For the past two years James Oldham has been teaching science at Holland Park School in West London. He talks to James Berressem about his typical day

Holland Park School is a mixed comprehensive with ca 1400 students aged 11-19. James joined as a newly qualified teacher (NQT) enrolled on the National College for School Leadership Fast Track Teacher programme. This five-year programme aims to develop teachers' leadership skills which they use in school. Now a lead teacher, James is part of a science department comprising 13 teachers, four technicians and a teaching assistant. 

Enthusing students about science

Source: James Olddham

James' working day is long - he is in school at 07.15 and does not leave before 17.30. Although a chemistry graduate, he teaches all three sciences to classes of ca 30 students in Years 7-11. He also teaches A2 chemistry. Teaching on average five lessons out of six every day, James needs to be prepared. First thing he reviews his lessons plans for the day's classes. James uses PowerPoint presentations as the basis for his lessons so he spends time finding useful resources - often topical stories, videos and images from the Web - to include in these so that the science is presented in a context that is relevant to young people. James must also risk assess any demonstrations or practical work planned for a lesson. Important to the success of these practical activities is support from the science technician, who James meets once a week to discuss practicals and to submit his orders for equipment.  

Prior to taking morning registration, James meets for 10 minutes with colleagues from the science department, his Year group or all the school's staff. When teaching James aims to enthuse students about science. He strives to give memorable lessons by making them fun and interactive. Students in his Year 9 class, for example, get to act out photosynthesis in a giant plant cell he has drawn on the floor. When teaching is over for the day James reviews how successful lessons were, plans his next lessons and does any necessary admin, eg photocopying handouts etc. He will also mark students' work, providing them with valuable feedback. Once a week after school he also attends a one-hour department meeting.  

James has several other duties at school. He is a tutor for Year 8 and teaches these students PHSE once a week. As a tutor he is on hand to provide students with pastoral support; students with a problem can talk to him during break times. This responsibility can sometimes throw out his daily agenda because students' problems often require immediate action, eg he might need to contact a parent to arrange a meeting to discuss the issue. James also teaches a 30-minute science lesson to three/four students in the school's behaviour strategy centre once a week.  

As a lead teacher, James mentors two NQTs in the science department. Each week he meets with them after school to discuss their experiences and to provide tips on teaching. To inform his end of term report on their progress to achieving qualified teacher status he observes the NQTs teaching a class every other week. He also runs an evening class on lesson planning for NQTs and a 'teachers' community' that shares best practice in teaching and learning. 

Getting the best out of students

James feels lucky to be part of a young, vibrant staff working in an exciting and improving school. He enjoys the challenges of, and rewards from, getting students to achieve their full potential. 

Pathway to success

2006-present, lead teacher, Holland Park School, London 

2005-06, science teacher, Holland Park School, London 

2004-05, PGCE secondary science education, Cambridge University 

2001-04, BSc chemistry with a European language (1st), University College London 

1998-2000, French, chemistry, biology A-levels, Beechen Cliff School, Bath 

This article was originally published in The Mole