Meet David David Waugh
David WaughWinner, Best New Teacher in a Secondary School, 1999
Meet Jashu Jashu Vekaria
Jashu VekariaWinner, the Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School, 2016
Meet Jerry Jerry Nightingale
Jerry NightingaleWinner, FE Lecturer of the Year, 2015
Meet Jonathan Jonathan Shields
Jonathan ShieldsWinner, the Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, 2010
Meet Kelly Kelly Wood
Kelly WoodWinner, the Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year, 2010
Meet Dan Dan Buckley
Dan BuckleyWinner of the Award for the Most Creative Use Of ICT, 2003
Meet David David Bennett
David BennettWinner, the Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, 2001
Meet David David Miller
David MillerWinner, the Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, 2008
Meet Ed Ed Vickerman
Ed VickermanWinner, the Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year, 2009
Meet Ingrid Ingrid Spencer
Ingrid Spencer Winner, the Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year, 2001
Meet Stephen Stephen Cabrera
Stephen CabreraWinner, Teaching Award for Enterprise, 2006
Meet Sue Sue Jay
Sue JayThe Award for Excellence in Special Needs Education, 2017

David Waugh Winner, Best New Teacher in a Secondary School, 1999

“My career is filled with such wonderful moments…winning the award was a recognition of the great work of the students I was teaching and supporting.”

David Waugh
Winner, The Award for Best New Teacher in a Secondary School, 1999
Now Headteacher And CEO at Poynton High School and The True Learning Partnership Multi Academy Trust

ON WINNING

Winning the award was certainly an enormous platform for building my career and it allowed me to truly focus on teaching and learning in leadership positions.  Directly because of winning a teaching award I was involved in the planning of Maths Year 2000, planning for the forerunner of Teach First, gained industrial placements, etc.

I started teaching in 1997 as a mathematics teacher at The Beauchamp College (Yrs10 -13) in Leicestershire.  It was in my second year there that I won the best new teacher award.  After winner I moved to teaching maths in a school in Northampton where I became an Advanced Skills Teacher for maths.

Winning didn’t change my career path in the sense that I had already been appointed to my next job.  But after that it gave me access to becoming an advanced skills teacher, a leader of a school centred initial teacher training institution, an advisor for SSAT, etc.

THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

I originally wanted to join the Royal Marines but due to an accident I couldn’t. And so, after my maths degree I decided to try teaching.

I’m now a head teacher of a secondary school and a CEO of a multi-academy trust…so I don’t do much teaching now!?!  I wouldn’t say that my style has changed much.  I still believe in flipped learning, engaging group work and co-operative learning structures.

Pastoral work is without doubt a much bigger part of the job.  The mental health of young people is a significant issue.  It is by far the greatest challenge and barrier that our young people face.  Self-worth, resilience and confidence are the key areas for focus.

Social media can be a very powerful learning tool. It depends on who is using it and for what reasons. It is the root cause of a great deal of bullying between students.  It also has a hugely negative impact on the morale of the teaching profession.

DEFINING MOMENTS 

There is not one moment specifically, but my career is filled with such wonderful moments…winning the award was a recognition of the great work of the students I was teaching and supporting; every school production I have ever attended, every time students come to see me for something; getting the chance to lead Duke of Edinburgh programmes and taking students to Buckingham Palace; supporting students to learn triathlon and coaching them; seeing staff I have supported gain promotion, etc, etc.  Every day, no matter how hard it is, a real privilege to be supporting young people.

I am most proud of being given the great honour of being a school, and its community’s, head teacher.

ADVICE 

Truly, jump in with both feet.  Make sure you have a balance in life, go out, socialise and whatever you do, choose a school which fits your own philosophy.

THE TEACHING PROFESSION 

I’m afraid the challenges that we face within our profession have changed over recent years, and from my point of view as a head teacher they can be summed up as funding, accountability and fear.  In many schools there is true poverty; poverty of resource and poverty of expectation of that resource.  However, no matter what the challenges, it is a wonderful job, there really is no better job in the world.

Brave and courageous leadership of senior leaders is needed to not allow their schools to become slaves to the system, but to choose what it is they want to achieve and set out and strip it all back so that is all your staff focus on.

Jashu Vekaria Winner, the Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School, 2016

“Can you imagine, my passion is my job and I was being rewarded for a job I love?  It was one of my proudest moments!”

Jashu Vekaria
Winner, the Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School, 2016
Currently Deputy Headteacher Uxendon Manor Primary School

ON WINNING

It was wonderful receiving the award as it felt I was the voice for all teachers.  As you can imagine winning such a prestigious award makes you feel both humble and elated. My career began in the London Borough of Harrow in 2002, 16 years later I won the teaching awards while working in the London Borough of Brent.  My passion for teaching remains strong and the award was a wonderful affirmation on rewarding me for a job that I simply love to do.

Following on from the award I was given many opportunities to be on TV, radio, newspapers and even written my own articles. Achievements and experiences beyond my wildest dreams and personal precious moments; these privileges would never have had happened without this award.  My career has taken an upward turn as I have reflected even more as a practitioner and have now completed my National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH).

Teaching for learning is in my blood and the experience does make you question the impact you are having on every single learner.  Striving for excellence for all pupils has always been my aim.  Every child does matter and the many roles as a teacher, carer, nurse, counsellor, negotiator and investigator highlights what a diverse and rewarding career I have the honour to be part of.

Furthermore, this year I was shortlisted for the Asian Woman of Achievement awards for teaching.  During the awards ceremony I received a high commendation.  This was truly a wow moment too as it showed how far teaching has come.  It felt like a corporate event in a very corporate world so to represent the teaching profession was fantastic.

THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

Teaching is my vocation.  It is the very essence of me and I have always wanted to be a teacher from a very young age.  However, it was my first head teacher who noticed my potential when I was a newly qualified teacher.  She really encouraged me and focused her energy on the quiet, shy person I was back then.  Her praise and care, allowed me to blossom and my self-confidence as a teacher grew.  Shortly afterwards, I became an Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) and my role within the school developed, as did my role in the borough – this is when I started in-reach and out-reach work.

My teaching style has adapted to the numerous changes the government throws our way.  I have always had a friendly, relaxed approach with my pupils.  Learning should be fun yet at the same time, progress needs to occur in every single lesson.  This has always been my motivation.

Pastoral care is as old as time in teaching.  This is the heart of teaching.  Of course learners need to learn the academics, however, if a child has come to school without breakfast – we feed them.  He or she has a dirty jumper – we clothe them.  If a child is thirsty or hurt physically or emotionally we take care of them. If these things are not in place – how can a learner learn? It is part of the job, however it is more than a job – it is my life.

