Zara Kirkpatrick
Zara Kirkpatrick
English teacher at Carlton Bolling College (Bradford, Yorkshire and the Humber)
Ambassador cohort
2020 Training Programme Nomination

From supporting lessons to leading them

Zara’s experience on the Training Programme Nomination allowed her to progress from a Learning Support Assistant to a teacher, at her school. 

 

My career started off in the classroom

I started as a Learning Support Assistant within the SEND department and then progressed to the role of Assistant Lead of the alternative learning provision. In this role, I ran the internal alternative learning classroom that students join when they can’t access mainstream schooling. 

It was in this role that I started to teach lessons to a variety of ages and abilities across many different subjects, and I was approached numerous times by staff suggesting I should gain my teaching qualification. 

I was struggling to see how I could progress without needing a teaching qualification

In my previous role, I was completing a lot of work within the SEND department as it was close to where I was based. It was the faculty I had progressed from and was still very much interested in.   
 
I applied for maternity cover for the assistant SENDCo job when it became available, and although I knew I had the valid experience for the role, the only thing that meant I couldn’t complete the job was the fact I didn’t have a teaching qualification. This was the setback I needed to encourage me to complete my teacher training.

I couldn’t see myself going back to live on student loans and not working full-time 

It just didn’t appeal to the lifestyle I’d built since leaving university. The Training Programme Nomination was the perfect route as it meant I didn’t have to leave my school and colleagues that I enjoyed working with, and it also meant I would have a salary as I trained.  

My colleague, who had previously completed the Teach First Training Programme, knew that I was interested in gaining my teaching qualification. They asked if I had heard about Teach First and told me to look into it as an option.

Planning full 50-minute lessons was completely alien to me

At first, I found the workload difficult, but the staff at my school were massively supportive and made the transition a lot easier. 
 
I couldn't have asked for better support throughout the programme – although I do feel that because I’ve already worked at the school previously, sometimes it’s taken for granted that I’m expected to know certain things. That’s not always the case. 

The relationships you build from teaching the same students every day is hugely rewarding

I've enjoyed the responsibility and ownership of having my own classes. But I’ve found it hard not to get involved in certain aspects of education that link to my previous roles (behaviour, mentoring, SEND interventions, for example). I’ve sometimes found that when I should be planning lessons and resources, I’m instead having a one-to-one with students I knew previously. 

They come to me when they're in a crisis because I'm a familiar face. Strict time management is key and having a checklist for what I need to complete each day is vital to ensuring I can manage the workload.

The school environment is such a great place to work in

From building relationships with students to the professional relationships with teachers and colleagues, no two days are the same. Schools are such a collaborative environment, so if you enjoy working with other people and having a positive impact on young people’s lives, then teaching is such an amazing profession to get into.  
 

Are you currently a support staff member and looking to progress in your career? Or do you know of someone working in your school who would make a fantastic teacher? 

With our Training Programme Nomination, support staff can stay at a school that’s familiar to them and develop their skills in the classroom, all whilst gaining a salary. Plus, schools can retain their brilliant team.

If you’re a headteacher, find out more about nominating a staff member here.

 

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