When observing Jane Hatton in teacher mode with her ’team’ of students at Brooklands College, it’s not hard to see why she’s suited to the job. Despite having a somewhat winding career path herself, the lecturer now steers students at the college in Weybridge, Surrey, towards their future, and her successful results are just part of what won her The Achievement in Bakery Training Award at the Baking Industry Awards last year.
The awards category, sponsored by Rich Products, was a tricky one in which to sell herself, because she wasn’t offering training within the industry, but training at a college establishment. So she had to prove she had achieved results from her students and how it differed from on-the-job training.
When I arrived at the college to meet Hatton, the students were in full swing. VRQ Level 2 bakery students were in one room, loading bread into an oven, finishing off pizza toppings and piping the filling into bakewell tarts, ready to sell at lunchtime in the bakery shop adjacent to the classroom.
In the room next door, sugarcraft students were delicately fixing ’collars’ to their cakes, piping icing or working on their final cake design.
The college’s bakery classes run on Monday and Thursday mornings and Wednesday evening and there is also a learning support group on Wednesday morning; the sugarcraft classes run daily. Hatton says they have had a good intake this year, with 40 bakery and 80 sugarcraft students. She spends her time going around the students, talking through with them any issues they have and giving them advice.
Outside the classroom are a number of display cabinets, filled with students’ past work. Some, Hatton informs me, have been there for years, but she cannot bear to throw them away. One of those on display is Japanese student Yukiko Mori’s winning design in the Renshaw Decorative Class at the ABST conference last year. Hatton explains that the different cultural background of the students has a huge effect on their work; for example, in Japanese culture, everything tells a story, even down to the materials they use. "It has taught me to be very open about colour and design and putting different things together I’d never thought about," she explains.
Figures from the industry occasionally come to the college to do workshops or demonstrations - for example Fermex’s technical specialist Sara Autton recently did a workshop on sourdough, and cake decorator Erica Galvin is to do a chocolate techniques demonstration in May. "It’s about who you know," says Hatton. "It’s important to have strong links with the industry as you can get locked in your own environment. I’m training them for the industry, so I need to know what’s going on out there."
== Career moves ==
When she left school, Hatton had ideas about being a school teacher. However, her career first took her into catering and, later, to work in bakery and as a pastry chef, as well as teaching an evening class, before she started at Brooklands in 2000. "Training within the industry has helped me so much with my teaching," she says. "You even problem-solve in different ways, as you have a lot of experience and knowledge to draw from."
Despite being naturally drawn to teaching, Hatton has a number of strings to her bow and says she’s open to new things. Consultancy work is an area she could see herself suited to if she wasn’t teaching, and she is often asked to do training abroad. But, as with most things in life, there just are not enough hours in the day to fit everything in.
Her application to the awards was partly down to a push by her colleague Sue Haskell. Hatton was preparing for a bakery conference when the application form came through the post. She was unsure at first, but Haskell pointed out that this award is something just for her, that would recognise her achievements and said she should go for it. So she took the information and read through it on the way to the conference, then used the conference itself to network and make contacts, as she needed references as part of her application. "I also had to contact past students to show they were now in the industry and doing well," says Hatton. She says she found it difficult to sell herself, especially as the judges needed her to prove her success and more so because she wasn’t training within the industry. "So to get the award was fantastic. It’s a real honour the more I think back on it. It was just amazing," she enthuses. "My students were all thrilled to bits."
"I bring people from all different backgrounds and different starting points, and I nurture them and their talents and discuss where their strengths are, and then work towards an area I believe would suit them," she explains. "It’s about finding them a place in the industry," she adds. "I’m planting my seedlings out into the big wide world."
She also says she’s not just a teacher, but a counsellor and a friend. "Each person has their own needs, and you get to know all about them and their families and know their problems," she says joking that she "teaches the hormones".
== Going the extra mile ==
The judges commented on her overall passion for training and the industry, as well as her perseverance and willingness to go the extra mile for the profession as reasons for her win.
She says that having past students come back and finding out about their successes is one of the most satisfying parts of the job. She has had three past students come in to say thank you in the last month alone. Another ex-student had her own cake display at the recent Squires Kitchen exhibition - a three-day cake decorating, chocolate and sugarcraft exhibition in Farnham - which Brooklands College students also attended.
Hatton says that, although when she won the award, they already had their students lined up for the new term, it is certainly a great promotional tool for the future. She explains that the intake of students tends to go in peaks and troughs, but the trend this year has been the rise in sugarcraft. "We have got 110 names interested in the courses next year just from attending Squires," says Hatton.
On 20 May, all the sugarcraft students’ work will be on display to the public - all 650 pieces - and it is Hatton’s job to collate all the marks for the year. Not an enviable task, despite the fact the majority of the marking has been done throughout the year.
Hatton says that, if you asked, her students would probably say she was quite strict, but she reckons she has to be, both for her own and the students’ sakes. Plus, she gets results. "I tell them to look at what they’ve done and then you can see the improvement, as some of them just don’t realise when they’ve made a mistake."
Even with the prospect of a bucketful of marking, Hatton says the rewards she gets from her job outweigh the negative effects - such as lack of sleep. Now there’s dedication for you.
=== View from the night ===
"We all wished each other well, and then there was the pause before they announced I’d won. My husband got a great picture of me with my mouth open in shock. It was really nice to have my colleague, Sue, there, as she really understood what it meant for me to have won."
=== What does winning mean to you? ===
"To get the award was fantastic. It’s a real honour, the more I think back on it. It was just amazing."