Everybody has an opinion on teaching – whether it is positive or negative.  Social media just feeds their ideas – both positive and negative. Linking back to the teaching awards, this was extremely beneficial because it connected me to the world at large.  The sense of achievement felt profound because I felt inspired by all the comments from around the world.  Being Asian, my community (and the wider world) really supported and encouraged me.  Also, being a woman, I feel I have now inspired others.  In life you have to give and take and I believe I education reflects this.

DEFINING MOMENTS 

My most memorable experience in teaching is taking a child with special educational needs to a 5 day residential.  This child (because of his needs) needed to bring his parents.  So that his parents could be part of this amazing, once in a life time experience, I needed to vacate my teacher room and be placed in a hut in the back of the woods (no electricity or running water but extra spiders for special measure)!  However, the look of pure joy both on this child’s face and the parents will be eternally etched in my memory.

My most memorable moment in teaching has to be dancing with Strictly Come Dancing dancer  –  Brendan Cole!  As a ‘treat’ for winning the Teaching Award, the news was broken to me with a surprise guest.  My heart was pounding like an African drum.  Strictly is the best show ever!  However, underpinning this was the emotion I felt as my career flashed before my very eyes… Can you imagine, my passion is my job and I was being rewarded for a job I love?  It was one of my proudest moments!

Many pupils come back and visit me and say I made their educational experience exciting and that they remember me.  I am always so touched and honoured when this happens.

ADVICE 

Be positive! Seek advice! Have fun!  It can be a lonely once you start your career as everybody seems to know what they are doing!  However, there are such wonderful teachers out there who want to coach and mentor as well as take these young teachers under their wings so that eventually they can fly.  This is what happened to me at my school in Harrow and I will be forever grateful for this.

THE TEACHING PROFESSION 

Teaching has been recycled over the years – it is like fashion.  If it’s topical to state children cannot read, then there is a big push on reading.  If writing is not good enough, then there is a big push on grammar.  If we are being compared to China and Singapore, then it’s our maths which needs to change.  We can either embrace the change or we can be negative and despondent with our attitude.  Personally, I will always embrace change as we are all evolving.  Nothing is stagnant – not just in teaching but in life too.

I love teaching! It keeps you young and the children are the heart of it all. The feel good factor of getting up daily for a job you love – nothing can beat it! Realising that you are living your dream is an indescribable feeling.  Knowing that you are teaching the future generation will always give you a natural high.

Ultimately, you need to love this job and you have to want to be here. It can be hard when a child is hurting emotionally.  It can affect family life when you are in school for 14 hours a day.  So to encourage others to stay is a tricky question to answer.  Why would you encourage somebody if they do not want to stay?  I can advise them, coach them, mentor them but at the end of the day it will be their decision.

Jerry Nightingale Winner, FE Lecturer of the Year, 2015

” I am most proud of the fact that it is constantly harder to get rid of students at the end of courses I have run than to get them on them at the start!“

Jerry Nightingale
Winner, FE Lecturer of the Year, 2015
Currently Cycle Maintenance Lecturer at Weston College, HMP Channings Wood

ON WINNING

Winning the award was unexpected but delightful, a reaffirmation of what is done within prison delivery is as good, if not better, than what’s done on the ‘outside’.

I have had several incarnations throughout my life –  dairyman, farm manger, quarry manager, LGV driver to name but a few – so in 2003, at 40 odd, I decided I’d better do something useful and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do a Post 16 Cert. Ed. The teaching practice for this was in HMP Channings Wood, in Devon. Once the training over I was offered a full-time role and “guest appearances” at HMPs  Exeter, The Verne, Portland and Dartmoor.  I’ve been delivering classes at Channings ever since. Then, 31 different courses and 12 years later I was visited by two lovely people who wanted to give me an award.

I’m still teaching the same thing but also have an Advanced Practitioner role to fulfil and am currently a member of the Society of Education and Training Practitioner Advisory group…And I still love most of it (because we never love all of it).

Offender learning is not like any other FE or mainstream provision. Career paths aren’t really relevant in the same way they would be in, say, a school. You are there to teach whatever subject you do, to the best of your ability, and once you hit the pay scale ceiling the only way to go on is to give up what you do best and enjoy, and move into management.

Weston College do have an Advance Practitioner roles within each establishment, and post award, I have slipped into this extra position. My view of the job is still the same – superb staff, doing an exceedingly challenging job behind 5 meter high fences thus unseen by anyone not in ‘the business’, let alone the general public.

It’s one of those roles you do because you can do it. I know that sounds a self-justifying contortion, but it is true. We have had demonstrably brilliant teachers try the role and it’s the rest, the non-teaching stuff, which gets to them. The delayed starts, New Psychotic Substance (SPICE) attacks, the constant need for security, the rules over resources (nothing from the internet without being scrutinised by the authorities which could take 3 months), this, and the men who can be awkward, can wear a person down. For some it is too much, and they feel happier doing something else.

THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

As a conscious decision I didn’t always want to be a teacher but looking back it has seemed I have always been teaching something, somewhere – training staff, teaching friends’ kids how to fix their cars or bikes, even teaching a driving colleague from my LGV days to read using the then new Harry Potter books. In fact, it was the latter that made someone ask would I like to train to teach as a job.

My teaching style changes class to class rather than over the years!  Confidence and experience help you chose what is right quicker, the fact you can change to match an individual learner’s needs is almost a job requirement in multi-age, multi-level, multicultural classes.

DEFINING MOMENTS

One of the best experiences in teaching was getting a 42-year-old to pass his first ever exam and gain his first ever certificate. The most memorable was getting a gold Plato and I am most proud of the fact that it is constantly harder to get rid of students at the end of courses I have run than to get them on them at the start!

ADVICE

Look out for those who think they know what they are doing and constantly tell you this and ignore them, and instead watch those who are constantly engaged with, and by, their learners, and learn how they achieve this.

Those that get fed up with teaching move to management, many won’t have been good at the former and few are good at the latter.

THE TEACHING PROFESSION

Offender Learning Services (OLS) has had a very rapid progression into the 21st century. The days of money for bums on seats is long gone and the prisons, and thus government, are wanting to see results for their money. Now we are the professional body of people that the learners deserve, this wasn’t always the case.

Prison teaching is addictive. The impact can be so important that it makes everything matter.

