“It might have my name on it- but this award is for everyone that works at Barham Primary School. Our incredible teachers who never give up, our resilient learning assistants who support our children throughout the day and our amazing families who listen, trust us and care.”
Tina Murray, Barham Primary School
Winner, The Award for Excellence in Special Needs Education, 2019
Knowing that my school had nominated me for the Pearson National Teaching Award for Excellence in Special Needs Education was very overwhelming. Never in a million years did I think I would be shortlisted let alone win… In fact, I still do not think it has sunk in. The Gold award means so much to me, our school and our community. It might have my name on it- but this award is for everyone that works at Barham Primary School. Our incredible teachers who never give up, our resilient learning assistants who support our children throughout the day and our amazing families who listen, trust us and care.
I haven’t always been a SENDCo but I have fallen madly in love with SEND. I love my job, I love helping staff, children and families to ensure our SEND children succeed just as well as any other child… even more If I have my way.
Each child at Barham is unique and wonderful and every day is different, but because we have amazing staff, our children always feel safe, happy and therefore learn something new every day. Watching them grow and change is what makes everything worth it.
I am very lucky to work at Barham Primary School. I have a headteacher who listens and trusts my judgements and wonderful families that believe in us. Barham is a very special place to be and work. I know that teaching is hard and I know it doesn’t always get great press, but being a teacher is the only thing I would want to do.
“To hear that you truly are making a difference is a great thing – because ultimately, it is why we all got into teaching in the first place.”
Toni Knight, Head of Department
P.E, Sport and Dance Teaching Team, Wyke Sixth Form College
Winner, the Award for FE Team of the Year, 2019
We are honoured to be part of this process, and we truly never expected to get this far. The team and I work tirelessly every day of every academic year, as I’m sure do many teachers across the country. It is a very tough job with many challenges, so for anyone to go out of their way to recognise what we do, and say thankyou- it means the world to us! The awards ceremony in Camden was an incredible experience, and having national recognition for a role we are all so passionate about, is a huge accolade, but one of the best things has been the messages received since from current and alumni students and parents. Hearing their stories beyond Wyke, how we helped them to get there and their messages of support and thanks has been for us the most rewarding aspect out of the whole process. To hear that you truly are making a difference is a great thing- because ultimately, it is why we all got into teaching in the first place.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF CELEBRATING THE TEACHING PROFESSION
There is so much negative news in the world today, and even since this awards ceremony, so many negative statistics being used by the media about teaching; particularly about dropout rates from the career. No teacher will hide the fact that being in education is tough, and the teaching career has so many challenges on a daily basis. However, ask any teacher as they start their career, and none of that content will be mentioned about why they are pursuing this career choice. It is about time that as a country we focus more of our time and energy on the positive news in the UK, and celebrate our successes, and I think the Pearson National Teaching Awards is doing just that. What an amazing way to say ‘thankyou’ back to teachers across the country who are developing the next generation. Knowing how tough the career is, there really is no extrinsic alternative that can beat the feeling of anyone saying thankyou, and recognising what you’ve been doing day in, day out.
ON FORMATIVE TEACHERS
It was definitely former teachers who inspired me to join the profession, and I was actually lucky enough to be at the National Teaching Awards sitting right beside one of the most influential and inspiring teachers on my career journey; Julie Peaks, now Deputy Principal at Wyke Sixth Form College, but former Head of PE at Wyke. I attended Wyke Sixth Form as a student myself, and PE was my favourite subject out of my A-levels. I was taught by Julie Peaks at this time, and she not only encouraged and supported my journey into teaching after college, but her teaching values really resonated with me, and are still now at the core of my own practice; as a teacher, and now as a Head of Department. Students come first in everything we do at Wyke, and making sure that regardless of starting point, every student has not only the opportunity and support to succeed, but the inspiration and drive to aim high. I hope others would agree that these principles are still at the core of the department, and even though the educational climate has changed a lot over the decade since I was a student, that these values are still hugely important to any student in education.
AT WHAT POINT IN YOUR CAREER DID YOU WIN YOUR AWARD?
I actually studied my A-levels at Wyke Sixth Form College, and here I got both the academic qualifications along with the encouragement and support to progress onto Loughborough University to study Sport and Exercise Science. I, like many other Wyke students still to this day, was the first generation in my family to go to university, so to then also gain a place at the most prestigious sporting university in the UK was an amazing opportunity for me.
