My career story: Dave Darwent

SET member Dave Darwent works in the teacher Education Department, Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University. He explains all about his career story to date.

Dave Darwent 96

How long have you been working in the education sector?

More than 20 years. 

What does being a member of SET mean to you?

I see SET (and the ETF) as being the first ever attempt to represent the Life Long Learning Sector in the same was as the HEA represents HEI’s. Unlike the GTC and even the IfL, SET is an opportunity for genuine peer-reviewed standards to be developed, supported, applied and monitored. Such standards have value and meaning because they are created by specialists in the sector, not detached bodies who do not have current expertise or experience in the sector. SET offers genuine training, support and guidance, which is directly related to my research interest around praise and engagement of learners, because too many teachers (in all sectors) only ever experience unconstructive criticism themselves, and so it can hardly be surprising that they too infrequently give constructive praise to learners.

Why did you choose teaching/training as a career and how did you get into it?

Prior to training as a teacher I worked for 8 years in retail, where from a very early stage I trained new staff and was an accredited assessor for (what was then) YTS run NVQ’s in retail. Managers soon started to tell me that I was “wasted” in retail and should work in teaching and training. Initially I trained as a teacher of Mathematics in the secondary sector (qualifying in 1997). From the earliest days of my teaching career I mentored trainee teachers and worked in challenging schools and other settings where teacher innovation and resilience were key to everything we did. I quickly became Head of I.C.T. and Senior Mentor Co-ordinator for trainee teachers across the whole school. After a few years I moved to be Deputy Director at a Sixth Form College in the 3rd most economically deprived postcode in the UK and the most economically deprived outside Greater London. I continued to be Senior Mentor Co-ordinator and also started to work very closely with Sheffield Hallam University from where all of our trainee teachers came. Whilst in this role I developed a keen research interest around re-engaging disaffected learners who had come through their whole compulsory education experience with little or no experience of success or praise. After eight years in this role I moved to work in my present position, having received letters of special mention for my successful work with trainee teachers.

What achievement are you most proud of?

During my first year of teaching in a Sixth Form College two 19 year old students wrote to the Principal of the college to thank him for employing me and stating that until I taught them, not one teacher in all their education experience had cared about or nurtured them and that, because of my attitude towards them, these two young men now aspired to University – the first members of their families ever to go to a HEI. These two gentlemen are now successful graduates and post-graduates and regularly update me on their career developments.

What has most surprised you about your career?

How influential I am told that I am in terms of supporting learners and “turning them round” – i.e. successfully re-engaging them. I have been nominated for Inspirational Teaching Awards at SHU, which astonished me because I just thought I was doing my job to a satisfactory standard.

What are your hobbies?

Gardening, baking, walking/hiking, restoring pre-war domestic appliances.

Tell us one thing about yourself, not related to work

I open my garden for The National Gardens Scheme to raise money for nursing and caring charities.

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