Picture this – if something I say, do, teach, discuss, question or challenge delays one learner (not even stops, delays!) from re-engaging with the judicial system for one year more than it would have been, then the saving to the exchequer pays my wages and the total running costs of my course for 18 months. Imagine having that sort of impact, because my colleagues and I don’t have to – we do it repeatedly.

To encourage others to stay I would ensure educational staff are under the same level of care as nursing staff. If you get rowdy or rude in A&E the police come and take you away, the same should be true in school.

Also, pay FE staff like mainstream staff. Colleagues with 10/12years experience are still on less than the advertised tax-free bursary for trainee mainstream teachers.

And stop listening to all the educational advisors who say ‘this is good this is bad’, look to the systems which work, India, Singapore, China, and learn from them. (Sorry that means parental input and them supporting the teaching staff, discipline that counts, and most importantly the high value attached to the subjects that drive the economy forward).

Jonathan Shields Winner, the Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, 2010

“Winning the award helped to highlight what I had achieved with my students within the industry. This then provided me with opportunities to share good practice in the UK and abroad, allowing other schools and teachers to replicate that level of success.”

Jonathan Shields
Winner of the Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, 2010
Now Head of Economics and Business at Colyton Grammar School

ON WINNING

Winning the award helped to highlight what I had achieved with my students within the industry. This then provided me with opportunities to share good practice in the UK and abroad, allowing other schools and teachers to replicate that level of success. Since winning the teaching award, I have led over 50 teaching and learning training sessions in places as diverse as Bristol to Bangladesh all with the same solitary aim of trying to improve student outcomes.

It was fantastic to gain some form of recognition. I work very hard to achieve the outcomes that my students generate and winning the award gave me an additional spurt of motivation to push on and try and achieve even greater educational outcomes and explore new initiatives.

The school where I did my PGCE decided to employ me. I started my career in 1996 at Leeds Grammar School and won my teaching award when I was Head of Sixth Form at Plymouth College in 2010.

THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

I grew up in Doncaster, South Yorkshire at the time when the mining industry started to collapse. I had an excellent teacher who recognised the importance that education would play after the collapse of heavy industry. The ability to influence and shape young people at a time when you can have a tangible outcome on their future success means that it is a job which is incredibly valuable. However, the job does not generate instant payback/gratification. I’ve lost count of the number of students who have come back and thanked me in their twenties for the approach I took with them when they were a teenager. That is when you realise the true value and importance of what you are doing.

Invariably external factors change which means you need to update your teaching style. For instance, I am trying to incorporate AR into lessons at the moment and increase the amount of student-led challenges. However, I believe the core art of teaching remains being passionate about what you do, being motivated and showing your students that their success is also your success. You have shared goals. Use of humour also plays a large part in my lessons. You can achieve great outcomes when the students are on your side. It always disappoints me when I see teachers using too much ‘stick’ rather than ‘carrot’ in their approach to motivating young people. Young people should not be dragged towards getting results, they will always achieve more when they want to do it for themselves.

When I was Head of Sixth Form, I spent a large proportion of my time dealing with pastoral problems. I’m not sure that it is a bigger job now than it was before. It is just that teachers are in a better position to notice more potential situations and have the training to deal with them more effectively. I would say pastoral care does play a bigger role just because the quality of pastoral care has improved immeasurably since I was at school.

Lots of commentators have focused on the negatives of social media in education and all of this is true. However, social media also provides an amazing way to quickly share good practise and ideas. Like everything, it can be a powerful tool for good, but also has the potential to be mistreated.

DEFINING MOMENTS 

In 2010, my 24 mixed ability students managed to achieve 100% A* at A level with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th highest marks in the UK. It is as close to the perfect educational outcome that a teacher can ever achieve. I felt at the time it vindicated my approach to seize upon sources of marginal improvement in my teaching.

I am most proud of helping students to achieve life changing educational outcomes in public exams. My students have achieved UK first places 14 times, spread across 2 schools, 3 qualifications and seven different syllabi. Now I’m at my third school – I’m still trying for number 15!

I am also proud of my students winning national business competitions. My students have won 16 UK titles including Young Enterprise and Student Investor.

I was Tom Daley’s Head of Sixth Form. It was amazing to see such a focused young man achieve so much, both academically and in the sporting arena, at a time when he had a lot of emotional trauma to cope with. He is an inspirational young man, who does what he does, without any trace of arrogance.

ADVICE 

Always keep your main focus on your students. There will be times when you are asked by your line manager to do things that have no impact on student care or outcomes. Do not spend large amounts of time on this. My mantra has always be spend the most time on the area with the highest potential for improvement in outcomes. ‘Work smarter, not harder’ is what I would say to an NQT.

Look for ways to generate marginal gains in outcomes that can be quickly put in place, by questioning what you do and why you do it. Small changes in your approach can multiply up to generate significant improvement in outcomes. This is how I have managed to generate the success that I have. I look for lots of small ways to improve – which collectively allow you to significantly improve student achievement. Never underestimate the importance of reflection and self-criticism and be willing to ask for advice from seasoned professionals. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – it is a sign of strength.

THE TEACHING PROFESSION 

There is now much more focus on data and performance. Purist teachers dislike this. I have a different view. Data should be ‘the slave, not the master’ and it can be used to drive forward educational outcomes, if used correctly, and in a non-invasive way. Careful analysis of data has shown me where I should focus my efforts and has allowed me to drive forward student outcomes.

Teaching is hard work, there is no doubt about that. However, the non-financial rewards can be very satisfying. I have actually sought demotion and have dropped down to being a Head of Department from being Director of Learning just so that I can re-focus on the core art of teaching. I wish more senior leaders would follow my lead since this has certainly given me a fresh insight if I were to re-enter school leadership. Teaching is a job where 3.35pm comes incredibly quickly. I would hate to be in a job where you are clock watching and waiting for the day to end.

Whilst I believe that teachers should be held accountable for their outcomes, I would like to see more collaboration and sharing of good practice amongst staff. I would like to see teachers take risks and experiment with new ideas in the classroom and be encouraged to do that without the worry that it could damage the results of students. Collaboration in a no-blame environment would go a long way to reassure teachers that what they are doing is valued.

Kelly Wood Winner, the Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year, 2010

“One of my main priorities is to ensure a happy staff team who feel respected, loved and supported. A staffroom with laughter is very important to me and if you can achieve this, great things can happen.”

