Courtney joined Wells-Next-the-Sea Primary & Nursery School as a Teaching Assistant in 2018 and, aged 22, has recently been appointed as Year 1 Teacher.
When did you know that you wanted to become a teacher?
I started straight out of school by doing my Level 3 Childcare Course at the College of West Anglia. As part of the course, you have to do two placements - I undertook one in the Nursery at Wells Primary & Nursery School, and the other in their Reception class.
I had a big think at the end of my Level 3 and decided to do a foundation degree in Early Years, Play Work and Education with Anglia Ruskin University. This involved doing a couple more placements, which brought me back to the Reception class at Wells Primary & Nursery School. That was when they offered me a job as a Teaching Assistant so I started working at the school whilst completing my degree. By the end of that year, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I then went on to do my BA Hons in Early Childhood Studies and I continued to work as a teaching assistant while completing that.
I finished my degree and, this year, I’ve been doing my teacher training, which is a SCITT based teacher training course, predominantly in school and then one day a week at university.
For 4 days a week, my first placement was at Burnham Market Primary, still within the Wensum Trust, and then in January 2021, I was back at Wells. A job recently came up to be a teacher here and I was lucky enough to get it so I’m going to be the Year 1 teacher from September.
What kind of relationship did you have with your teachers at school, and do you think that influenced your desire to become a teacher?
Definitely. I had a really positive experience all the way through school. I loved high school! I actually went to Alderman Peel High School, which is also part of The Wensum Trust. It’s all quite local for me, so that’s ideal.
Throughout school, my teachers were always really supportive. The high school teachers will come down to the primary school and some of them used to actually teach me, so it’s quite funny - especially now that I’m in the same position as they are.
My positive experience of school is probably why I love my job and why I love working in schools. I guess they modelled that to me, throughout my high school years.
Do you think your high school teachers have influenced the way you teach?
Definitely. My Child Development teacher was always a very nurturing, caring person. She had a strong emotional connection with her students and I always try to bring that to my classroom. Her classroom was a really nurturing space and a positive environment. Having that kind of teacher, someone you could go and speak to, who was supportive of everything you did - someone who, if you had a problem, you felt comfortable to go and talk to... I want to replicate that in my teaching and it’s something I try to do every day. She was really supportive and that’s something I really benefited from - it makes a difference when you’re studying.
Child Development was my favourite subject, but I also loved Maths. I remember my Maths teachers always pushing me and I loved being challenged. Again, it’s something that I always try to do with the children. Within Year 1, we have ‘continuous provision’ and we push the children to further extend their learning.I always provide extension challenges within my lessons and in Maths.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve been given is to just ask for support when you need it.
I feel like I’m quite confident to do that because I’ve built a good relationship with staff over the time I’ve been at this school. Throughout my various placements I’ve had to carry out various projects in school and the staff have always been so supportive and helped where they can. You should be confident and comfortable asking for help because that is what will help you to move on and to progress.
You’ve been part of the Wensum Trust in a number of capacities - How important do you think a continuous education journey is for children and their families?
Transition can be daunting for both the children and the parents – I think it’s really important that the child and the family know that we are here if they need us for help and support or advice. I always try to make it a positive experience and maintain strong and positive relationships, even after the child has progressed.
I’ll be teaching in Year 1 next year and the children already know me - they say ‘Good Morning’ to me when we walk past each other in school. Having that personal approach, knowing who the children are and being familiar with their interests and what they like - I think that’s something that our schools do really well.
And finally, for anybody considering a role at the Wensum Trust, is there anything that stands out to you about Wensum Trust schools?
I think the support network is excellent. For example we have personal visits from the CEO, being able to meet them in person and get feedback, I think that’s really important. As a whole, I think the Trust takes on your opinion of what you feel and what you think.
I also know there will always be opportunities within the Trust. I’d like to go and observe, and visit different schools in the Trust, and the Headteacher is more than happy to facilitate that. It will be a huge advantage for my personal and professional development and maybe in the future I could do different placements within different schools in the Trust. So I feel like it is a real opportunity for me, moving forward.