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Changing student experience - 1970s

After the innovation of the 1960s, the 1970s were a time of upheaval. Questions were being asked on a national level about the purpose and quality of teacher training which would have an impact locally. It became clear teacher training would have to become more closely aligned with the higher education sector. Following long discussions, and not without a little pain, the decision was taken to merge with the University of Warwick in 1978 and become the Faculty of Educational Studies with around 1200 students.

Louise MacCarthy (née Hogarth Certificate in Education 1972-75) has happy memories of College:

  Louise – 3rd from left, top row

It was a good grounding for my career; I thoroughly enjoyed my time and loved the opportunities we had such as the Hillfields volunteering programme where we helped in a school that was short on teachers. Thanks to the University’s location, I had the opportunity to go into both an inner city school and a country school.

The facilities at Coventry were particularly appealing to me as it was one of the few teacher training colleges with a pool and music facilities. These in particular supported my main interests outside teaching. Also appealing to me were the catered halls which were very self-contained and had everything we needed. As young people we did not feel totally abandoned at College; when we arrived we were assigned a ‘college mum’ from the year above to welcome and advise us.

I loved the College grounds and that there was enough accommodation for everyone to be on campus. I remember social events which took place as they were all held in one big hall and brought everyone together. My first teaching post was in Wednesbury, Sandwell and then after having two children I moved to Whitecrest Primary in Great Barr, Birmingham. I gained my PG SEN and MPQH qualifications later which have enabled me to become head teacher at my current school in Birmingham city centre.

Teaching has changed so much since leaving College. Now teachers need to know how to deal with parents and children who treat everyone on the same authoritative level. Also needed are IT skills. On the plus side, when we started we had to provide everything ourselves when on a placement in a school. Now resources can be requisitioned.

My advice to those thinking of going into teaching today is to think hard about whether they really want to do it. Teaching is difficult. It should not just be a career option because of not knowing what else to do. It is important to be totally committed.

June Rowe (née Strong Certificate in Education 1972 – 75), at the age of 28, decided to apply for teacher training at Coventry College of Education:

June RoweFollowing my interview with Miss Browne I met three other mature students who lived in Burbage, Leicestershire. We decided to travel into college together each day. It was a ‘bulge’ year for mature students – two groups of 30, led by Mr Lawson, Jean Bond and Mrs Tucker, our Education tutors. We received a grant that just covered our costs and also travelling allowances.

My main subject was English Literature taught by a team of four – Andrew Davies, George Moore, John McLaren and David Hooley. My second subject was Science taught by Mr & Mrs Hilton. Professional courses included English, Mathematics, Physical Education, Arts & Crafts, Music, Drama, Religious Education, Humanities and New Media.

As mature students we had very busy lives. We all had children of similar ages and we arranged, between ourselves, to care for them on a rota basis during school holidays. Our children occasionally joined in our lectures so that we could see at first-hand how they reacted to specific methods of teaching. Our lecturers were very accommodating as College hours fitted in well with home life and of course, we had the holidays!

We all had previous professions and qualifications before applying to College and ranged in age between 26 and 40 years old. Many of us went on to teach in secondary schools as there was not a pool for primary teachers in 1975. I later went back to teach in primary schools.

Some of us went back to Warwick to take a degree. We did this in the evenings after teaching all day. One of my B. Phil modules was ‘management in education’. After teaching for four Local Education Authorities I became a Head Teacher in Coventry for 13 years – retiring four years ago.

I thoroughly enjoyed my chosen vocation and received a great deal of job satisfaction.

Heather Gotting (née Joy BA (Qualified Teacher Status) [Arts Education] 1976- 80) chose Coventry of Education as it was one of the first colleges to offer the relatively new BEd qualification:

Heather Gotting“I did a four year honours course. Coventry was also recommended by my mother, Marjorie Joy (née Peart), who was part of the very first intake in 1948. Furthermore I was attracted by the exchange programme run with Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I was lucky enough to be chosen to take part and spent the autumn semester of 1977 studying and travelling in the USA. It was a fantastic experience.

I returned to some uncertainty about the future of the College. For reasons unknown to the students we had to merge with a larger institution. It was originally proposed that we would merge with Lanchester Polytechnic, now Coventry University. The decision was finally made that we would merge with the University of Warwick which made more sense as we were already doing a degree course approved by Warwick and our physical proximity to the University made for natural expansion.

I remember our lecturers being very unsettled as they were probably having to re-apply for their jobs. As students we were largely unaffected and continued fraternising with the largely male population of the University. Our college was largely female and all my group of friends, me included, met and subsequently married students from Warwick.

I am still teaching after 33 years. I look back with nostalgia to the relatively care-free days of university life and teaching in the late 70s/early 80’s - little government interference and student grants! Teaching jobs however were difficult to find due to a falling birth rate and many of my fellow students found employment outside teaching. I eventually found employment in London.