Kelly Wood
Winner Of The Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year 2010
Now Head of Primary, Rounday Primary Campus, Leeds

ON WINNING

It was such an honour to win the award at such an early stage in my career. I will always be eternally thankful for the amazing opportunities which followed and how this has impacted positively on my career. I thoroughly enjoyed judging for the Teaching Awards and being able to network with such great people which added greatly to my growing skill-set and passion for leadership and management. I knew I would always remain committed to the mission of securing great success at the school where my career started, but since leaving there I have worked as an Academy Improvement Partner and now I am the Head of Primary of a large through-school in Leeds.

My career started off in a wonderful Junior School in Wakefield in 2008, with the most inspirational Headteacher as my mentor. I was awarded the New Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2010. I was promoted to the Assistant Headteacher at the same time and was proud to support the school’s journey to outstanding in 2012.

Winning the award was an amazing experience and celebration for me personally, but also our wonderful school community. I stayed at the school as the Assistant Headteacher until the Headteacher retired and I then went onto new challenges. The whole process brought many amazing experiences and opportunities ranging from speaking at the World Education Summit in Qatar to Noel Edmonds entering my classroom and inviting me to go on LIVE Deal or No Deal (I don’t like to talk about the outcome much!). I have always loved teaching and winning the award made me even more motivated to make a difference and inspire, engage and challenge young people. I look back at the start of my career with great pride and gratitude as I couldn’t have wished for a better start to my career.

THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

From a very young age, I knew I was born to teach. My Year 2 teacher, Julie Day, who I later had the pleasure of working with during my time as an Academy Improvement Partner, inspired me the minute I met her. I worked hard at school and university to achieve my very best as this was the path for me.

My teaching style has always been rooted in 3 basics…to engage, inspire and challenge. Over the years, as the curriculum has changed, it certainly has evolved. I believe passionately in a secure balance of enjoyment and passion versus excellence and rigour. I now support teachers to use simple lesson mechanics which support accelerated progress for all children whilst allowing teachers to sprinkle their magic to ensure rich learning experiences. We focus on the main thing and do not allow ourselves to be distracted from this.

Working at my current school, I have seen first-hand the enormity and importance of high-quality pastoral care in schools. Teachers play a crucial role in shaping children’s futures and given the challenges of modern life more work is needed now to ensure that all children are ready and fit for their future. Children need to feel safe and secure and the most important ingredient in school is positive relationships. Great teachers get this right! They model great relationships between every adult in the school (including the caretaker and cleaners) and every pupil and they also expect the same courtesy and respect between their pupils. It is only when those relationships have developed that true, highly effective pastoral care can happen.

Social media has impacted in so many ways. It has helped share best practice, raise awareness and celebrate the amazing work that is happening in schools. I follow some inspirational people and have been able to connect and network with people who have helped me transform the school where I now work which has been amazing.  I also feel that it has added to the growing concerns over mental health and psychological wellbeing. We now live in an environment where we can access information immediately and this has led to children and young people wanting everything right now and never fully being content. There are huge lessons to be taught from this which needs to be integrated into school culture and curriculums.

DEFINING MOMENTS 

Too many! I look back with pride at many amazing moments from leading large-scale shows, inspiring boys and girls to dance and many have now embarked on a career in dance to leading on transformational change as the Head of Primary. My biggest mission is to work with people and children to create the best possible experiences for our young people and this makes the job rewarding and memorable!

I am proud of so many things…At the moment, I have to remind myself that at the age of 32 I became a Head of a Primary phase and undertook a huge challenge to drive rapid, whole-school improvements which has been intense but very rewarding. We are now starting to secure better outcomes and realise the school’s potential.

There are so many pupils who will always stay with me…There are still some students who I stay in contact with who have gone on to achieve great things which makes me feel very proud!

ADVICE 

I’d advise a newly qualified teacher the following – FOCUS, OPTIMISIM AND RESILIENCE. Focus on the main and important things, approach the job with optimism and enjoy being a teacher and develop your resilience so that you can create a sustainable way of working which allows for a healthy sense of balance.

I had the best start to teaching and certainly learnt from the best. I now have the pleasure of passing this onto the NQTs in my school who are thriving and enjoying their work.

THE TEACHING PROFESSION 

There have been many changes in the profession since I have been teaching and I have learnt a lot along the way. I think it is important, amidst all of the changes, to remind yourself and others of why we do what we do. I can sleep well at night knowing that everything I do and decide upon is always in the best interest of the pupils.

It makes me feel sad to think that great people leave, and are leaving, the profession. As a leader, one of my main priorities is to ensure a happy staff team who feel respected, loved and supported. A staffroom with laughter is very important to me and if you can achieve this, great things can happen.

Yum, yum Fridays is a must if you want to encourage staff to stay!!! Staff need to feel clear of expectations (know the goal posts), feel supported in order to achieve these expectations and feel recognised and listened to…create a happy environment and the rest will follow

Dan Buckley Winner of the Award for the Most Creative Use Of ICT, 2003

“After winning the award the comments from staff, parents and particularly the students had a profound impact on me.”

Dan Buckley
Winner of the Award for the Most Creative Use Of ICT, 2003
Now CEO Smart Multi Academy Trust SE Cornwall

ON WINNING

After winning the award the comments from staff, parents and particularly the students had a profound impact on me.  Teaching is such a frantic profession and you don’t get chance to take a breath and reflect as much as you should.  Having had the teaching awards do the reflection for me was excellent and made me realise the potential scope of the work I was doing.

The award resulted in opportunities to present my ideas to a wider audiences and the confidence to do so. I was never previously keen on public speaking but these opportunities to tell my story changed that and began to be asked to provide key notes at events.  As a result I was ‘head hunted’ by a consultancy company.

I had been applying for Headship roles in larger schools but the offer from the consultancy company changed my direction and I did 8 years as a consultant, raising to the position of international director.  I have now returned to working in schools and am CEO of a Multi Academy Trust.

THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

I was originally keen on a career in research but my partner (now wife) was doing a joint education degree and helped me see that my negative view of the education system could inspire a career of trying to improve it rather than turning my back on it.

I did my post graduate certificate of education at York University, qualified as a secondary school science teacher in 1989 and worked for two years at Spondon School in Derby followed by two years at Bedminster Down School in Bristol before moving to Broadlands School in Keynsham for promotion to Head of Science.  I then got a job as Deputy Head in Eggbuckland School, in Plymouth, in 2000 and set up a school within a school based on peer teaching which was extremely successful and which I became the Headteacher of.  It was at this point I received the teaching award.

I find my teaching style is always changing.  It is about always experimenting and having a bigger toolkit of things to try.  Realising that the skills underpinning learning are more critical to success than the content, was the big breakthrough for me and has allowed me to personalise education much more than when I first started out.

