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MasterPlan meets Matt McLain, LJMU’s award winning leader of secondary teacher training. Matt McLain has been busy recently winning a prestigious award and drafting content for the new GCSE and A Level qualifications. It may come as some surprise then that this leading light in the world of education once vowed never to become a teacher.

“My role involves teaching trainee teachers, going out to schools observing their training and working on programme development,” Matt explains. “I am also doing my PhD, looking at teacher modelling and how skills are demonstrated.” Early this year Matt travelled to London to the annual Design and Technology Association awards in London. These peer nominated awards saw Matt walking away with the Teacher Training Design and Technology award. “It was a real honour and great to have been nominated by those I work alongside,” he says. “My role at LJMU has enabled me to extend my professional network, engage with other teachers and gain a clear understanding of best practice in the field.”

Matt, from Cookstown in County Tyrone, originally moved to Liverpool to study Architecture. His choice of career, however, was somewhat removed from the family norm. “Teaching was a way of life for our family,” he smiles. “My dad was a lecturer and my aunts, two uncles and two cousins were teachers. Indeed, looking back through the generations, there were many educators.” Keen to plough his own furrow, however, Matt declared that he would not be following the family tradition. Teaching was not for him.

It is this best practice that LJMU passes onto its trainees through its range of PGCE and PGDE programmes. “We have a personal approach to teacher training,” says Matt. “We have high expectations in terms of engagement and expect students to think about research and incorporate it into their teaching.”

“I was in the last cohort to study at LJMU when it was a polytechnic,” explains Matt. “I graduated in Architectural Studies and had a great time here. The only problem was that, as I finished my studies, the building sector recession was just taking hold.”

So, what makes a good teacher? “Obviously you need passion,” he explains, “but that’s not enough. You need to want to share your knowledge with young people and that doesn’t mean dumbing down but breaking your knowledge into its component parts. Patience and resilience are key.”

Matt took a year out to work in an addiction rehabilitation centre. Within no time he was co-ordinating the education and training programmes available to the centre’s clients and slowly realising that he really enjoyed that aspect of the job.

“As a teacher you are part of a child’s journey into adulthood. Teaching is not about creating replicas of yourself, it is about creating the whole child and giving them a better understanding of the world around them. That said, if your students do decide to follow in your footsteps and specialise in your subject, that has to be a bonus.”

It seemed that family tradition was just too strong to resist and Matt decided to train as a teacher. On graduation, he worked for 11 years in two schools in the St Helens area as a Design and Technology Teacher, an Advanced Skills Teacher and Assistant Head of Year. He joined LJMU in 2009, working as a teacher educator and later became leader of the University’s secondary programmes.

Looking to the future, Matt plans to finish his PhD in the next two years. “I never want to lose the teaching element of what I do,” he says. “I do, however, want to get more involved in research and make a real impact on subject development and teaching in general.”


Masterplan magazine  

Preparing for postgraduate study at LJMU