Before starting at Loughborough, I already knew my aim was to become a PE teacher, and being in such a driven and proactive university institution, I engaged with so many life-changing opportunities that gave me the experience to progress onto a PGCE place at Loughborough, but also impact the teaching practices and experiences I still bring to my job today as well. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, completing charity work in Ghana, engaging in the biggest AU Dance club in the country are just three things I experienced here, and have brought into my own teaching department by giving my students the same experiences. After my studies at Loughborough, including a 1st hons in Sport and Exercise Science, PGCE and Distinction in my Masters in Education, I was hired as an NQT at Wyke Sixth Form College, and I could not have been happier to be back at Wyke, because I know Wyke aligns whole-heartedly with my own teaching values; that education has the ability to transform lives. I have been teaching at Wyke for 7 years now, and my role has changed and developed over time.
I started as a PE and Sport teacher, took on Dance A-level in 2016 as well as Head of Subject for A-level PE, and became Head of Department (PE, Sport and Dance) soon after. This award has come at a point where over the last 3 years I have developed into a leadership role, managed the departments transition to new teaching specifications, maintaining top 10% outcomes in the country for PE and Sport, and taken Dance as a subject from a low achieving department to gaining 100% A*-B rate in 2019 and National Champions in the ‘That’s Showbiz’ national competition.
HAS WINNING THE AWARD CHANGED HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT TEACHING?
I don’t think anyone or anything can change the way myself or the department feel about teaching. Everyone in the team will still say, even after winning, that we have just been doing what we consider as our job, and this is what we do on a daily basis. Nor will anything ever change our own personal reasons of why we have chosen this as our career path. For us however, the chance to recognise and celebrate the hard work of teachers across the country is invaluable. I really hope that the stories shared from all the nominees and winners make teachers across the country feel appreciated, and hopefully inspire the next generation to join the profession.
The department has had to adapt to a hugely changing educational climate over the years, and this shows no signs of slowing down. We’ve switched over to linear A-levels, in September we will be switching to the new externally assessed BTEC frameworks and with the continued funding difficulties in 6th forms, there has been a lot of adaptations to our teaching. In our department, the team have also made a very conscious effort to develop a range of employability skills and opportunities for our students to ensure they stand the best chance of progression, and what this looks like has ranged massively for different students. Whether this has been gaining additional qualifications such as studying Personal Training qualification alongside their academic studies, engaging with local employers, apprenticeship providers and Universities, through to developing skills such as leadership, communication and organisation through our curriculum. We’ve seen a very positive improvement on our destination data through this work, and I think this is so important to ensure students do not just become assessment-sitting machines- but they develop as a well-rounded young adult ready for the worldWe are in an extremely lucky position at Wyke to be at that point to support students in making one of the biggest decisions in their lives; what they want to be when they are older, and what pathway they will take to get there. Through that guidance, followed by the support to get the required academic qualifications, and then ultimately waving them off when they get into University or hired onto an apprenticeship or employment, you really get to build a relationship with students because they are making one of the most important decisions of their lives. We are so lucky in our department, in that students are keen to stay in touch and tell us about their successes; especially when they come back for our alumni sporting events. We’ve had several students go off to America to study and play football through our scholarship links, and its amazing to see the likes of Sophie Haywood now playing at Aston Villa and Jemma Purfield at Liverpool; both at the forefront of women’s elite football in the UK as it grows from strength to strength. We have alumni like Dan Williams on ‘Love Island’, several other students currently working with top elite sporting teams in their analysis department, including Ryan Madra at Hull City. Probably the most special stories for us, however, are those that have gone into teaching. Just this September, we hired an NQT into our own department, Demi-lee Easter, who studied on our BTEC Extended Diploma in Sport course at Wyke Sixth Form College. For us, that is the ultimate privilege; because not only does that mean we have done our job in terms of support, but it also means we have inspired the next generation of teachers.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT TEACHING?
Every year when students leave us to go off onto university, or apprenticeships, or employment, I feel honoured that I have had the opportunity to be part of that process. Education really does have the power to transform lives, and I am a huge believer of this. That’s what keeps me here; because no matter how tough the job can be, knowing this, and seeing it occur year on year for our students makes me proud to call myself a teacher, and know that I have contributed in some small way to helping them have a successful career and a happy life!
