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Retiring adviser’s pride in Island’s education system

As Paul Craine retires from education, he looks back with pride on the generations of young people whose lives he has influenced and how the Isle of Man has helped them to flourish.

Paul has been Co-ordinating Adviser for 11-19 Education for the Department of Education and Children since 1999 but prior to that he was head of geography and then assistant headteacher at Castle Rushen High School.

For Paul, entering teaching was ‘a natural progression’ after carrying out youth work as well as a means of sharing with students his love of geography – and especially fieldwork.

During six years at Liverpool University he gained a BA in geography, researched the population of the Isle of Man to become a Master of Philosophy and then attained his Post Graduate Certificate of Education.

He began teaching in St Helens in 1979, enjoying five years there before returning to his native Island to work at Castle Rushen.

Paul has 30 years’ experience as an O Level/GCSE examiner – mostly as a team leader supervising other examiners. For 20 years he has been a GCSE reviser, working on the draft exam papers a year before pupils sit them.

A trained Ofsted inspector, he has taken part in inspections in the UK – descending on schools with no notice. He recalls: ‘At one school, there were 18 inspectors and we were instructed to arrive at school in our 18 cars at precisely the same time to demonstrate we were well-organised and meant business. We even had to study a map showing us how to reach the inspection base room without assistance. Frightening!

‘Beyond that, it was fascinating work and I learned a great deal about learning and teaching as well as gathering evidence and providing evidenced feedback.’

Reflecting on changes in education since he entered the classroom, Paul said: ‘In 1988, the National Curriculum was introduced in England and GCSEs replaced O levels and CSEs. In 2001, AS levels became the first half of A level. On the down side, there has been an unhelpful politicisation of education: the introduction of modular assessment across all GCSEs in 2009 and then the decision to revert back to linear assessment in 2013 simply put pupils and teachers through hoops.

‘Information technology (IT) has had enormous impact. I’ve been teaching long enough to remember producing student materials on a “Banda” machine, or spirit duplicator. I remember the excitement when, at Castle Rushen, we learned our new Xerox photocopier could produce back to back copies.’

‘IT has an enormous role to play in preparing young people for the world of work,’ Paul said

‘We are equipping young people for a working future that is likely to be longer than any previous generation and producing young people who can contribute to the community and to future economic growth.

‘Today’s students need employability skills for their immediate future and there is excellent work going on building links with employers on the Island. But these young people may well be working into the 2070s. The pace of change will demand the ability to retrain and take on jobs not yet envisaged.

‘Schools work hard to provide a broad basis of knowledge, understanding, skills and a mindset on which our young people can build.’

The Island’s education system is the envy of elsewhere, Paul said. ‘Last week I spoke with a teacher from the UK who has taken up a post at a local secondary. She said that it was the best school she had ever been in and described the pupils them as “something else – really great young people”. She is delighted to be working here.’

He rejects stereotyping of young people, saying: ‘Many young people in our schools have great attitudes, excellent learning behaviours, outstanding interpersonal skills and an enormous commitment to the environment and the community.

‘Time spent with young people is energising. When they come across social injustices, global poverty or environmental problems they see these through fresh eyes and their engagement with the issues is a real challenge to those of us who have lost that freshness of view.’

Looking back on his proudest achievements, Paul says: ‘I know how hard we have all worked to secure record results at both GCSE and A level in 2015 and I’m proud of that. As an adviser, I’m proud that we have had the courage to break from the GCSEs in England so that we can retain elements of coursework and ensure that if the student reaches the standard, they will get the grade. But I’m also proud of the achievements of the young people that I taught, some of whom are now working in senior positions in all areas of life, on and off Island.’

Presenting exam results to media, Paul is repeatedly asked one question: are exams getting easier. He maintains: ‘No – but teaching has improved as have textbooks and online resources. Everest is not getting any lower but more and more people climb it each year, helped by better knowledge, training and equipment.’

Life will be no less busy for Paul in retirement. He plans to publish a book on the population of the Isle of Man. And he and his wife Ann are planning their first visit to the USA.

Paul said: ‘On retirement next Friday (30th October), I will have completed over 31 years working for the Isle of Man Government without a single day’s sickness absence. I have been very fortunate, I know – but I am a little proud of that, too.’


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