Friday, 28 September 2007

Another of our great successes is the work that Monica Tomkiss has led working with our support staff to build learning pathways for them. I attended the latest HLTA event last week which was brilliant and Monica told me about the work with the university. I asked her to send me more details...

"Chris, At the HLTA celebration on Monday evening you asked me to write to you with some more details about the positive way in which Leeds University approaches Foundation Degrees . When this years cohort of Teaching Assistants completing Foundation Degrees graduated in July, they received their degrees as part of one the many Graduation ceremonies which the University hold each July.

When the University invited me to attend the graduation I expected a separate small ceremony such as the one we attended at Trinity and All Saints last year. Instead I found myself participating in a full formal University Graduation event . The students graduated as an integral part of the School of Education alongside graduands receiving the full range of Degrees (Ph.D M.Ed B.A etc) complete with proud parents of these! I have graduated three times from Leeds University and the ceremony provided for the Foundation Degree students was identical to these occasions in every respect. In her speech. the pro Vice Chancellor even made a special mention of those who had combined their studies with full time employment.

I was very impressed by how much an integral part of the University the Foundation Degree students have become. Unlike some other HEI s locally, Leeds University does not need the Foundation Degree student numbers to thrive, survive or remain viable and, in its desire to uphold standards, is frequently accused of being remote, elitist, inflexible and only interested in the 'traditional' type of student. The experience of the Foundation Degree students, both at the ceremony and talking to them generally, and as part of the evaluation I undertook during the summer does not reflect this stereotype. The students, mostly Teaching Assistants, say they are well supported and feel part of the University. They understand that the University will not compromise on standards and therefore expects them to work hard. They value this challenge and rise to it.

Most of them have spent all their lives in Leeds and never thought they would go to University at all, and certainly not Leeds University. As one, very emotional and proud, man put it to me at the reception after the ceremony speaking of his wife- a Teaching Assistant in a Leeds school '' I can't believe this is happening. I'm so proud. I never thought anybody connected with me would come here and I would be at a 'do' like this''. That alone made my job worthwhile!

It occurred to me that the positive experience of the Leeds Teaching Assistants should be passed on to the 'powers that be' at the University . I assume you are in contact with Michael Arthur, so if you think it appropriate please will you pass on the positive comments and thanks. I expect like most other people he receives 1 compliment to every 9 complaints so maybe he would value some positive feedback. I will send you a copy of the Graduation ceremony programme in the mail- you might be interested in which Leeds colleagues graduated. Monica"

Our relationship with the university has blossomed over the last few years and it is wonderful to hear about things like this.

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