WHAT’S THE BEST QUALITY IN A TEACHER?
In my opinion, the best quality in a teacher is being someone who genuinely cares and makes students feel both like an individual, and like they can achieve anything. This has never been more important in a time where the mental health of our younger generations is at an all time low. We’ve got it wrong if students feel like a ‘number’, and feel their only core purpose of being in education is to get a good exam result in that subject. I do understand this is not easy to do; with class sizes growing and the pressure on teachers to produce amazing academic outcomes, it can be tough to not feel the pressure, but making sure every single student feels valued and taking an interest in them as a person, to me, is so important. It’s the reason why we all chose the teaching profession; because we care about the younger generation! The best teachers never forget that, and make time for it every day.
ADVICE TO SOMEONE JOINING THE PROFESSION
Teaching is hard; but you don’t go into this profession because it’s easy, you choose it because you whole-heartedly want to make a difference. Every single day will be completely different. You will become not only a teacher, but a mentor, a shoulder to cry on, a plate spinner, a role model, a photocopying expert, a comedian, a mediator; so many different roles. Students will make you want to both laugh and cry; you will experience some of their most stressful times, but also their happiest. Sometimes, students will drive you up the wall, but every single one of them will make you feel proud beyond measure at some point. There will be things that frustrate you about the education system, but ultimately you will power on through regardless because you want to ensure every single student has the best opportunities in life. Then when you get the chance to stand back and look at the impact you’ve had, you can genuinely say you have changed people’s lives.
Silver Winner, the Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year, 2018
Outwood Academy Shafton
I am still absolutely overwhelmed by being a 2018 Silver Winner in the Pearson Teaching Awards, one year on from the experience! The impact of this has been phenomenal; it has raised the profile of STEM and has also encouraged me to continue to try and innovate wherever possible within my day-to-day teaching.
One of the greatest memories of winning the Award was the presentation that Outwood Academy Shafton organised as part of ‘Thank a Teacher’ Day. This was very emotional as one of my students presented me with the award! Visiting Parliament with my colleague and friend was also an amazing opportunity, to meet with likeminded individuals who had also won a Silver Award. The main highlight was being a part of the Pearson Teaching Awards National Event which was televised as Britain’s Classroom Heroes. I didn’t know that my Business teacher from my time at Outwood Academy Freeston (formerly Freeston Business and Enterprise College), Ed Vickerman, was going to be there as alumni at the event – that was a brilliant surprise!
Over the last year I have been given the opportunity to continue my work with STEM across the Academy and particularly within the science department. We have a number of individual projects which will hopefully be going to the regional ‘Big Bang Fair Near Me’ events to promote their hard work.
Additionally this year, due to winning this award, I was given the opportunity to coordinate all Newly Qualified Teacher and trainee teachers across the Academy. This has involved putting together a bespoke training programme for all of these colleagues and ensuring they all feel supported and developed throughout their time at Outwood Academy Shafton. I have also continued to work with the year-long IOP funded Physics Teacher Subject Specialism training course, for science teachers delivering physics outside of their subject area.
This year, our Academy has been extremely successful and our students are moving from strength to strength. We have a successful Scholar’s programme designed to support our students with experiences within subjects they are passionate about. We have also done a large amount of work with HeppSY to raise aspirations with our students and increase engagement with higher education. As an Academy we are also working to increase students’ cultural capital. We have organised activities this year such as an art trip to Barcelona, theatre trips, “Love to Read” campaigns and our new Cultural Capital gallery which is hosting our first exhibition: Landmarks of the World!
Overall, any opportunity to be involved with the Teaching Awards should be taken, as it has been a wonderful experience for both myself and my Academy. I am proud to have been a part of the Pearson National Teaching Awards and have memories from these events to last a lifetime!
The Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School
Spire Junior School
Well it’s been a year since receiving the silver award and what a year it’s been. The process of being nominated and receiving a ‘Thank a teacher card’ was an awesome feeling. To know someone thought so highly of me and take the time out of their day to put me forward for the award was amazing. When my head teacher came into class to announce that I’d ‘got through’ to the next round I was completely overwhelmed.
The process of being assessed by the judges was one of quiet, calm observation. They came into my class to see our children busy at their work. There was no pressure they just wanted to see how I operate. Our activity for the afternoon was to recreate famous landmarks from around the world. We used sweets and biscuits for this and the children had a whale of a time.
