Meet the Mentors

As a trainee on the SCITT/School Direct programme, you will be allocated a subject mentor with whom you will work with to plan lessons, reflect on your performance and set targets.  One hour per week is set aside for a one-to-one meeting.  All our mentors are highly experienced and very skilled at helping trainees to reach their full potential.

Craig - 8810Craig Holloway, Mathematics Mentor

I started teaching at Dr Challoner’s Grammar School in 1993, having actively chosen to move into the profession after several years in industry. I trained through the traditional University based PGCE route – this was one of the most demanding, but also most rewarding, years of my life. As well as the students, the staff, and the schools, what particularly sticks in my mind are the pieces of practical advice I was given, many of which have had a significant impact throughout my career. This experience played a major part in my decision to mentor trainee teachers, and I have thoroughly enjoyed passing on my own experiences, as well as encouraging trainees to learn as much as they can from all the members of the Mathematics teaching team.

Whilst I am presently Team Leader for Mathematics at Challoner’s, I have been lucky enough to enjoy a wide range of roles during my time with the school. These include being a Sixth Form Head of Year, being responsible for the Options Process in Years 9 and 11, writing the school timetable, and developing and co-ordinating the House Competition. Having held such a range of roles helps me to see things from a variety of perspectives, and has given me numerous experiences to draw on when supporting and mentoring trainee teachers. In my role as a mentor, I have worked in various capacities with trainees on PGCE, GTP and ‘Schools Direct’ programmes over the years, and have helped to interview prospective Mathematics PGCE students for Reading University and Astra.

I find the mentoring process to be very much a two way process in which both parties benefit and learn from each other. It is extremely rewarding to see trainees responding to the guidance given by staff and becoming better classroom practitioners – the ‘Schools Direct’ programme seems to be particularly effective in this regard, creating an excellent partnership between the trainee, the mentor, the School, and the University. On a number of occasions our trainees have gone on to work at Challoner's or at other local schools - always a highly satisfactory end to the process.

As the programme grows, both I and the Mathematics Team, and School as a whole, look forward to working with new trainees in the future. It is very rewarding to not only be educating and helping children develop into well rounded citizens who can contribute to the community, but also to be training and preparing adults for a professional life as a secondary school teacher.


Julie - 8834Julie Whitby, English Mentor

I have been an English mentor for over fifteen years now, working both in a comprehensive mixed school in Oxfordshire and at Dr Challoner’s. I see it as a highlight of my role as an English team member and as a way to remain fresh and energised by the colleagues I am lucky enough to meet and work with.

I began teaching English and Drama in 1994 and have seen many changes to the English curriculum and many ideas and resources go out of fashion and return again. My experiences beyond the classroom have included pastoral responsibilities, being a second in English and Head of Department. For the last five years I have enjoyed focusing on my English teaching and continuing to work as a mentor.

Being a mentor is a fascinating and inspiring process; I find that to watch, help develop and introduce beginning teachers to the classroom is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I am always inspired by the enthusiasm and commitment that new teachers have and it would be impossible not to find this enthusiasm re-energising your own teaching. Every year I meet new colleagues who are worried about their subject knowledge, how they will control a class and manage their new responsibilities. Every year I am impressed by the way that these individuals grow in the classroom and learn from their experiences so rapidly and so creatively. I always feel fortunate to be part of the initial stages of a new teacher’s career and to observe how confidence grows as relationships with students and staff develop and strengthen. Every individual’s journey is different but the process is always impressive to be a part of.

One of my favourite parts of the role of being mentor is meeting colleagues and teachers that I have trained over the years and hearing all of their stories and experiences, all are entertainingly different but one thing remains the same – it is a privilege to be a part of the first steps of someone’s career and see in the first few weeks and months their development and aspects of the fantastic teachers they will become. The main reason I still enjoy mentoring after so many years is that new colleagues enter the profession to be the best teacher that they can become and, along the way, they always teach me something new about how to teach and English as a subject.


MSP_0739Peter Clayton, Art Mentor

Experience is a funny thing. The more of it you have, the less of it you need! As an art teacher of some experience I have had cause to continually re-evaluate my practice to reflect the shifting pedagogy of the day - but the one thing that doesn't change is the value of your relationship with the students that you teach and the staff that you collaborate with. If someone were to ask me why I do my job, the answer would always be 'because of the students' and then 'because of the staff'. They are the constant in the shifting sands of educational reform and it is this people centred approach that defines my role both as a teacher and as a mentor in the Astra Alliance.

As a subject specialist in Art I aim to run a lively, innovative department that gives structure to the creative process and builds experiences that are age and ability appropriate. The key practical skills are taught in a way that allows for personal interpretation by teachers, enabling ownership of the curriculum whilst ensuring a consistency in terms of core values. I expect my team to share a common vision but encourage them to seek individuality of approach. This promotes diversity of response from our students and avoids the imposition of a ‘house style’ on our practical outcomes.

Teaching in a selective school has more advantages than disadvantages and our students are demanding and receptive. They respond well to creative challenge, and respect work that blends high level skill with conceptual challenge, alongside tradition and innovation with old and new technologies.

A supportive atmosphere of mutual respect underpins the ethos of the Art Team, as does an ability to be a reflective practitioner. As teachers we encourage risk in the classroom but share the common ground of success and failure with a real sense of equality.

My experience of being a mentor has been entirely positive - I have found working with people new to the profession to be both challenging and refreshing. Each new face brings its own voice to the classroom. The process of mentoring is mutually developmental and has caused me to clarify and define what it is that 'experience' can contribute, whilst enabling me to appreciate the value that new thinking can add to the mix.   The ‘experience’ of your first year in teaching is a massive learning curve – but it most definitely doesn’t stop there!