After I completed my degree, I secured my first job in education working as a teaching assistant in a further education (FE) college in Gloucestershire. From there I got some additional teaching experience in primary and secondary contexts.
After a stint working overseas as a professional football coach, I worked for the local college, doing work on the Prince’s Trust courses and some of their entry to employment and NEET group projects. I was then fortunate to progress into a role in apprenticeships as an assessor and quality assurer.
Apprenticeships is something I am passionate about, so when the opportunity arose last year to progress into my current role I jumped at the chance and have enjoyed securing our publication onto the RoATP. I also run my own centre Plymouth and Cornwall Training, and through this, offer a range of provision inclusive of first aid, higher level teaching assistant and PE specialist qualifications, as part of my own accredited centre.
It had been a number of years since I was awarded with Qualified Teaching Learning Skills (QTLS) status when the ATS programme was launched. It came at a good time, because I felt I needed a challenge, particularly because I had been working in an assessing and IQA role and I felt my learning curve was diminishing. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and ATS really did serve that purpose.
Knowing that ATS was conferred with Chartered Teaching Status was another motivating factor into my decision to undertake it. Although I work in FE, a lot of my students work in primary and secondary sectors, so I think it’s important for me to have that dual professionalism. ATS and CTeach align to ensure consistency and parity of professionalism across the schools and FE sectors. It also shows that the education sector is as one, so there isn’t as much of a blurred line between them.
I will be honest in that I found ATS a challenge – I tutor on Level 5/6 PE courses, so I’ve got some sort of insight into working at those levels, but this was the first time dipping my toe in the water of Level 7 equivalent study, in terms of how ATS is set out. Being a number of years since I had studied for anything, I had to work hard to get my head back into that mindset of writing at that level. However, the thing I found particularly interesting and empowering throughout the ATS journey was the fact you could really lead the level of expertise you explored. The research-based project is what motivated me – if you can build that level of study around something you are passionate about, that is really crucial to your own professional development.
My research study looked at the links between physical activity and academic attainment. It taught me a lot about what research practice looks like and gave me an insight into PE and academic attainment and social and emotional development. I personally feel that at a local, national and international level, we still need more research to better understand what works most effectively to be to the benefit of our own students – and ultimately ourselves and our own learning journeys. The neuroscience linked to physical activity is something that really interests me and could harbour some exciting developments to our pedagogical approaches in the future.
ATS has encouraged me to do more reading around what I do and why I do it. We’ve all got our own philosophies, but within my new role I’ve also been looking at literature from educators such as Dr Neil Hawkes and his value-based approach to education. My organisation is now using that as a grounding and underpinning philosophy for how we teach, how we put young people at the centre of what we do, and how we try to adopt the values-based approach in terms of our teaching practice.
This has also impacted some of the CPD we’ve delivered and some of the practices we’ve adopted, which has led to us taking forward more research-driven approaches, which is something we are keen to keep championing. It has encouraged myself and my colleagues to be more innovative, as we strive to continually raise the bar to the benefit of the young people we have the privilege of working with on a daily basis.
Because of the ATS journey I’ve been fortunate to be able to set up some additional courses, which has helped put me in touch with more practitioners. Through this shared practice and community environment this has helped me develop my own assessment for learning practices, in terms of making sure that learners are annotating and providing feedback on the comments that tutors are making and that they can evidence and showcase their level of understanding and development. I believe this is particularly important with the new Ofsted framework in FE, in terms of implementation and impact; I think it's essential that as educators we make sure that we are not only showcasing, but also celebrating the journey that young people are on.
What have you learnt from your ATS journey?
I have taken what I learnt from my ATS process and put this into practice while I work on my Masters in Education. ATS has inspired me to continue with my own learning and to keep pushing and challenging myself to be better for my students. Another big impact I would say that ATS has had on me is my confidence and self-belief – it gave me the thirst and drive to keep pushing forward and not to stagnate, which is easy to do, and ultimately this will be to the benefit of my own learners. We have all got pressures in our lives in terms of family and commitments, but it’s really helped me to focus on the areas of professional practice that matter to me and balance these areas. ATS has inspired me to take a new path in my career and step out of my comfort zone to challenge the norm - setting up apprenticeships from scratch has been a really exciting and rewarding opportunity for me and I have learnt so much in my first 9 months in post.
The procurement of ESFA funding is something that perhaps two or three years ago, before doing ATS, would have been a daunting prospect for me to undertake. ATS has really given me the self-belief and determination to put a career of teaching experiences, knowledge, observations and good practice to a project that I feel, will have the most positive impact. In a post Covid-19 world I would hope that our apprenticeships will locally be a real positive in helping young people develop meaningful careers that they are passionate about. That for me is the true test, because as educators our goal is to help people grow, develop and better themselves - and it is humbling to be part of those journeys.