This National Apprenticeship Week (4 to 8 March), one Hampshire mum talks about how the programme is enabling her to achieve her ambition to become a teacher at the primary school where she’s worked for the past three years.
Natalie Rich, from Southampton, has worked as a teaching assistant (TA) at Bursledon Junior School for three years and this September is due to progress to her new role as a qualified teacher at the school. Becoming a teaching apprentice is an opportunity she has grasped with both hands, and one she doubts she could have managed in the traditional way. She said:
“With an apprenticeship I am able to train while working in the school that I want to work in and I’m being paid to do it. It is hard work, but it’s such a good opportunity. There are a couple of women my age on my course who have had to give up their jobs and pay thousands in tuition fees to train as teachers, but I wouldn’t have been in a position to do that.”
In many ways, Natalie is typical of the profile of many apprentices. After completing a psychology degree, Natalie worked in the NHS but this changed at the age of 24 when she took 10 years out of the workplace to look after her three children. When her youngest started school, Natalie wanted flexible work that would fit in with family life.
With family connections in teaching, Natalie was drawn to the classroom, but didn’t have the right qualifications to teach. She was lucky enough to land a teaching assistant job and instantly felt at home.
Last year Natalie gained higher level teaching assistant (HTLA) status and has been developing in confidence and experience looking after a whole class of children, so when she found out about the County Council’s teaching apprenticeships, she realised it was time to go for it:
“I went along to a ‘Get into Teaching’ event and realised that an apprenticeship offered a route into teaching that would allow me to stay in my job while I trained. I approached the Headteacher about it and she was really keen to get on board as it seemed like a new exciting opportunity.”
Funding for the teaching programme was made available through the Apprenticeship Levy which can be used to fund recognised apprenticeship training only.
For Burseldon’s Executive Headteacher, Sian Smith, the opportunity was too good to miss.
She said: “I wanted our school to be able to grow its own talent – when you’ve got people who are dedicated to the school, you don’t want to lose them. The apprenticeships that are now available are a really good way forward. Our school’s vision is to support everyone as a learner - both children and our staff. Right now, in addition to Natalie qualifying to be a teacher, the school’s Business Manager is doing the school business professional apprenticeship and our Assistant Headteacher is studying for a Senior Leader in Education Master’s degree through a Higher Level Apprenticeship.
“What’s worked effectively is that I know that the staff who are doing apprenticeships have the capabilities and attitude that this school wants.”
As Natalie’s apprenticeship draws to a close, she is finding herself working more as a teacher and less as a student – but there is one aspect of the apprenticeship she has found challenging. She commented:
“Trying to fit in writing an assignment when you’re teaching all day, you’re marking and planning; and then going home and having to take your children out to their clubs, doing the tea and all the stuff at home as a mum – it has been hard but the school has been brilliant. They’ve let me have some afternoons free so I can focus on my studies.”
While recognising that the pupils’ education takes priority, Sian says that wherever possible the school has been able to accommodate study time for the apprentices.
“Because we’ve been flexible, it’s worked well. It’s a win-win for everybody. We’re getting a member of staff professionally developed, which is what we believe in, and in the meantime Natalie is positively enhancing children’s lives.
“Teaching is a privileged position to be in and so long as you have the support network around then it really is the most fabulous job.”
Anyone who would like further information about teaching and other education based apprenticeships can contact Claire Allen, Development Manager School Apprenticeships at Hampshire County Council.