I am a teacher, though not yet “highly” qualified. I work part-time as a
volunteer for a charity in Tower Hamlets. The New Approach sounds appalling.
However my perception is that FE colleges have not been meeting the needs of
all learners, or potential learners.
By and large, my learners lack confidence. They want education, but they are
timid about entering formal education spaces. Even a primary school may be
intimidating, particularly perhaps for childless women. The chance to go to
a community centre may not be helpful to people with limited mobility who do
not live nearby.
A big problem for my learners is that ill health or family commitments
preclude regular attendance, and even those who can come regularly often
cannot stay for the whole of a session. The charity I work for is endlessly
forgiving of learners who drop in and drop out, or who only stay for a
fraction of a class. I don’t know if mainstream providers have been
exercising the same tolerance. I suspect not.
Do the learners make progress? Well, it depends on what you mean by
progress. Over the course of a year, all have noticeably improved in
confidence and become more self-reliant. Their grammar isn’t any better but
their passive vocabularies at the least have improved, and they are speaking
I hope that in joining together to oppose the New Approach, we do not
underestimate or undervalue the work presently being done by volunteers,
whether professionally qualified or not. Their work does not replace the
work done by FE colleges, but it certainly supplements it and fills a gap or
two. The debate we are now having should be careful not to drive a wedge
between Perdita Patterson’s miscellaneous collection and her
well-established and hitherto well-resourced college.
I would like to use the occasion of writing to record my strong thanks to
Natecla which has generously supported me for three annual conferences, and
hence helped make me feel part of the community of teachers.
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