At only twenty-six and in his second teaching post, Edward Vickerman was named Outstanding New Teacher of the Year in the annual Teaching Awards, held at the Theatre Royal in London in October 2009.
His passion, commitment and inventive approach to learning have raised exam grades and aspirations among his pupils at Freeston Enterprise & Business College in Normanton. He has inspired pupils, colleagues and inspectors alike, continually confounding expectations of himself and his students.
Edward has impressed everyone he encounters because his teaching has not been restricted by accommodating his dyslexia. Instead, the different approaches he has adopted have proved liberating, engaging learners in a dynamic way through role play. His Plato Award was presented by model Jodie Kidd, who spoke of how her own struggle to overcome the undiagnosed dyslexia that had left her leaving school with little in the way of confidence and qualifications, underlining Edward's own achievements and his importance as a role model.
Edward's infectious enthusiasm and undoubted ability gained him recognition and a bright future in his previous spell in hospitality. While on placement for his Tourism & Hospitality Management degree at hotel chain Ramarda Jarvis, his results were so phenomenal he was named UK Salesperson of the year in 2003. Despite his success, Edward was a man on a different mission.
"I absolutely loved hotels, but I knew I just had to teach. I had some appalling teachers at school that didn't understand dyslexia. My brothers and dad are also dyslexic and had faced the same problems. My dad was actually told he was stupid as a child. I was lucky because I had parents in a million who gave me lots of support, but other kids aren't so fortunate. I was determined to go back and change the school system to help others."
However gaining admission to a PGCE/QTS course provided an object lesson in the very inequalities Edward wanted to address by becoming a teacher. "Without Bradford College I would not be teaching. I asked different training providers and they all said, 'No. You can never be a teacher with dyslexia.' I was very lucky to have found my tutors at Bradford College who refused to see barriers, just solutions. I was so grateful for the great training they gave me that I invited my tutors Jill Powell and Joanne Courtney to the Awards ceremony.
Teaching involves a heavy element of writing. I employ the same strategies I have used for twenty-six years. Teachers have traditionally been people who have done well at school and university, so they support an exam based system. More diversity is needed to reflect pupils' experiences. More people like me need to come in and show that there are other ways of doing things. I never wanted to teach in a leafy lane school but somewhere more difficult."
Edward is delighted to have won the coveted Plato award, but feels that this is also recognition for others. "I have been singled out, but I work with an incredible team of staff and students. But the award gives me a platform and a voice." Edward has experienced constant media attention since his win and has seized every opportunity to articulate his ideas and platform for change. He will not be resting on his laurels but is ambitious to do more.
"I am 100% certain that I want to be a head teacher. I love teaching but I want the amount of influence I could have in that role to shape the school." He has already been promoted. "I am now Director of Business and Enterprise. I want to move away from very academic pathways and the distinction between very academic and very vocational .Just because someone cannot write down doesn't mean they cannot do a presentation. If you let a child succeed in a different way, you can build on this success. If you constantly make them go down the same route of assessment, if they fail, they constantly fail. Let a child understand they can achieve and then reintroduce writing. The current school system is not delivering what industry wants. On a Business Studies course you need to learn how to deal with people, real situations, problem solving, how to communicate with others and influence them. You can transfer this to any situation in the workplace."