I have been fortunate to work in some schools with really high deprivation where the impact of your pastoral work on the life chances of children is easier to see but such support is always essential in any school.

Cuts to services generally have caused support services to be removed and there are now fewer safety nets for children and their families.  The picture nationally is of more children feeling the strain.  Teachers naturally step up to try and fill these gaps which is resulting in more stress for them.

As a school leader, a lot of effort is put into supporting staff so their work is not impacted negatively by the additional work required to absorb the pressures of society.

Social media has had a positive impact.  Staff are better connected to ideas and each other with resources that are easier to create and use.  ICT has also been largely positive for students, giving them better access to information and tools to use, as long as their teachers are proactive in treating cyber bullying and encourage open dialogue rather than giving the illusion that banning works.  Schools can never sit back, they must actively protect children from the possible negative impacts of social media and excessive screen time.

DEFINING MOMENTS 

The first student-led, student organised talent contest I did as Deputy Head.  I had always been keen on trying out the idea but every previous school had been too risk averse.  The event was rowdy and I was just beginning to doubt the wisdom of it when a year 7 girl got up to sing and was too nervous.  The children completely owned the event and around 200 of them came together as a collective audience to encourage her.  She started singing and you could hear the nerves fall away as people encouraged her.  Then she really let rip and there was not a dry eye in the house.

When I was doing consultancy for rich clients in poorer countries I would add on the requirement that I did a sponsored day in a local government school.  I am really proud of the impact this idea had and how the ideas we developed spread.

You need to work hard to develop good relationships with all pupils but with the professional distance that allows you to devote yourself fully to the next groups the following year.  It is nice when you bump into former students and staff who had an impact on you and, you on them.

ADVICE 

Look after yourself and always keep at least Friday night and one day at the weekend work-free and I wish someone had advised me as a newly qualified teacher not to take longer to plan a lesson than it takes to teach it!

THE TEACHING PROFESSION 

I have been able to change the nature of my job every two or three years which has kept me learning and motivated.  I do admire people who have worked as a full -time classroom teacher of the same subject for over ten years and are still inspiring children every day.  I work with lots of them.

To inspire a new generation of teachers to stay in the profession we need to decide as a country that we have cut far enough and further cuts to funding will be counter-productive. We need to create the space for a better work-life balance so teachers can develop more pedagogies based on skills development and new ways to assess them to encourage teachers to innovate and experiment with confidence.

Despite the unfortunate pressure to ‘teach to the test’ and ‘evidence feedback’ there are still lots of teachers developing exciting ideas and resources with much more sharing of these through social media.  There is also much more openness to skills training and personalisation which is a good thing.  Email has made the pace faster, so remember to take time to value face to face sharing your ideas and your passion for education with colleagues.

David Bennett Winner, the Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, 2001

“I went into teaching believing that I could change the world and make a positive difference in the lives of young people especially those for whom life is a real challenge.  Although I have been doing it for nearly 30 years and there have been huge changes I still absolutely believe that!”

David Bennett
Winner of the Award for Secondary Teacher of the Year 2001
Currently Headteacher At The Winstanley School

ON WINNING

I think the best thing about the award was reading and hearing some fantastic things that students wrote about my teaching.  I think teachers rarely hear that and I actually think that students should be encouraged to thank their teachers more and tell them what a great job they are doing.

I think the biggest difference was that the award increased my confidence in what I was doing in the classroom as it had been validated by a group of National Judges.  This meant that I had the confidence to share teaching and learning ideas and strategies that I used with a wide variety of audiences. I knew it already, but I guess it absolutely confirmed that teaching and working in schools is my vocation and where I will be all my working life. It also confirmed my decision to work in schools in challenging situations rather than taking an easier option.

Winning the award probably meant that my move to be an Advanced Skills Teacher was accelerated, but I think that was where I was always going to go next in my career. I didn’t move from that school for another 11 years, so it didn’t change my career in that aspect.

I began teaching in 1989 and was teaching in the same school when I won my award in 2001.

THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

My dad was a teacher and he kept trying to persuade me to teach, but as a teenager I didn’t want to do the same job as my dad.  However, when I got to University I decided to apply for a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) and as soon as I was in the classroom I knew it was the job for me.

I think when I started I probably tried lots of different teaching and learning strategies without really examining the evidence of their success or otherwise.  However, as I gained experience I developed a bank of strategies which were tried and tested and I knew both engaged students and delivered great outcomes. As a headteacher now I don’t have my own classes, but I do quite a lot of cover and find myself reverting to the strategies I found most successful.

I think pastoral care has always been a crucial part of teaching.  I think the key element of successful teachers is nearly always the way that they relate to the students, build relationships with them and make sure that the students know that they genuinely care about them.

I would love to say the impact of social media has been all positive and has enabled us to share all sorts of resources and ideas across the teaching profession and build links with schools and communities around the world.  However, in my role as a teacher and now as a Headteacher one of the biggest areas of conflict and issues between young people is via social media. It does feel sometimes that if there was no social media the number of incidents would at least be halved!

DEFINING MOMENTS 

I think it is impossible to beat being awarded National Secondary teacher of the Year and then an MBE for services to education! However, I find on a day to day basis there are so many little things that are memorable and most of all those times when I feel that I have made a real difference in the life of a young person.

Every time I have managed to get a young person engaged who was struggling to learn in my lessons has given me a great sense of pride.  This is especially true if they have gone on to get a great GCSE grade when it looked like they had no chance. I also do love it when I meet someone I used to teach who says I used to really enjoy your lessons, or your lessons were always my favourite.

I am a headteacher now and this year I have had the privilege of employing an ex-student as one of our learning support assistants in her year off before University. It has been an absolute pleasure seeing how she has developed.  She has gone from being someone who was quite anxious about things when I taught her to an outstanding colleague who is completely relaxed working with young people with very complex needs.  I feel that the relationship we built up when I was teaching her has enabled me to trust her to take on a challenging and difficult role and see her really fly with it.

ADVICE 

Teaching is hard work, but nothing worth doing is ever going to be easy.  You will need to be resilient and stick at it. It will get easier and you will find there are incredible rewards in terms of seeing young people’s lives changed.  Don’t ever lose the desire to make a positive difference and change the world!

THE TEACHING PROFESSION 

There have been all sorts of changes – mobile phones, tablets, increased use of data, accountability, OFSTED, however, the thing that strikes me most is that I don’t think what makes a great teacher has changed at all!