Speaking to the judges was a pleasure. I was able to tell them about my life goals and achievements throughout my career. They put me totally at ease which meant I was able to share with them some of my most treasured moments of my teaching career.
One of the greatest moments of winning and receiving my award came as a complete surprise to me. I remember the day well. Our school was having an art parade at the end of an art week. Many people came along to support us as we marched proudly around the streets near our school dressed in the outfits the children had fashioned that week. The local Mayor and Mayoress of our town came along too, as did the local newspaper photographer from the Derbyshire Times. I believed we were being honoured with their presence but thought nothing more of it.
On arrival back at school we all gathered on the field and the head made several announcements. Then to my total surprise my family appeared and the head told me that I had gained the silver Pearson National Teaching award. I was totally shocked and surprised. The Mayor presented me with the award in front of many parents, the whole school and my family. I swelled with pride – words failed me.
Moving on from the award filled me with the self-belief. When our school took on a new way of thinking to help move our children on I spent much time creating inventive learning environments to inspire the young minds we teach.
This past year has seen my classroom turned into a historical wonderland where we taught about the Ancient Egyptians. A visit from a local reporter kick started our project which enabled the children to understand how a magazine is produced. The end product was my year 3 children launched a professionally printed magazine all about life in ancient Egypt.
In the spring term we had another awe inspiring project – we took the children on a geography trip around the world. Again my classroom was transformed. A large train was installed for the children to sit in as they did their work and a hot air balloon hung from the ceiling. Every corner of the room became a different country. The end project resulted in a large fantasy island being created and displayed in our local town centre. This attracted much attention including a tweet from the Geography Society. They are going to produce and article in their magazine early next year.
As a result of winning the silver award I have been inspired and developed a confidence to take my teaching to another level. Contacting the local paper is something I would never have done prior to receiving the award. The children are very proud of their school and love to see themselves in the paper, and our school has been rewarded many times with positive publications in our local newspaper. All this adds up to a feel good factor for our school and all who are part of it.
“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!”
Winner, the Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School, 2016
Currently Deputy Headteacher Uxendon Manor Primary School
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“After winning the award the comments from staff, parents and particularly the students had a profound impact on me.”
Winner of the Award for the Most Creative Use Of ICT, 2003
Now CEO Smart Multi Academy Trust SE Cornwall
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
“Anybody who wins one will tell you it’s a team effort”
Winner Of The Award For Most Outstanding New Teacher 2001
Now deputy headteacher, Oaklands Primary School, Leicester
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
Winner Of The Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year 2010
Now Head of Primary, Rounday Primary Campus, Leeds
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
“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!”
Winner of the Award for Secondary Teacher of the Year 2001
Currently Headteacher At The Winstanley School
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
“I visited each classroom with the Gold Plato, and it really felt like I’d won an Oscar”
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!)
” Winning the Pearson Teaching Award has helped me to dream bigger and be ambitious.“
Winner, the Award for Excellence in Special Needs Education, 2016
Currently Head of Performing Arts at Cricket Green School
Winning the award was absolutely fantastic. I felt completely overwhelmed – but in a lovely way. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did without the support of lots of other people, it was very much a team effort and in some ways it was as if I was just the one who lifted the trophy for the whole team. Since winning the award I’ve appeared on BBC Breakfast TV and interviewed by Louise Minchin, I was offered a Head Teacher’s job and I’ve been asked to speak at seminars in London.
When I left school I did part of a primary school degree then left and went to work as a children’s entertainer on a cruise ship, then I wanted to get into Kids TV. Having done some work in schools a friend asked me if I could help out at Cricket Green and honestly it was the coolest experience. I just didn’t want to leave. I became interested in counselling after seeing the impact drama and art therapy can have on the young people at our school. So I completed a Psychotherapy degree and set up a small counselling service. The knowledge and insight I gained from the study has had a positive impact on the way I teach and interact with both pupils and staff alike. It made me so aware of everything else that is going on for the young people in my care, just under the surface.
