Teacher of the Week

Michelle France : Programme Leader Applied Science


My mum and dad both had science backgrounds, with dad being a Technician in the Electronic Measurements Department in the University of Strathclyde and my mum was a nurse. They both encouraged me and my brother to have an interest in Science as a career.

I had quite a number of other interests at school including Music, Geography, Drama and Art. I could have had a career in any of these areas but I was very practical with my approach to a decision of my ultimate career. I knew that Science careers enable you, on the whole, to earn more money than those in the arts. I decided to do Music, Drama and Art as my hobbies and concentrate on Science for my career.

As with many students at school, I was interested in doing Veterinary Science. I was not very good at exams and so this was not going to be a realistic goal. I knew that I was interested in working within the farming sector as this was an area where I felt that there was a good future as all people need food.

My first teaching role was to come in 1988 when I worked as a General Farm Worker at the Scottish Educational Farm 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival.  This was part of my work placement for college. Those 6 months were some of the most enjoyable of the life at the time. The job involved all the normal types of work with the animals but also some teaching of the public. I really loved it. The look on the faces of the children when you were telling them some interesting facts was priceless.

I completed my HND in Agriculture in 1989 and began to look for jobs that interested me. My first job was as a Lecturer in Animal Science in Surrey. I got a job to cover a staff member who was on maternity leave. This was only for a year. I found that the teaching was something that I found stimulating in terms of scientific interest and the fact that no two days were ever the same.

During my time in Surrey I joined the Territorial Army and this became my main hobby until 2008. This in itself developed my confidence, fitness and enabled me to become qualified in a number of areas such as Range Management, Firearms Coaching and First Aid.

I decided to make the decision to attend the University of Glasgow and gain my BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Botany. I then topped this off with my PGCE in Secondary Teaching. My first teaching role as a qualified teacher was in Carlisle as a Biology teacher. After a number of years I moved to the Isle of Man and then became head of Biology in a School in Cumbria. Through all these years my interest in Science was constantly being challenged and updated. I joined West Cheshire College in 2011 and have been teaching here ever since.


Why is West Cheshire College a great place to be?

The staff and students are all fantastic. The staff all have their own skills, interests and varied backgrounds. You get to mix with staff from engineering, English, Maths and other courses. 

The students in Applied Science are also great to work with. The department has a caring approach to every student and we try and sort academic and pastoral problems. By the end of the courses we do know the students very well and it's always rewarding to give them a ‘thank you’ BBQ at the end of the year.

Tell us a bit about the Applied Science courses at West Cheshire College.

We do a number of different courses within Applied Science. There are Apprenticeships in Dental Nursing and Pharmacy, HNC/HND in Applied Biology, level 3 Applied Science courses in Forensic and Medical Science and level 2 Applied Science . This year we added AS and A2 courses to the department. The courses all have a good uptake and most students will go on to a career related to or involving science. Throughout the course the students are given many opportunities to improve their confidence, practical skills and scientific knowledge.

What is it like to study Applied Science at West Cheshire College?

A typical Applied Science student will be at college 3 days a week. They will have sessions which will involve activities to try and help them to understand topics, practical activities which may be assessed and help to improve their skills such as presentations interview skills, CVs and applying for University. We have tutorials which try and cover topical areas such as Misuse of Drugs and Alcohol and Bullying. Practical activities are determined by which course they are on but might include examination of model buildings to see the effects of fire on them or looking at physiological investigations into aspects of health.

What is the teaching team like on the Applied Science course?

We have staff from a wide range of backgrounds. Sara Andrews is Chemistry and Forensic Science, Katie Whiteman is Biology and Environmental Science, Dave Nash is Physics and Maths and Heather Backstrom has a background in Psychology. We are linked by 2 things – our passion for Science and our determination in making sure the students enjoy their time in College. We're very passionate about helping our students move onto careers in Science and do everything we can to ensure they remain motivated and excited by the subject.

Click here for more information on studying Applied Science at West Cheshire College Chester campus.