In a naive way I went into teaching believing that I could change the world and make a positive difference in the lives of young people especially those for whom life is a real challenge.  Although I have been doing it for nearly 30 years and there have been huge changes I still absolutely believe that!

People need to know that teaching is a vocation and be able to see the amazing difference they can make in the lives of young people.  But they also need to know that anything worth doing is a challenge and will be hard work. At the same time, I would love to see a time when our politicians and policy makers really acknowledge the outstanding work that so many schools and teachers do.

David Miller Winner, the Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, 2008

“It felt as if the entire school community supported my progress, and I shall always be grateful to the head teacher for creating a culture where innovation and creativity were nurtured, and where colleagues inspired one another to be the best they could be”

David Miller
Winner Of The Teacher Of The Year In A Secondary School 2008
Now Head Of Faculty: Languages And Project Director: School Of Innovation At Kelvinside Academy

ON WINNING

Winning the UK Teacher of the Year Award in 2008 was a life-changing event. So much good has come from the accolade, professionally and personally.

2008 was a significant year for me. An inspiring teacher I first met at St Ninian’s High School in 2002, nominated me for the Scottish Teacher of the Year. Christine Bovill was more than an inspiring teacher, she was an inspirational mentor, and the nomination couldn’t have come from a more admired and cherished colleague. Four months later, I found myself on the stage of the London Palladium as winner of the UK Teacher of the Year Award. The journey between the two awards was motivating and galvanising, both for me and for the school. It felt as if the entire school community supported my progress, and I shall always be grateful to St Ninian’s and its Head Teacher, Mr McLaughlin, for creating a culture where innovation and creativity were nurtured, and where colleagues inspired one another to be the best they could be. I was honoured to be accompanied to London by five pupils, shining examples of a kind and engaged learning community, each one of whom played their part in evolving the teacher I became.

The months that followed…

The following months passed in a flurry of positive press and kind acknowledgements. It’s hard to quantify the impact of an award beyond the actual win, but it certainly felt as if the ripples travelled far. The first positive was an invitation to work with Independent Thinking, a stable of top-notch thinkers, educators and gurus based in Wales. While still working at St Ninian’s, I was given time to travel up and down the UK working with schools and local authorities to demonstrate and share innovative practice using a variety of Web 2.0 collaborative technologies. This was a marvellous learning experience; it gave a real insight into how important leadership is in creating a culture in school where teachers feel encouraged to experiment, and enhance their competencies and pedagogies using emerging technologies.

The years that followed…

In late 2011, a chance meeting in London lead to an invitation to become a founding member and Chief Learning Officer of a fascinating start-up – Kuato Studios. The company’s vision was to create digital games that combined beautiful immersive environments, Artificial Intelligence and powerful learning design. The experience brought a whole new dimension to my career. Although it took me out of the classroom for five years, it enriched my own learning in so many ways. Among many projects, we developed a game to teach children to code with robots – Code Warriors – which was recognised by President Obama in his final Science Fair in 2016. We also developed a range of literacy and storytelling games for which we designed a unique game engine whereby a child’s gaming action generated a digital storybook. In developing the game, I became a named inventor on a US patent. We also developed an assistive technology deploying AI technologies featuring a clever talking Dinosaur answering children’s questions in game! Through the five years at Kuato I was never far from the classroom; spending time in UK and US schools testing the games, and building communities of teachers, learners and organisations interested in exploring new forms of skills-based learning.

Towards the end of my time at Kuato, I was invited to contribute a chapter to the Routledge publication, Creating the Coding Generation in Primary Schools. Researching and writing this chapter re-focused my thinking on the key roles that creativity, innovation and creating play in the learning process. The book was published in 2017 and is a wide-ranging and practical guide to the cross-curricular teaching of computer science and coding.

The present…

Family circumstances brought me home to Scotland in 2016, but serendipity played a role in the next stage of my journey as a teacher/learner. Kelvinside Academy is one of Scotland’s oldest independent schools. When I arrived here, plans were afoot to build Scotland’s first School of Innovation –a visionary proposal of Rector, Mr Ian Munro. A partnership had recently been struck with NuVu Studio, a full-time innovation school based in Cambridge Massachusetts, where creativity is at the heart of a child’s learning experience. Students are encouraged to address large-scale problems and create solutions that have an impact in the world. Fuelled by a similar urge to disrupt the current curricular model of education and create a studio model based around learning by doing, Kelvinside is now on track to open its own Innovation School in 2019. It promises to be a unique learning environment built around creativity, innovation and enterprise. It’s wonderful to be part of the team leading this game-changing initiative.

But to return to where we began, that afternoon in October 2008… The Teaching Award was certainly one of the proudest moments of my life, acknowledging everyone involved in making me the teacher I was. And as to the doors that opened, I have always been happy to push on an open door.

ADVICE

Advice for young teachers starting out: stay authentic, never become formulaic or predictable either in the way you teach, or in your interactions with the young people in front of you. And above all, stay a curious learner!

Ed Vickerman Winner, the Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year, 2009

“The difference between a good teacher and great teacher is attitude – and the ability to inspire and believe in someone.”

Ed Vickerman
Winner Of The Award For Outstanding New Teacher Of The Year 2009
Now Head of School At Sirius Academy

ON WINNING

Winning the award meant the world to me, it was genuinely overwhelming, and I was extremely proud and still am!
Being acknowledged for something you do and do well and being given the opportunity to tell you story is wonderful.

My story was very well publicised on TV and in the media because lots of people told me I would never become a teacher. When I was 18 I went into some primary schools to find out a bit more about the profession, but a number of the training providers told me I couldn’t be a teacher because I’m dyslexic. But here I am now 15 years later working as a headteacher in an academy with over 1500 pupils.  The award showed that anyone with a passion for changing the lives of young people can become a teacher.

The award had a significant impact on my career. I was promoted on the day the national judges arrived at the school to the job of The Director of Specialism. This was a large step for me. A couple of years after I was able to apply for a job as Assistant Head for teaching and Learning at Beverley Grammar School (a boys non-selective secondary school). I was given the job. The award exposed me to many national projects and leaders who I would never have got the opportunity to meet.

I started my career at a school in North Yorkshire and after the first year applied for a job as Head of Business in a Business and Enterprise School in Wakefield called Freeston Business and Enterprise College. I never thought I would get the job however, I did, and in my third year of teaching I won the National Award For New Teacher of the Year.

I became an ambassador for charities and spoke at national events.