I’m now head of performing arts at Cricket Green but started here as an assistant 9 years ago. I did on-the-job training to complete an Education degree and become a qualified teacher. I have been using drama in the majority of my lessons since I first started at the school. Drama, music and art are just amazing ways to help pupils access the curriculum. Many of my pupils have spent years in mainstream settings, never being able to achieve levels close to their peers in academic subjects. However, many pupils have come to our school and unlocked talents they have in the arts that perhaps they never knew existed. We’ve performed Shakespeare, produced music festivals, made films and put on numerous productions on the main stages of local theatres. There have been many occasions when members of the public and parents and pupils from other schools have no idea that we are a special school and that the pupils that have just been entertaining them actually have a range of complex and diverse learning needs – that gives me a real buzz!
The children I work with have diverse needs, many of these pupils also joined our school with their confidence and self-esteem at rock bottom. Our aim is not to view their learning difficulties as a barrier, instead to encourage the things that they are good at as well as help them to work as part of a team and develop social skills and communication. Our aim has always been for them to leave our school feeling that they are important, that they can recognise their own unique talents and that they absolutely can achieve.
However, the reality is that quite often we as a school will build these young people up but then a lot of the services and provisions begin to taper off once they leave. There have been numerous examples of capable ex pupils who have returned to our school for a visit several years on, only to report that they had finished a college course and now spend their days doing nothing at all. This for me is a great sadness, and a waste of potential.
There’s an initiative in America called Project Search, it’s a scheme that aims to get learning difficulties to get into employment. It works with in house training schemes which break down small tasks that perhaps you and I might take for granted and breaks them in to smaller more manageable tasks. These are then practiced until they are secure. Only then will new skills be attempted. The hope is that, these skills will be transferrable to other work places and the young people work their way into paid employment in a job that suits their particular skills. This initiative is now running throughout the UK and we as a school have close links with St George’s hospital which has Project Search based there. It has been running for five years and currently 74 percent of all trainees have gained employment either inside or out of the hospital. This is versus a national average that is closer to two percent of those with learning difficulties gaining employment.
I’m currently doing a Senior Leaders course and, as much as it’s nice to teach drama, really my engagement with Project Search has made me think about the bigger picture. As a result, in the future I would like to set up and co-ordinate a similar scheme, teaching young people functional skills and helping them work towards paid and meaningful employment. In an ideal world a new learning centre tailored specifically towards this. Obviously still with plenty of drama, music and art thrown in for good measure. I think that winning the Pearson Teaching Award has helped me to dream bigger and be ambitious.
Luke is a former pupil with autism I taught several years ago. Prior to coming to Cricket Green he was out of mainstream education for 15 months because he was bullied relentlessly because other pupils did not understand him. He has now left our school and has just completed his second year at university studying drama. He is currently on course to get a 2:1 in his drama degree. He is also volunteering at our school helping me teach my drama lessons.
I was fortunate that I have loved the school I first worked in, but I would say to anyone else who is just starting out and having a tough time, I would say it does get easier and also schools vary so much that if your current placement doesn’t feel right that doesn’t necessarily mean the next school will be the same. If one school isn’t right for you try another until you find what feels right. I worked at several Primary schools during my initial degree and it felt ok. Several years later I worked at a number of Special schools and it just felt right. From there, ten years on I now work in special needs school which I absolutely love.
I would say the profession needs to look at teaching what is relevant to young people. They are all so unique, with different interests and talents that the more our curriculums reflect this the more positive the outcomes. In the case of Special Needs settings I feel that there needs to be a more universal approach, with increased emphasis on preparing young people for adulthood from a much earlier age. Such as communicating wants and needs, likes and dislikes, life skills, developing hobbies and interests and employability.
“I never considered that the job I was doing was any more worthy of an award than other fantastic head teachers I knew; however, I recognised an opportunity to raise the profile of a school community in a deprived inner-city area, which previously only ever received negative media attention.”
Winner, Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School, 2006
Now works as a leadership consultant and Ofsted inspector
The win was for everyone and not just for me…all the teachers, leaders, governors and parents who had shaped my journey as a teacher and a leader. But most of all it was for the Handsworth community and ultimately the very special and talented pupils of Rookery School.
On my return to school I was greeted not only by Rookery staff, parents and pupils but with bouquets of flowers from parents of pupils at other local schools together with tradespeople from along Rookery Rd; apparently the cheers could be heard all around Handsworth on that Sunday night as people tuned into watch the broadcast on BBC 2.
