Career Change Adds Up; Teaching: Taking the Fast Track Is a Profitable Move for New Maths Teachers

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Byline: STEPHEN HOARE

WITH his 30th birthday fast approaching, independent-record label producer Jake Mansell made a life decision - to quit what he regarded as an unfulfilling job and pursue an ambition to change lives. An Oxford physics graduate, he decided to train as a maths teacher. Embarking on a new career, Mansell admits he was wooed by the Government's financial incentives to fill vacancies in a shortage subject and by a professional career structure.

He applied, and was accepted as one of the first fast-track teachers.

After a year of training at London University's Institute of Education, he teaches at John Kelly Girls' Technology College in Neasden, to classes in which around 50 per cent of the pupils are from ethnic backgrounds, mainly Muslim.

One of his new challenges is to stretch the most gifted pupils and he organises videoconferencing sessions and an after-school extension class for Year Eight students taking a Cambridge University Motivate Maths programme.

Mansell regularly uses ICT in the classroom, as self-checking software motivates less able pupils once too shy to raise their hands to ask a question.

For Mansell the challenge of an inner-city Brent school was too strong to resist. "I had completed my teaching practice there and they offered me the job. The staff are incredibly supportive and friendly."

Being accepted on the fast-track scheme brought a [pounds sterling]5,000 training bursary, a free laptop and digital camera, an extra point on the salary scale and the prospect of rapid promotion. Mansell says: "I'd already made the decision to go into teaching but it made the career more attractive. You can decide whether to take a leadership role in the classroom as an advanced-skills teacher or move into management." After two days of interviews, role play and psychometric exercises at an assessment centre, Mansell passed what he calls the hardest test of his life. He says: "The whole thing is designed to test your ability to cope with high pressure and high stress."

While most of us might not welcome stress, studies show that a certain amount of it is healthy for us. In a bid to persuade people to swap the stress of the private sector for the more worthwhile stress of a classroom the Teacher Training Agency is this week holding a series of interactive quizzes for numerate commuters at Euston and Victoria.

With prizes of Sony laptops, the TTA's Maths Challenge calls for mental agility and problem-solving and demonstrates that maths can be fun. The TTA hopes the exercise will raise the profile of maths and draw attention to the continuing shortage of qualified teachers. …