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A teacher's perspective - Bob Hindle

My name is Bob Hindle and I teach economics at Bolton Sixth Form College, which is in Greater Manchester, in the North of England.  I am also Senior College Manager, responsible for equal opportunities, the support of our gifted and talented students and other bits and pieces.  The College is attended by students aged between 16 and 19 years, most of whom study with us for two years before going on to university.   We have 1100 students and offer over 40 different courses (, ranging from Economics and Physics to courses in Sports coaching and Computing. Most students take 3 or 4 of these subjects as A levels, which are accepted for entry to all universities in the UK.  Some take vocational courses, that combine study with some form of work experience.

The College is very different to the school environment I attended, having stayed at a school in a comfy middle class part of the UK to the age of 18 to take my A levels.  Many of the students who come to the College are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.  The town of Bolton is full of contrasts, with some of the poorest and richest areas in the UK.  Very few of the parents of our students attended university themselves and know little of the potential benefits of going there.  Students sometimes decide to leave before finishing their course and get a job as they seem to prioritise earning a bit of money today ahead of the possibility of a better job in the future.

Around 50% of our students are from ethnic minority groups.  People from various parts of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh ( as well as other countries) were encouraged to come to the UK after the Second World War, mainly to fill jobs that other people wouldn’t do (such as working nightshifts in textile mills and working on public transport) but also to fill skills shortages, working as doctors and nurses.  Their sons and daughters and grandchildren were born here in the UK and attend the College.  One of the biggest difficulties for them is that many lead parallel lives, following their parents’ traditional culture at home and then a more ‘European’ culture at school and with friends.  Many have boyfriends and girlfriends, whom they have to see without their parents’ knowledge, and some of the Asian girls find it hard to get out of the house in the evenings.  Most of our ethnic minority students are Muslim.  The vast majority see themselves as British, however, and have no sympathy with the radical Islam of Osama Bin Laden and others.

Religion is also quite important to many and, since the ‘War on Terror’, this has presented difficulties.  Some schools in Bolton are faith based- meaning that most or all places there are reserved for Christians- many Muslim and Hindu students therefore end up with places at schools and Colleges where results are below the national average, where it is sometimes more difficult for teachers to control student behaviour.  It also means that groups of British- Asian boys and White boys are together in the same schools: this has brought problems with inter-ethnic fighting in some, though we have worked hard at Bolton Sixth Form College to help different groups of students understand each other’s religion and culture a little further. I find I spend some time going off the economics syllabus to talk about the reasons why things are happening, whether in Iraq, Palestine or Afghanistan.  Many of the students I teach, from whatever background they are from, know little about history or about what’s going on in the world at the moment.

I enjoy teaching students from a range of different backgrounds and abilities and enjoy the satisfaction of trying to turn them round and encourage them to go to university.  Many of our past students have successful careers, such as in medicine and the law.  It’s often stressful and hard work trying to motivate students to do their best but probably worth the effort in the end!

Click here to read an interview with Bob Hindle

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