“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


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.


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.


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.


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 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!)