Guests gave her lessons ‘wow factor’ but they ‘must not replace teachers’

A SCOTTISH teacher voted the best in Britain after inspiring her pupils with a range of guest speakers has rejected the idea of introducing regular “external experts” into classrooms.

Christine Emmett won the award last year after judges heard she managed to captivate her pupils “like a pied piper”.

But despite inviting farmers, a stamp collector and even a car salesman to talk to her pupils, the teacher said she did not support proposals put forward in the controversial McCormac report for introducing external experts into schools.

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The 52-year-old, who has spent 29 years at St Elizabeth’s Primary School in Eddlewood, Hamilton, said she was concerned that the proposals would lead to a reduction in teacher numbers.

Published in September, the McCormac report made a series of recommendations, including allowing schools to use people from the wider community to take lessons without a teacher present, a decision that would ultimately be taken by the individual school’s headteacher.

Mrs Emmett said that while she encouraged close links with the community, her school invitations to local business leaders were a different arrangment from Prof Gerry McCormac’s recommendation.

She said: “What he wants is for external experts to be brought in on teachers’ time out of the classroom. I think it would reduce teaching numbers.”

Asked about the comparison with her own system of bringing in guest speakers, she said: “I don’t think it’s the same equation. I don’t want to see teacher numbers reduced and I think you can do both – bring in help from outside and retain teachers in the class.”

The mother-of-two picked up her prize at the Pearson Education Awards after judges described her as having the “wow factor”.

Mrs Emmett was praised for her innovative teaching methods, which included persuading the local Mercedes dealer to bring a £46,000 car to school and add “extras” to the price tag to help her pupils learn about large numbers. In recent months she has invited farmers and a stamp collector into her class to talk to pupils.

She said: “The children really enjoy people coming into the class and the people coming in love it. The farmers could not have brought any more food if they tried.

“There was a rumour going round that I had won the Lottery, so I asked the children what we would buy if I really had. I said ‘we need to know big numbers or we’ll get doodled’, so we got a Mercedes dealer in and he talked about how much the cars cost and all the extras.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “In his response to this report and its recommendations, Michael Russell, Cabinet secretary for education and lifelong learning, made clear that he wanted to consult with key stakeholders to give all of the recommendations full and careful consideration. This process has now concluded and the Cabinet secretary intends to outline the next steps in the near future.”