'Be an Ally Advocate and a Champion for Children With SEND.' Interview With a Trainee Primary School Teacher

1-2 minutes

In this blog, you will learn:

  • What it is like to be a trainee Teacher and what to expect in a teaching career.
  • How to advocate for children and support the needs of pupils with SEND.
  • How to find and apply for the best Early Career Teacher jobs.

Are you training to become a Teacher and want some tips and advice to prepare you for your career in education? Amber Hadley is currently studying to be a primary school Teacher and has shared her top tips for anyone considering a career in teaching. 

Amber is ambitious and optimistic about the future, and is eager to keep improving and bettering herself during her teacher training and studying. 

With big plans to add to her long list of training and qualifications, she is determined to be a positive influence on generations, in the same way that her own Teachers had a significant impact on herself.

Throughout this interview, you’ll discover the career pathway of a Trainee Teacher, and ways of improving, challenging yourself and driving positive change for children and young people with SEND.


Tell us about your career journey so far

I initially graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in History, before undertaking a conversion Master’s degree in Psychology, specialising in Educational Psychology. It sounds very cliché, but I’ve always wanted to work in education, and I’m incredibly lucky that I’m currently on the cusp of finishing my Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in Primary Education at the University of Cambridge.

Alongside my five-year journey at university, I’ve volunteered with more than 10 charities in the tutoring, social mobility, and fundraising sectors, working with both local and national non-for-profit organisations.

Most recently, I’ve joined Theirworld – a global charity committed to ending educational inequities around the world – as a Youth Ambassador. I’ve also amassed a professional development portfolio consisting of more than 400 courses.

 

What does your role as a Primary Teacher consist of?

No two days are the same. The variation keeps the job exciting, and is just one of the reasons why I absolutely love what I do. As a trainee, I spend about a third of my time at university and the rest of the time is split across three block placements.

Additionally, I’ve completed a specialist SEND placement, attended numerous day visits to partnership schools, and partaken in multiple conference days. 

When I’m at university, my daily tasks consist primarily of lectures, seminars, and workshops. There are usually preliminary readings, followed by a conventional 9 to 5 structure. 

Daily tasks when I’m on placement consist of teaching English, Maths, and foundation subjects (the percentage of lessons I teach has incrementally increased over time), followed by marking the children’s work and attending planning or moderation meetings.

I complete weekly reflections, evaluations, and subject audits, and I am often responsible for invigilating summative assessments. I typically arrive at school at 7:30am and leave for the day at around 5:30pm. 

 

How do you keep up-to-date with changes in the education industry?

Obviously the education industry has been impacted by many factors such as the global pandemic, the funding crisis, and school reform policies, so remaining attuned to how these wider contextual factors are affecting our pupils is vital.

Personally, I’m a big advocate for attending as many courses, conferences and webinars as possible, as well as any training, twilight network meet-ups, or similar events and opportunities. The contemporary research that is shared and the collaborations that occur is phenomenal. You’re always learning about novel perspectives and understanding how the latest trends can influence you as a practitioner.

Another way I stay updated is by joining national subject associations, utilising their journal subscriptions and virtual discussion forums. I’m passionate about ensuring that the information I obtain is reliable, accurate, and preferably peer-reviewed.

  

What have you learned so far in your career?

I’ve learned that Teachers play a pivotal role in the education system, one that should not be understated. A Teacher can be the reason a child comes to school every day, and this - for me - is so powerful.

I’ve had the privilege of learning from four brilliant mentors, who have each played their part in shaping me into who I am today. I’ve learned to blend their excellence with my authentic self too, taking inspiration from what I love about their teaching whilst not losing sight of who I am.

  

What obstacles have you had to face in your career?

This isn’t an obstacle per se, but I’m doing my teacher training in a very affluent part of the country, even though I’m a first-generation student, working-class, and originally from the West Midlands, which aren’t typical characteristics of Oxbridge attendees. 

These are all integral markers of my identity, and I think it shows that our aspirations and the opportunities available to us should never be diminished. 

Seeking the elusive work-life balance has been difficult at times. I’ve found refining my time management and reaching out to others have both been imperative in helping with this.

  

How have things changed or progressed in the education and SEND industry?

