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Life Changing Degree
Georgina Newton is working to improve teacher retention in the UK on both a local and national level, in her role at the University of Warwick and on an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) set up to discuss the issue. Prior to her Master’s in Education at Staffordshire University, Georgina was looking for ways to reinvigorate her own career, having been a language and IT teacher for over 20 years.
She had not previously considered exploring the causes behind the reported 40% loss of teachers within the first five years after qualifying. During the course of her MA studies, however, this became the focus of her dissertation. She surveyed over 250 teachers for the project and was invited to Parliament to share her findings.
“When I signed up to the MA, I was still working at the school where I’d been for 14 years,” she said. “I didn’t think it would bring about a complete change of career. After finishing the course, I went to a drop-in session with the Vice-Chancellor Professor Liz Barnes and told her that “studying this course at this University has changed my life”. I’m very grateful to the University for that.”
Career in Teaching
Georgina’s own teaching career began in East Berlin in 1991, shortly after the collapse of the wall separating the two halves of the German capital. She had studied for an undergraduate degree in French and German in Bradford and was nominated for a scholarship through her rotary club. She signed up for a course in Berlin and, shortly afterwards, took a job at what was then called The People’s High School.
She explained: “I was the first native English teacher in East Berlin after the fall of the wall. After November 1989, when the wall came down, there were a lot of people who wanted to learn English and not many teachers. When I started teaching, many of the students were in their 40s and 50s, who had never had the opportunity to learn English. They would turn up after a whole day of work and attend my English classes for four hours. Their thirst for learning was incredible.”
After returning to the UK, Georgina completed her teacher training and began teaching languages at Withins High School in Bolton. During her seven years at the school, a fire burned down the language department and, following its rebuild, new computers were installed. In the process of learning how to use them, she developed her skills, diversified and became an IT teacher as well.
Relocating to the Midlands with her husband, she started working at Ashlawn School, a bilateral secondary school in Warwickshire, where she taught IT, French and German. She was at the school for 14 years, during which she signed up to the MA at Staffordshire University in 2013, completing her studies part-time over the next three years.
Teacher Retention Policy
“I was looking for something that was going to refresh my professional interests after more than 20 years in the classroom,” she recalled. “It was the ability to choose different modules, the cost-effective degree and the proximity to family that helped me choose Staffordshire University. It was really well organised so people like me, who only went to the campus ten times a year because of the distance and working full-time, could feel a part of it.”
Georgina left her job at the school to become a teacher educator at the University of Warwick. Due to her dissertation on teacher retention, she was asked to help form an APPG on the subject to generate conversation and start informing national policy.
She explained: “When I was doing my dissertation, there wasn’t really anything where people had looked into the issue and its causes. We’re facing one of the biggest teaching crises we’ve ever had and it’s something I wanted to shine a light on. I have noticed lots more discussions since the APPG was formed. I’ve been invited to speak at lots of conferences and events. I’m currently running two pilots within schools in our partnership at Warwick to change things from the ground up.
“One of the key areas is ensuring there is sustainability in the training of teachers and not just cutting them loose after qualifying. We are interested in maintaining these relationships, from a university perspective, and using our alumni network to continue to help our graduate teachers throughout their careers. I’m enjoying working with the university’s teacher training team very much and on our policy work with the APPG. Hopefully we will soon see it start to make a difference.”