From cover supervisor to Head of PSHE: my Training Programme Nomination journey
HK Skill began their career in education as a cover supervisor at Uxbridge High School. It was here they were nominated for Teach First’s Training Programme Nomination – a unique route for support staff to train as a teacher in their current school.
HK is now Head of PSHE and Character Education at Chipping Norton School in Oxfordshire. They shared with us how they started their journey in education, their proudest achievements and why headteachers should consider nominating their support staff for our Training Programme.
I didn’t choose education, it chose me
I used to work as a landlady – I ran a pub. But it didn’t work for me. So, I left to go travelling with my partner. When I came back, I wanted to do a master’s degree in my undergraduate subject, which is drama.
While I was waiting to start my degree, I signed up to an agency as a teaching assistant. I worked with a couple of different schools, before taking on a cover supervisor role at Uxbridge High School. After six weeks, the school and I figured out that this was what I was meant to be doing. It felt so natural. I owe them a lot, as they helped me discover that I wanted to be teacher.
One day, the Vice Principal, Nicola Marsh, said to me, “Well, we do work a lot with Teach First and they’re starting the Training Programme Nomination. So, you can stay here and train instead of doing your PGCE”. This felt like the right decision.
I could focus on my learning
As a cover supervisor, I worked with lots of different departments, and I knew staff from all over the school. I genuinely think that helped me to become a better teacher. If I had a problem, I didn’t necessarily have to go to my immediate supervisor. Sometimes you just need a professional ear that can listen but isn’t involved in your employment or monitoring your assessment. This was a massive benefit of training in my existing school context.
Schools can be complex organisations – and complex buildings! When you’re navigating the steep learning curve that is teaching, you’ve got to get on board fast. Simple things such as knowing where the toilets or pigeonholes were or when I was assigned to a duty – these were all things I didn’t have to think about. I knew how our school’s system worked. This made all the difference because I could focus on my learning rather than having to remember all the admin stuff.
People who were willing to listen
A woman called Bonnie Burridge was my Teach First Development Lead. Her and the team from Teach First really think about you as a person as well as a trainee teacher – supporting you and your development. It was helpful to have people along the journey who were willing to listen. They made sure I was okay and doing everything I needed to do. I was so glad to have those people there.
Adding value to our schools
School support staff have an untapped wealth of experience – something that headteachers should utilise, as well as reminding their teachers of.
At present, teacher pay is going up at a rate that is lower than inflation. But for support staff it’s even worse. They’re getting paid a low wage to support our most vulnerable students. Every day they work hard, and they’re very knowledgeable. I think we should be developing these people who have all this experience and add so much value to our schools. They work in every single classroom; they know what works and what doesn’t.
The teachers who inspired me
Growing up, I was lucky to have an amazing group of teachers. I always shout about my high school drama teacher – Vito Anzalone. Thanks to him, I did exceptionally well in drama.
Before starting the Teach First Training Programme, I went back to my secondary school to gain some school experience with Mr Anzalone Years later, and he is still this interesting, driven man who loves teaching and reminding his students that they have value. I want to become that person for my students.
Making a difference
One of my proudest moments as a teacher involved a young person who was in my A Level English class. He got an E in his Year 12 mock exam results – he didn’t complete a third of the essays. We had a conversation and together we figured out that he had a learning difficulty that hadn’t been diagnosed.
We implemented access arrangements and from there he began progressing so quickly. It was incredible the difference taking away two – quite small – barriers made to his learning. He went from an E to a C. A year ago, I didn’t think he was going to pass his A Levels, but now he’s off to university to do something amazing. That’s something that has really stuck with me.
The biggest perk of teaching is seeing your students grow and progress. I often think that, for students from poorer backgrounds, it’s like having to climb through windows or knock down doors – doors that other students can just walk through – to get some of those opportunities they need to succeed. Good teaching is about making life a little bit easier for your students.
Training Programme Nomination is a unique route for support staff or individuals known by the school to develop as teachers. Find out how you can retain and train your existing staff members here.