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Where Are You Now?

Professor George Shield

Professor George Shield

BEd Education 1976

MEd Education 1984

Professor George Shield joined the Sunderland School of Education as a senior lecturer in 1984, and became Dean in 1997 until finally retiring in 2003. He is proud to have completed his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University of Sunderland and of working as a lecturer in the School for nearly 20 years.

He had joined the BEd course at the Polytechnic in its second year of operation, graduating in 1976. However, his initial teacher training took place at Loughborough where he was in the last cohort to gain Qualified Teacher Status after only two years. 

This was immediately followed by a consecutive year in which he gained a Diploma of Loughborough Colleges (many years later he was granted a BSc in recognition of this work) and a Supplementary Certificate of Education.

He then started an in-service degree in Design Education which he never completed as he changed jobs and moved back to the North East.

Talking about the BEd course at Sunderland Polytechnic, he said: “It was the first in-service BEd course in the country and as such was very experimental. As its name suggested, it was for teachers who were already qualified but who hadn't got a degree.

“The course itself was purely based on educational theory, i.e. no 'subject' study. We studied topics in philosophy, sociology, and psychology together with curriculum theory, development and organisation. The programme lasted three years and consisted of two evenings a week and three long weekends each year.

“This course was excellent. It was one of the very few times when, as a student, I really looked forward to going to lectures and seminars. In retrospect I think it was this course that first kindled the idea within me that I might consider a career in teacher education rather than teaching in schools.”

Professor Shield returned to the Polytechnic a few years later as a teacher on the team that developed the Master of Education programme.

He said: “This again was a new format. It was essentially research based with a large element of curriculum development and educational management. This concept of basing curriculum change on research based theories was quite revolutionary but was also useful in that it informed what you were doing in school and why.

“This research based teacher development became a strong movement nationally and the University of Sunderland played a central role in its development. The programme culminated in an extensive piece of research which combined all of our previous work.”

After obtaining a doctorate at the University of York in the 1990s, Professor Shield was appointed Dean of the Sunderland School of Education (formerly known as a Director), something he had never dreamed of.

“I suppose that as often happens in life, I was in the right place at the right time,” he said.

“During my time as Dean what never ceased to amaze me was the quality of the staff and students in the School. The Office for standards in Education, and before them Her Majesty’s Inspectors, consistently awarded us high grades during their frequent inspections and at one point we were rated in the top four of Initial Teacher Training providers in the country joining London and Cambridge.

“This rating of course meant we went from strength to strength building on student numbers and subject programmes until we were the largest provider in the North East.”

But Professor Shield also faced some challenges. He recalls the biggest challenge was balancing the teaching facilities with the demands of the programmes they offered.

“It was not the lack of equipment or quality of resources but more the spread and range of buildings used. At one time we were scattered across the full range of university buildings and also included church and school halls. However, as challenges go this was only minor,” he explained.

Langham Tower has been without hesitation the most emblematic building for the School of Education.

“The building itself intrigued me with its grandeur, which was frequently hidden, and its myriad of hidden staircases and rooms such as the Board Room,” Professor Shield commented.

He added: “Tales from staff who had taught there in the old days were fascinating. For example, when visitors arrived at the building they were greeted by a house maid complete with white apron over little black dress and staff members were served afternoon tea in their common room, all were expected to attend. However these days had been long gone when I arrived.”

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