I realised then just how important the award was, moreover that I was not just an ambassador for teaching, education and Rookery School, but for Handsworth. What an amazing thing…
I was a reluctant entrant into the competition, and in many ways a reluctant winner, but having been surprisingly nominated by a challenging governor – I was persuaded to go along with it by my deputy head. I never considered that the job I was doing was any more worthy of an award than other fantastic head teachers I knew; however, I recognised an opportunity to raise the profile of a school community in a deprived inner-city area, which previously only ever received negative media attention.
I was a late entrant to the teaching profession. I left school at 16, disillusioned with the education system and worked in many unfulfilling roles in local government. At 23 as a young mum I decided to return to education via the Open University. Working part-time to pay my fees I juggled roles and gained what I considered to be a degree of ‘convenience’; fitting in around an already busy life.
I began my teaching career in a large, innovative, inner-city primary school at 30 and absolutely loved it! I never looked back, was promoted rapidly, spent some time as an advisory teacher for the local authority before I took up a headship at 40 at an inner-city school in ‘special measures’ – a challenge I relished. The school developed and went from strength to strength…9 years on I won the Primary Head Teacher of The Year Award.
I am passionate about teaching and as a champion of the children, I believe that everything a teacher does must be designed to have a positive impact on pupils or there is absolutely no reason to do it. Teaching is hard, hard work, headship is also an impossible task; however, teachers and leaders who are dedicated to improving the life chances of the pupils they teach, do an amazing job and are absolutely selfless in pursuit of their aim. Those who do it for other reasons don’t survive in the profession and frankly the profession doesn’t need them.
Following the award, I remained as head teacher at Rookery (many thought that I wouldn’t!); developed the school still further – opened a Children’s Centre, a resource base for autism and a community arts hub. Never a day passed by when I wasn’t proud of the children and their achievements as budding authors, mathematicians, musicians, actors, dancers, historians…
We confidently converted to academy status in 2011, the second primary school in the country to do so. I continued to support new headteachers within Birmingham local authority and began to work as an Ofsted Inspector. Importantly, having seen first-hand the power of Teaching Awards to transform communities – I became their biggest advocate and for many years was a judge within the West Midlands region. I never considered these roles to be conflicting; in fact, they enhanced each other.
I think sometimes we as teachers, underestimate the power and influence that we have, not only over young lives but over whole communities.
I retired from headship in December 2015 but still continue to work as a leadership consultant and as an Ofsted Inspector.
“The difference between a good teacher and great teacher is attitude – and the ability to inspire and believe in someone.”
Winner Of The Award For Outstanding New Teacher Of The Year 2009
Now Head of School At Sirius Academy
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
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.
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.
It’s not easy, in fact it’s very hard but make sure you show the students you care.
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.
“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”
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
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.
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 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!
” 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!“
Winner, FE Lecturer of the Year, 2015
Currently Cycle Maintenance Lecturer at Weston College, HMP Channings Wood
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
“I have stayed in education because, quite simply … I love it. Every day brings something different and there is still so much more to do to continue building our school to offer the best quality provision for our pupils going forward. All the negatives, challenges and constraints are far outweighed by the positives and the rewards in seeing young people mature and develop toward meeting their aspirations and potential, and being a small part of that is brilliant.“
Headteacher of the Year in a Secondary School, 2013
Currently Headteacher at Sir Tom Finney Community High School, Preston, Lancashire
Winning the award was a huge surprise, particularly having read the summary biographies of the other heads in contention for the award. It was the first award announced and I will always remember as it was being announced thinking ‘that’s me’ and jumping up. At the age of 48, five years into my first headship I was awarded Headteacher of the year (2013) in a category that had never ever been won by a special school Headteacher. It was that point that I think I was most proud of at the time.
The impact really wasn’t so much on my career but more on the school. We were suddenly thrust into a bit of a spotlight both locally and nationally and had that ’15 minutes’ of fame moment with local press, radio and TV who wanted to visit school and interview me. It allowed the school and the staff and its pupils to have that kudos associated with gaining the award. I said in my interview on stage I couldn’t do my job without all those other people doing theirs as well and vice-versa. It really was a team effort.
Winning enhanced what I was already involved in and it cemented a renewed energy to ensure that the standards we had achieved in such a short space of time were not just maintained but continued to improve and in doing so keep delivering a breadth of opportunities for our pupil population.
My career started in my mid 20s having previously worked in the construction industry. It was an extended holiday in central Africa that pointed me in the direction of teaching and having spoken with a friend in the profession it just seemed to be the right thing to do at the right time having gained some ‘life’ experiences.