I am now the Head of School of a very large secondary academy in Hull

THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

I always wanted to be a teacher, totally!  My mum was a headteacher but some of my inspiration and drive actually came from teachers who I thought were so bad that I thought I could do better.  Then I had some teachers who really inspired and motivated me, it’s how they make you feel – students always remember how you make them feel. Some teachers belittle you, some can inspire and really bring out your talents.

Too many students are written off because of conditions like dyslexia, but schools can turn that around; we need more diversity within the profession, people that students understand and can work with. Some people believe that it is all about the ability to write but there many different forms of ‘clever’.

Thankfully after trying out some primary schools I went to Bradford College and the level of support I received there was amazing.  The difference between a good teacher and great teacher is attitude – and the ability to inspire and believe in someone.  It was their belief that I could do it that helped me.

Over the years I’ve become more confident however I have never lost my passion for ensuring students become the best that they can be.

But I want to change the way we do education, we have got to work within the system, but we can make it a lot better to suit the needs of the children we teach.  At my school we have altered things so that children enjoy learning.  While they still have to do the core subjects we have introduced more drama, arts and recruited more staff into the PE department. We have introduced engineering.  We have transformed things so that the children can choose more and if they want to be more creative through more vocational qualifications, they can. We encourage students to work in teams, build confidence, develop ‘soft skills’.

As Head of School I can see how important pastoral care is especially given the backgrounds that some students come from in our care.

DEFINING MOMENTS 

It has to be winning the award as it showed others what is possible. But also getting a school of out a situation where it was deemed to ‘require improvement’. The work required to transform it was incredible but the impact it had on the students’ lives was amazing.  And the stand out moment was becoming a headteacher and being able to help other teachers.

ADVICE 

It’s not easy, in fact it’s very hard but make sure you show the students you care.

THE TEACHING PROFESSION 

The exams system has changed significantly in the years that I have been teaching. We need to acknowledge that there is more than one type of ‘clever’. But the students make the job all worthwhile.

Ingrid Spencer Winner, the Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year, 2001

“Anybody who wins one will tell you it’s a team effort”

Ingrid Spencer
Winner Of The Award For Most Outstanding New Teacher 2001
Now deputy headteacher, Oaklands Primary School, Leicester

ON WINNING

Winning the teaching award was a fantastic fillip for the whole school and anybody who wins one will tell you it’s a team effort. For me the most wonderful part was reading my students’ nominations. I was amazed by how many there were and what they had said. It didn’t immediately impact on my day-to-day work but gave me some lovely opportunities and a wider sense of the profession I was part of.

I’ve always wanted to teach and never lost that desire.  I’ve had a very winding career path with lots of changes of role and setting, which I highly recommend. It makes for a very interesting work life!

I started teaching in 1992 on the Japan Exchange Teacher Program (JET) and I worked in Japan for three years on that and then for two years as an Eikaiwa teacher returning to Britain in 1997. I did one year as an SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) TA (Teaching Assistant) in an inner city secondary school, then my PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) course so I started my official teaching career in the UK in August 1999.  I won my Most Outstanding New Teacher award in 2001.

THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

I have always wanted to be a teacher and I remain one because I’m a learner. I’ve been doing it for 27 years and I learn something new about the job, about the students and about myself every single day. It’s a phenomenal job.

I think my teaching style has changed over the years in some ways inevitably because I’ve now taught every age and stage of teaching that’s possible, from TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), to EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) and up to Masters level at a University. I’m currently a deputy in a special school for autistic children. Obviously you need to adapt your style to suit the students and the course/ subject that you’re teaching. However, fundamental things have stayed the same: I want my students to learn about themselves and about the world, not just about the subject at hand. Most of all I want any student of mine to develop their ability to communicate what it is they think, feel and believe.

I don’t think that pastoral care is a bigger part of teaching now than when I began. I think it’s always been a big part of the job; however perhaps we are, as a profession, now more aware of young people‘s mental health and the need to nurture as well as challenge them. Having taught adults as well as children from age four upwards, I would say that is true of all learners. Relationships and mutual respect and struggle are the cornerstones for good learning.

Social media from me is invaluable as a learner and leader. I have become a huge fan of EduTwitter and finding people online with expertise and experience that I don’t have is really valuable to me.  Since starting a new job in a school for autistic children in January I have learnt enormous amounts about how the world might be experienced if you are autistic by following #ActuallyAutistic adults on Twitter. It has transformed my understanding and given me insights that would otherwise take years of in-school practice to acquire. In such a short period of time I couldn’t possibly gain the same level of understanding through simply reading a book or by waiting for CPD course to come around. You can also find your tribe online, get advice, even coaching. However, there are some difficulties inherent in how social media functions as Cambridge Analytica has shown us and I don’t think we fully understand the impact it will have on developing brains and social skills as yet.

DEFINING MOMENTS 

My best moments in teaching have all been while working with amazing stories, from recreating the birth of Greek gods from chaos to order with 60 year 6 children, to watching two year 3 teachers orate the pre-battle speeches from Rosemary Sutcliffe’s The Eagle’s’ Egg whilst their classes got into combat formation, to my year 11 class spontaneously talk about their fathers after listening to me read the creature’s story from Frankenstein. It is a privilege to share those moments when story connects us as humans, as we are all raised up out of the mundane and into the magical.

The moments that I am most proud of my teaching career are when a student connects with a text or an idea and it visibly shifts their sense of themselves and the world. It is pure joy in those moments and you can never quite predict when or where they will come, even if you plan for awe and wonder! Another favourite thing is when someone says ‘Oh I prefer the book to the film or the TV show now’- that thrills me to bits.

I’m always delighted when I see former students, although many of my students have now got children of their own, which makes me feel very old. I have however kept a professional distance from most, except one who I initially nicknamed ‘naughty Lucy’ due to her tendency to get into arguments and intrigues. She was in my first ever A-level class, stayed with me for three years completing A Level English Literature and then staying to complete Communication & Culture.  She went on to do a fascinating piece of literary research to earn her PhD and is now an academic registrar. She is still stroppy and fabulous and I’m thrilled to say that I’ve known her now for half of her life.

ADVICE 

The best piece of advice I can give a newly qualified teacher is ‘find your tribe.’ Make sure that the school you choose to work in is the school that will let you be creative and make mistakes and isn’t too long a commute- the teaching day is long enough as it is! Get yourself a good support network; it doesn’t have to be face-to-face, it could be joining a twitter tribe. #WomenEd #BAMEd #LGBTEd are all fantastic grassroots movements on Twitter and there is a twitter group for almost every subject or specialism too. You will get support, great resources and an endless supply of inspirational quotes.