I think there is more emphasis on research and evidence-based practice in education now, and educational technology is of course extremely progressive.

Schools appear to be investing more time and resources into their SEND provisions. Despite the backlog of Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) referrals, there are more therapies available and scaffolding embedded, as well as more SEND-focused training for Teachers and other education professionals. This positive focus on adaptive teaching means learning is becoming more universally accessible.

 

What do you feel can be done to support the needs of pupils with SEND?

  • Get to know pupils; their likes, dislikes, and their life outside of school.
  • Avoid ‘capping’ children’s abilities and under-estimating them.
  • Challenge unconscious bias and challenge preconceived stereotypes.
  • Explore more assistive technologies where appropriate.
  • Reduce cognitive overload and increase scaffolding and modelling in lessons.
  • Foster a positive classroom culture.
  • Encourage pupils' voices.
  • Be an ally, advocate and a champion for children with SEND. 


Do you have any tips or advice for someone wanting to become a Teacher?

My first piece of advice would be to research the routes into teaching. There are different routes, and it’s not a case of ‘one size fits all’. There are many benefits to both the PGCE and School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT). Find out about them both before making an informed decision.

My second piece of advice would be to network as soon as possible. Find which platforms or methods work best for you, but my suggestions would be to build connections by joining groups on LinkedIn, going to any meet-ups in your local area, and attending any training offered to you. It’s taken me a long time to craft my network and I wish I’d started doing it sooner. Take the leap and start engaging in professional discussions; it will definitely benefit you in the long run.

My third piece of advice (taking quite the leap into the future) would be when you are looking for your first Early Career Teacher position, visit as many different schools as possible. Consider their mission, their values, and their intentions. 

Consider how these are operationalised and enacted in the school environment. I believe that doing this will help you establish the kind of Teacher you want to become and the ethos you wish to align yourself with.

My final piece of advice would be to believe in yourself, persevere, and understand your ‘why’. Teaching is so rewarding and full of joyous moments, so if this is your chosen career, let your reasons for choosing it propel you through your journey. Have faith in yourself, and trust your capabilities.

Someone said to me at the start of my journey, ‘find a reason to smile every day’, and I’ve stuck to this. You make a difference and you have an impact. You can’t always see it, and sometimes you’ll never know the influence you’ve had, but know how special and unique the work you do is.

 

What are your career plans for the future?

I aspire to become an Accredited Dyscalculia Practitioner (APD), gain my Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification, and gain a qualification in Forest School Leadership, so that I can pursue these specialist areas concurrent with my practice.

Thinking slightly longer-term, I would like to do a National Professional Qualification (NPQ) and take on the role of a Curriculum Coordinator.

Aside from teaching, I’m planning on completing a second master’s degree, as the credits accumulated throughout my PGCE are half the weighting of this. I’m also planning on pursuing opportunities in lectureship, authorship, mentoring, and coaching to inspire the next generation of educators.

Finally, I’m currently in the process of starting an independent Business Owner role with Usborne Publishing which is very exciting. I know I’m only just starting out in my career, but my passions and ambitions are what drive me each and every day. If I can be for our future children what my Teachers were for me, then I’m in for an amazing career!


ECT Teacher jobs

If you’re searching for an ECT Teacher job, why not take a look at the latest ECT Teacher vacancies, or simply upload your CV to be notified when a relevant position becomes available.


Recruiting Early Career Teachers?

As experts in mainstream and SEND school recruitment, we support schools with their temporary, permanent and temp-perm staffing needs. 

We currently work with hundreds of schools and have exclusive access to some of the best Teachers, Teaching Assistants and Early Career Teachers in the North West.

If you’re struggling to fill an Early Career Teacher vacancy, why not get in touch with one of our team to see how we can help?


Share your experience

Every individual brings a unique set of experiences, thoughts, and insights to the table. We believe in giving a voice to a community of professionals to inspire positive change and champion reform in the education sector.  

If you work in the education sector and would like to share your own personal and professional experiences, we’d love to hear from you. Perhaps you have a different perspective, could offer a fresh angle, or want to challenge assumptions. 

Simply reach out to our Head of Content, Nicole Sherwood, to discuss a collaboration which makes your voice count.


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