Fellow Member Ann Gravells talks about her career and achievements to date.
Where do you work?
I have my own consultancy company: Ann Gravells Ltd. I work as an author, produce teaching and learning materials, and facilitate a course for The Cambridge Assessment Network. I am also a technical advisor for the teacher training qualifications for the awarding organisation TQUK.
How long have you been working in this sector?
Since 1983, so that’s 33 years. It doesn’t seem that long though as all my work has been really enjoyable.
What does being a member of SET mean to you?
It means I am committed to my own professional development in the FE and skills sector, as well as being a professional at what I do.
Why did you choose teaching/training as a career and how did you get into it?
After leaving school, I attended a year long hotel reception course at college, because I told the school careers’ advisor I liked meeting people. There wasn’t a lot of choice back in the 1970s. I enjoyed the course, and it included a three week work placement in a hotel. I was offered a job there after I completed the course and I really did enjoy meeting so many different people. Over time I began training new reception staff on the job. I realised I enjoyed this role so much that I decided to become a teacher.
I then started working as a part-time tutor teaching a hotel reception course. This was in 1983 and, unfortunately, support for new tutors was minimal. I didn’t receive any help regarding creating a scheme of work, planning and delivering a session, motivating learners, and assessing learning. The internet wasn’t available then, so I couldn’t just look something up to find out what to do. I soon learnt from my mistakes and the following year I started to work towards a teaching qualification. Looking back, I think it was this lack of support which has made me quite passionate about helping new teachers with accessible textbooks.
I became full-time after a few years and I loved the role. It was very rewarding knowing that learners were gaining new knowledge and skills because of me. It was also very challenging as I taught the full spectrum of ages from 14–85. Whilst at the college, I saw many changes to the way courses were managed, taught and assessed. Over time, I progressed to a staff development role, training new staff and giving them the support they needed.
I later became the quality systems manager and implemented a cross college ISO based system to help standardise practice. I managed all the external verifier (EV) visits to the college and whilst doing this I was approached to become an EV myself (the role is now known as external quality assurance: EQA). I stayed at the college for 18 years and only left as the college merged with another. This was when I started my own company and I began creating learning materials. However, I missed teaching and therefore took up a part time teaching position in the teacher education department of another college, where I stayed for 10 years. I taught the first group of learners who took PTLLS, and went on to teach hundreds of other new teachers.
Whilst I was working as an EV, I was also co-writing a new teaching qualification for a large awarding organisation. Whilst researching which books to add to the reading list, I realised there was nothing suitable at a beginner level. I therefore decided to approach a publisher with a view to writing one myself. Ten years ago in June 2006, my first publication called ‘Delivering Adult Learning’ was printed. I adapted it for the PTLLS course, and then the Award in Education and Training. I have also written books to support the Certificate in Education and Training, and the assessor and quality assurance units (internal and external). I have had 16 books published, many of which have gone into new editions. I think it’s my style which makes them popular with new teachers; I write as though I’m talking to the reader, in plain English, and I try to make complex topics understandable.
I’ve developed resources for the teaching, assessment and quality assurance qualifications, again written in plain English. They help tutors of the courses, as well as learners. I’m all for helping people, and I know how time consuming it is to create course materials. There are some free examples of the resources on my website. I have also created some free videos for new teachers, which are accessible via YouTube.
My career has also given me the opportunity to work for a few awarding organisations, large and small. I have produced qualification specifications, carried out compliance visits to centres, delivered events nationally and internationally, and trained new external quality assurers.
I still work with learners through The Cambridge Assessment Network, where I facilitate a course for assessors and examiners who need to update their knowledge.
More recently, I have worked with Hilary Read, another author, to produce a book for vocational trainers. We have also delivered events to help people keep up to date with all the changes that are constantly taking place in the FE and skills sector. I feel history is now repeating itself with the removal of the QCF. This means awarding organisations can produce their own qualifications, just like it was when I started teaching back in the 1980s.
What achievement are you most proud of?
I received a Medal of Excellence for teaching, which was presented to me by the politician Ed Balls. However, what really makes me proud is seeing my learners doing well, achieving their qualifications, and working in jobs they enjoy.
What has most surprised you about your career?
I think I’ve been fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time. My career seems to have evolved and I’m surprised at just how much a following I now have. I still feel humble when people tell me how my books have helped them. I love being asked to sign books and to have a selfie taken with someone. I’m also surprised at just how many e-mails and messages I receive via social media, to which I always personally reply.
What is your favourite food?
Noodles – especially mushroom chow mein.
Who is your favourite author?
Tom Sharpe. I like his ‘Wilt’ books as I can relate to Wilt being a college lecturer. Although the books are fiction, I think a lot is based on fact. I often re-read them as they are so funny.
Tell us one thing about you, not related to work.
I have a vegetable plot and I grow everything organically from seed. I find it very relaxing, but also very rewarding, seeing something develop and grow over time – I guess that’s a bit like being a teacher!
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