What I wish I’d known as an NQT is something that I used to tell my PGCE tutees and I still tell staff now: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

THE TEACHING PROFESSION 

Teaching is a very complex and demanding job; nobody gets it right all the time. If there was one way to make a perfect lesson, everybody would teach that one way all the time, but there is no magic bullet.  So don’t focus on individual lessons, try and think about the whole day, the whole week and remember the magic moments.

Education has changed a great deal since I started teaching, particularly in terms of government policy.  There was no national curriculum until 1999, we’ve had levels, not had levels; added SATS, taken away SATs, had A*-U and now 1-9; and OFSTED has been invented. All of those things can make teaching seem all about data,  as if outcomes is the tail wagging the dog of learning. In that accountability landscape, children can get lost but it’s our job to make sure that children (and learners of all kinds, including teachers) are always at the heart of everything that we do. Teachers need to be led by head teachers and senior leaders who are close to the ‘shop floor’, who put people before processes, and who actively work to keep workload manageable.   We need to share resources and work together more and find a way to not be competing. I stay in teaching because I can’t think of another job where I can learn something new every single day. There are some terrible lows but immeasurable highs and constant challenges in the best sense of the word.

To encourage others to stay in teaching, we need lots of stories about how wonderful it can be to be in the classroom, but we also need to be honest about workload, stress, the effects of external scrutiny and poor school leaders. We also need to remember that it might just be the wrong school for us, not the wrong job. My best piece of advice is: Before you give up teaching, try a new school.

 

Stephen Cabrera Winner, Teaching Award for Enterprise, 2006

“Winning the award meant the world and gave me many opportunities that previously I may not have had.”

Stephen Cabrera
Winner, Teaching Award for Enterprise, 2006
Currently Director of development at St Joseph’s College, Beulah Hill, London

ON WINNING

Winning the award meant the world and gave me many opportunities that previously I may not have had, talking at universities, conferences and sharing my ideas and what we as a school had achieved. It was humbling to see things we created being used in other schools as examples of best practice.

It definitely gave me more pride in my job and has looked useful on my CV!  My next role was as deputy headteacher, the headteacher knew of me through my work in Surrey and wanted me to apply.

I started working at Epsom and Ewell High School as a Business Studies teacher in 1995.  I moved to Rydens School as head of department in 1999 and grew a dept from 1.5 (equivalent) teachers to four. When specialist schools came in the headteacher felt Business and Enterprise would be suitable owing to the success of the department and also as having worked previously in industry I always tried to network and get external partners in to work with students. We were one of the first Business and Enterprise schools in Surrey and it was an industry partner who nominated me for my award.

One of the nicest and best things to come out of winning was the opportunity to be a judge for the awards. Getting to visit and see others who are so brilliant at what they do was a privilege and inspiring.

THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

Did I always know I wanted to a teacher? My mum did! I had a number of false starts working in the City but once I walked into my first class as a PGCE I felt I belonged and not regretted it since.

Over the years I’ve evolved to cope with the changing nature of pupils and the increasing use of social media which had made things a lot more open and difficult to monitor. It has made it harder from a pastoral point of view. And as a deputy headteacher pastoral work has always had an important role in my day to day life.

DEFINING MOMENTS 

There have been a few memorable moments in my career – winning a teaching award; seeing other schools when I have visited using my ideas and making them better than I envisaged; seeing students grow and come back to thank me for giving them aspirations.

And one of my first students ran the England World Cup Rugby campaign when they grew as giants, thanked me for his marketing passion from my A -level lesson.

ADVICE 

Always be consistent and never underestimate the potential that students have. In my experience they have always gone beyond my expectations and constantly surprised me.

THE TEACHING PROFESSION 

It has certainly become more results focused, an exam culture that is not student focused.  At Key Stage 4 in particular we are forcing students through a very narrow door, I worry it is ruined for a generation. Underfunding and staffing shortages is affecting students.

I’ve stayed because I love my job, but I do think we need to give teaching its respect back. Teachers should be valued, paid what they are worth and have more work/life balance.

Sue Jay The Award for Excellence in Special Needs Education, 2017

“I visited each classroom with the Gold Plato, and it really felt like I’d won an Oscar”

Sue Jay
Winner of the Award for Excellence in Special Needs Education, 2017
Head of Creative Arts at Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee School

ON WINNING

I have spent my whole career teaching, starting at the age of 21 and I will be retiring on July 24th, two days after my 60th birthday. So winning the award in my final year has been the perfect end to my career!

I have loved my job working in special education for 33 of my 39 years and to have my work recognised like this has been the icing on the cake. During the Awards weekend I repeatedly said ‘Things like this don’t happen to teachers’. To be made to feel so special was such a thrill. When I returned to school it was clear how much it meant to the children too, they were so proud and excited. I visited each classroom with the Gold Plato, and it really felt like I’d won an Oscar. For schools and teachers to be recognised in such a positive way is something the “Teaching Awards” should be very proud of.

THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

Although I started working as a teacher at 21 it was never my aim.  But over the years I have gained in confidence and can be much more flexible in my presentation. I worked in a secondary school for 5 years before joining a special school and then as a nursery teacher here, I’m now head of creative arts and I am passionate about schools dedicating time to the subject.

There’s so much scientific evidence if you search for it that a creative brain comes out in your maths and science. If you deprive your creative side, everything drops.

DEFINING MOMENTS 

My most memorable moment in teaching was without doubt receiving the Teaching Award, and especially the BBC film being watched by thousands of people.  My students are amazing and this came across so brilliantly in the film.  And I’ve made a difference to their lives.

ADVICE 

My advice to anyone coming into the profession for the first time would be to stay at work late each day if you can so that you can have your weekend free from school work. It is very important to re-charge your batteries.  I have never achieved this, but I wish I had.  I spent far too much time doing school work when I should have been spending quality time with my own children.

THE TEACHING PROFESSION 

The profession hasn’t changed (apart from the ridiculous amount of paperwork and more rigid curriculum) and that is the problem!!! It has to change, or we will end up with no teachers.  We expect young people to enter a profession that is 40 years out of date.  The only way to keep the profession alive will be to structure it as a 9 to 5, five days a week, four weeks holiday properly paid profession.  Young people are not prepared to work seven days a week, 7-7 for not enough money, and frankly I don’t blame them.

The turnover in teachers is immense and I’m worried that new teachers are going to be taught by pretty inexperienced young people.  New teachers do come to us oldies sometimes just to talk to someone more experienced.  I get angry and sad; the government has now admitted that 35,000 teachers left the profession in 2016 (not including retirees!)