I was mainstream trained but within a year had entered into special education and progressed into positions of middle management and then senior management over the course of the next 15 years across a range of different special schools both primary, secondary and all age, catering for the full range of SEND provision. An opportunity came for my first Headship in a newly amalgamated secondary special school in Preston. The school went from opening on day one in September 2008 as a new school in very old buildings to outstanding within 4 years. I was nominated for the award by staff at school the following year.
I didn’t really know what I wanted as a career and drifted into part time and then full-time work in the construction industry within office and then front-of-house management. After spending time in Africa, it was then I decided maybe teaching, I did a bit of volunteer work at a friend’s school and immediately fell in love with it. It was challenging, exciting, frustrating and rewarding all at the same time and it was then I knew this was what I wanted to do as a full-time career. So, it was back to university and the rest is history.
I don’t think my style has changed particularly, I was always forward-thinking and looking to the next thing in terms of developing my knowledge and practise. I was a bit like a sponge and very lucky to learn off many talented colleagues. If anything, I have learnt to slow down the pace a little and evaluate more before making decisions, but this may reflect how the profession has also changed in terms of what we are expected to do and to be accountable for.
In special schools the pastoral side has always a big part of the role and it has continued to be. Indeed, it has expanded, but as a profession in special education nurture, care and support for the ‘whole’ child and their family has always been a consideration to ensure an individual is ready to learn.
Social media has both its positive and negative points. On the one hand, it is fabulous for promoting the work of the pupils, the school, making contact and communication with families. On the other, the impact it has on pupil relationships, behaviour and wellbeing of some pupils can be very negative and far reaching. Our role is to teach our pupils how to engage with social media safely and to understand the pros and cons of what they say and do and the consequences that may follow. In fact, quite often it is about educating the parents and families as well.
My most memorable moment (aside from the award of course) was moving into our newly refurbished and new-build premises and the official opening. To be able to have the opportunity to design, develop and establish a ‘new’ school building to meet the needs of a very wide-ranging pupil population, that promotes a curriculum preparing our young people for their adulthood doesn’t happen very often. It was the culmination of a vision and plan for the school from its initial amalgamation to becoming outstanding to getting the state-of-the-art premises our pupils deserved.
However, within my career there have been many moments of pride, mainly relating to seeing the progress and development of some of the most vulnerable young people in our society. From Victoria being able to indicate ‘yes or no’ for the very first time because of the augmentative communication device we finally managed to get her to use – to those who have developed strategies to deal with their anger, frustration as and behaviours and gone on to succeed in college placements or the world of work.
In terms of advice, I’d recommend watching a YouTube clip called ‘animal school’ and I’d say never look back; ‘change’ is positive.
The profession has become more demanding, accountable and schools seem to be taking on more of the things other services used to provide. The ‘do more with less’ way of working appears to be the expectation. In one sense that isn’t a bad thing because it has made the profession increasingly professional and the ‘one stop shop’ approach can have many benefits, but it seems to be having an impact upon retention, recruitment and burn out of senior colleagues. From a SEND point of view there have been significant changes within legislation that have impacted upon our workload, and responsibility. Some for the good and some yet to be seen as having benefit for the individual pupils. The jury is still out! The other major change has been technology and the revolution that brings and there will be even more developments in the future which schools will have to adapt to and change with and learn. Our pupils are coming to school these days with more technical knowhow than many of the staff!
I have stayed in education because, quite simply … I love it. Every day brings something different and there is still so much more to do to continue building our school to offer the best quality provision for our pupils going forward. All the negatives, challenges and constraints are far outweighed by the positives and the rewards in seeing young people mature and develop toward meeting their aspirations and potential, and being a small part of that is brilliant.
We must make sure teachers and those who support them in the classroom feel valued are not left to feel isolated or vulnerable. That the support mechanisms allow for time to meet workload demands, allow time to develop professionally and reward those who go that extra mile. We must ensure teachers feel collaborated with and not in direct conflict with those who hold us accountable. We must promote the profession as being the most worthwhile, important and positive job anyone can do because the impact teachers have on individuals and society as a whole is lifelong.
“Winning the award meant the world and gave me many opportunities that previously I may not have had.”
Winner, Teaching Award for Enterprise, 2006
Currently Director of development at St Joseph’s College, Beulah Hill, London
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.
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.
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.
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.