Tod Heron

Tod joined Alderman Peel High School as a D&T Technician in 2018 and has recently been appointed as an Art teacher at the school.

When did you decide to become a teacher?

I started training in Art when I was 24. I enjoyed Art in college, which led onto a university course in Illustration at Norwich University of the Arts. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at the end of it, whether I wanted to be an illustrator, a fine artist or graphic designer – those were all things I was thinking about… 

During my course, I had been delivering outreach with schools. I would visit schools and take part in Careers Days and sing the praises of the university, but I still wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do so I decided to stay at university to do an MA in Fine Art which would give me another year to figure out what my future might entail. During that year, I got the chance to work with a lot of technicians in the sculpture workshop and I really enjoyed their work, and they helped to inspire me. 

From that experience I knew that working with children was something I would enjoy doing, so at the end of my MA I looked around for technician roles and saw one advertised at Alderman Peel High. I went to visit the school before applying and everyone was amazing, they were really warm and welcoming, and really interested to know me, even though I hadn’t even applied yet. 

So I knew it was somewhere I could see myself working and, luckily, I got the job. After I had been here for 6 months the Vice Principal, in charge of CPD at the school, approached me about my career progression. She told me that I was really capable and very good with the kids and asked me if I’d considered teaching. 

It is something that I had considered previously, and the timing seemed perfect - I’d been at the school for 6 months and felt ready for my next step. Together, we looked into the different options available to me - I could leave my technician post to go and train, I could do an apprenticeship, or I could just do the end-point assessment, without any of the training. But I felt like I wanted to learn more before I went to try to pass the exam as it is, so we decided that I would go down the apprenticeship route.

The team at Alderman Peel has been amazing. I’ve had 4 mentors throughout my training at the school - everyone’s queueing out the door to support me, which is really nice, including staff from lots of different departments.

 

How do you balance the apprenticeship and work?

Throughout my training, I spent 4 days a week working as a member of staff and then, on Fridays, I had professional development sessions that delivered the theory of the teacher training and then I was required to provide lesson plans, be observed, attend subject knowledge department days, and learning conferences.

Typically, they start you small in Week 1 and then, as the year progresses, you build up to a fuller timetable. By week 40 you’re working almost full-time for 4 days a week, 4-5 periods a day and then, when my course finishes there’s an option to be employed more for that extra Friday, which I have taken on now that my course has finished. 

 

How has the school and The Wensum Trust supported your career progression?

I was hugely supported by the school and, by extension, the Wensum Trust who helped by funding the apprenticeship scheme. It wasn’t always guaranteed that they would be able to, but they made it happen which is really nice because it hasn’t cost me anything to do the training. 

It’s been a great experience and I’ve learnt a huge amount. At the beginning, I thought I knew what teaching was and what it entailed but actually, there’s so much more to it – there’s so much deeper thinking that you have to employ to effectively provide for your students. They’re all unique human individuals who have strengths and weaknesses that you have to learn, to know, in order to help them progress through school, and effectively support them.

As of September, I’m starting as an Art teacher, but I’ll also be doing a small amount of Design & Technology, so it’s worked out really well. 

I’m hugely grateful to the Wensum Trust for their support in my career progression so far.

Have you had the opportunity to gain experience at other Wensum Trust Schools?

You get the opportunity to visit other schools as part of your training, you actually take a term at another school, and you swap with another trainee. Unfortunately because of Covid, that was unable to happen. 

When restrictions are lifted, I’m intending on visiting the other secondary schools in the Trust, to help with subject knowledge development. On the whole, our Art department has established strong connections with these schools already, which is a huge benefit for me.

Looking ahead, what changes do you think the next 100 years of Education should bring about?

One of the most poignant conversations I had at school, and that I remember vividly to this day, is when I went into a careers meeting, similar to the ones that are held in schools today... I sat down with a Careers Mentor and they asked me "what do you want to do when you’re older?" I said I wanted to be a writer. And his response was… “You don’t want to be doing that, you won’t make any money. Have you thought about being a lawyer?” 

Those were the kind of conversations I had at school. I can’t ever remember having a conversation with an adult at school, I was taught and that was it. But working at Alderman Peel High and seeing the relationships the teachers have with the students was eye-opening. So for me, the next 100 years should be offering as much opportunity and exploration for all young people to make an educated decision about what they enjoy doing, what they think is valuable to society, and on finding out what they can offer. 

 

Looking ahead, how do you feel about September and the start of your next teaching chapter?

I’m very excited. I’m going to be teaching some Key Stage 4 classes which is exciting because I’ve only been teaching KS3 to this point. I’m really looking forward to helping students to make decisions about the next steps in their education journey.

I have never learnt more than I have learnt in the 2-3 years I have been at Alderman Peel, it has been such a great learning experience and I can’t wait to build on those experiences further. There’s so many fantastic teachers across different subjects and going into other classes to observe them is amazing. School is such an inspiring place to be, in every aspect, which you don’t appreciate until after you leave. 

The amount of student leavers who come back to APHS from various different paths… just to say hello and to tell us what they’re up to… it’s amazing to see how they’ve grown and developed and it’s wonderful to see them visiting school in their later years. It just shows how much they value the relationships with their peers and with us, the staff.