How I got to here
Posted on January 2, 2021
I knew I would be working in education, probably as a teacher, from the age of 3 after starting nursery. (My dad oft tells of his visit to pick me up as a surprise and the teacher asked him not to go in yet as I was ‘reading’ to a group of friends on the carpet with the staff quietly tidying up around me!)
This ambition stayed with me all the way through my primary and secondary school life, and whilst completing my A Levels I was often found as a volunteer in the EYFS/Y1 classes of the local primary school. However, I did not want to complete a BEd and go straight from school to university to school (as a teacher). Instead I opted for a four year BA(Hons) in American Studies, completing my third year in a university in upstate New York. (what an amazing experience that I still cherish). Then on competition of this degree I took a year ‘off’ from education, instead working in a range of settings to ensure that teaching really was where I wanted to be (it was!). I then completed my PGCE at the University of Hertfordshire, with a specialism in EYFS so that my qualification covers 3 year olds to 11 year olds.
I was now a teacher, and loving it! I spent three years in a two form entry primary school with a nursery in Bishops Stortford and then decided to leave ‘the south’ and go to wonderful Yorkshire, landing in Sheffield. After a term of supply teaching I started a very fruitful and enjoyable stint in a two form entry primary with nursery on the outskirts of the city. Here I discovered that although I love being in the classroom, I wanted to do more for the children and my colleagues. I became the safeguarding Lead (then called the Child Protection Lead Teacher) and a year later became the SENDCo. I loved the collaboration, the learning, the achievements and the sheer unexpectedness of what these dual roles brought into my life. However, I did not enjoy the stress, the frustrations, the anxiety of the wait for support for children, or sharing the strain of the struggles of the families and the sheer weight of paperwork.
I then took all of this experience and in 2011 became a deputy head for a school in a deprived area of Barnsley. This was a ‘non-teaching’ role and I remained the lead for safeguarding, SEND and disadvantaged children. I thought that I would find fully stepping out of the classroom hard, but instead I discovered that supporting families and developing and supporting the teachers and support staff within the school incredibly rewarding. I continued to collaborate in new ways, with play therapists, other leaders, other agencies and also had the opportunity to sit on the safeguarding board that was formed in Barnsley after a disappointing LA Ofsted inspection.
In 2014 I relocated to West Yorkshire, and became the non-teaching Deputy Head of a school in Oldham. Again, I was the lead for safeguarding, SEND, disadvantaged children and I also line-managed the support staff, creating a performance management cycle for them that mirrored the teachers and enabled them to share their strengths and to support the development of their areas of need.
I became actively involved in the SEND hub, the local collab of leaders, and the Behaviour and Attendance Hub within the local authority. In these Hubs and collabs I was involved in creating model policies, guidance and toolkits for staff in primary schools. I worked with colleagues from other schools and agencies and regularly discussed the need for coaching and supervision within educational settings to support the wellbeing of staff, to increase retention and ensure that staff were being fully supported to be the best they could be in the classroom.
In 2017 I became the head of the school. I set about revitalising the curriculum, embedding coaching through my performance management methods and trying to ensure that the school was a happy and healthy place for the children, staff and community.
This year I made the decision to leave my role as headteacher and I want to continue my journey to change the culture within education to ensure that all staff have a safe and healthy place to work, that they are valued, celebrated and supported and that the process of supervision, which is common in health and social care, becomes a cornerstone of practice for education settings. Coaching and supervision has a direct positive impact on wellbeing, retention, absence management and classroom practice and I truly love delivering it!