us to know what it was like to look after children 24 hours a day, and I wasn't excluded from that - whereas I'd been there, done that, and felt it was a bit ridiculous.

Job hunt

"But I found the lecturers very good and very helpful, open to the experience that we'd got and could bring to bear on the work."

Mrs Marcer graduated with a 2:1 and began looking for work - which proved more difficult than she had thought, because of her age.


I feel since I left college seven years ago that every year there's been a new initiative that you have to get your head around

Some schools did not want an older NQT - newly-qualified teacher.

"I think they felt that you couldn't be moulded to their school philosophy. I was actually told that at a few interviews."

But she then found a job, at Bracebridge Heath St John's Primary School in Lincolnshire, where the opposite was the case.

"It was a reception teaching post and they thought parents would be happier leaving their children with a mature teacher rather than a young one who hadn't got children of their own."

Promotion

Ironically, dealing with parents turned out to be the hardest part of the job.

"I thought that, because I had children of my own they would listen to me. I think I thought, naively, that the relationship would be in place from the beginning and it wasn't."

But gradually this improved and, seven years on, she is still at the same school - teaching older children, now literacy co-ordinator and a member of the management team.

Money was not a big issue in her decision to become a teacher.

"I wanted to teach. Obviously you'd like to get pay which reflects the amount of work you do - which I don't think teachers do - but I don't think graduates go into it for the money, they've got to want to teach."

Downsides

Her big dislikes -"like all teachers" - are the amount of paperwork that goes with the job, and constant government initiatives.

"I feel since I left college seven years ago that every year there's been a new initiative that you have to get your head around, and there seems to be more and more interference in what I do, you don't have a lot of scope now for what you teach those children."

Lorraine Marcer
"I love the teaching"
Mrs Marcer is now doing a part-time MA in children's literature at the University of Nottingham.

"I can use it for myself - it's a personal thing - but also I can use it in school.

"Some of the work I have done has been empirical research in school with the children, then writing that up and analysing it.

"And I've taken some of it back into the classroom and implemented things that I have felt are important, like how to teach writing to young children.

"Now, early writing support the way I've been doing it has come out from the government through the literacy strategy. "

This time she got no help with the 2,000 fees. But she feels it has been worthwhile because it has worked for her personally and has helped the children she teaches.

Looking back, would she advocate teaching to others in a similar position to herself?

"Yes I would. I'd recommend that they work in a school, that they did some voluntary work, as I did - because it is a big commitment, and that's the only way of knowing."

See also:

05 Aug 01 | Features
Teacher's advice for the old school
12 Apr 01 | Education
Student teachers grade Blair
28 Apr 01 | Education
Students vague about teachers' pay
07 Mar 01 | Education
Teacher training applications rise
19 Dec 00 | Education
What deters would-be teachers
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