Why I love teaching in...the South West of England

3rd April 2019 at 12:15
Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, South West England
Sarah Barker, assistant headteacher at Orchard School Bristol, talks about the benefits of life in the South West, from its great career opportunities to stunning scenery and array of outdoor activities

I was born and bred in Bristol, so the city and the South West is very much a part of my life. I went to university in London, at UCL, but I always knew that I’d return to the region. I missed it horribly while I was studying.

There’s a relaxed feel to the South West that isn’t found in many places. We have a slower pace of life and we know how to enjoy it.

People walk slower, we even talk a bit slower. I loved London; it was electric and hectic and everything was exciting, but I pined for Bristol. As soon as I’d finished my finals, I came straight back to the South West and, 20 years later, I’m still here.

Way out west 

After graduating, I secured a job working with foster children during the day and at the Thekla (Bristol's famous nightclub on a boat) at night. I loved both of these jobs but there came a time when I wanted a bit more structure to my life and to put my degree to some use.

I applied to the University of Bristol to do an English secondary PGCE and started my training in 2003. My placements went well and, by Easter I had a job at Fairfield High School. I’ve remained in Bristol schools ever since.

I can honestly say that I have never once dreaded going to work or wanted to leave. Bristol schools are brilliant. There are loads of them, for a start: we have 20 in the city. 

Then there’s South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, and Bath and North East Somerset, all within easy reach. There are plenty of jobs here for people wanting to work in education.

A city with a learning culture

Bristol won the Unesco Learning City Award in 2017, and it was an important moment for the city. The award recognises and showcases good practices in promoting quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. 

There are Learning Cities springing up around the world, all working towards the same objective; to transform lives and communities through learning networks, such as those we have in and between our schools in Bristol.

Learning opportunities are everywhere here; we have two universities in Bristol, both with outstanding academic reputations, and there are further education colleges across the city, too, running evening courses towards all kinds of qualifications.

I’ve taken advantage of these, reaching level 4 in British Sign Language and completing a carpentry course here, both through evening courses. The schools I’ve worked in are also keen to promote lifelong learning; my last school supported me in gaining my master’s degree while working full-time.

Holidaying at home

The South West is crammed with art and culture. We have Tate St Ives, The Eden Project, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, Stonehenge and too many others to mention. There’s a cost attached to this, though. Housing can be pricey and even renting is expensive.

But ultimately, the South West is just a beautiful place. There’s no need to go on holiday abroad when you live here.

Devon and Cornwall have unrivalled coastlines. Whether you’re into swimming, surfing, relaxing on the beach or walking, it’s all on your doorstep. The cities in the South West are warm, friendly places. The area is great for cycling (if a little hilly) and there’s a strong focus on protecting our beautiful environment. 

And we’ve got Westward Ho!, the only town in the British Isles with an exclamation mark in its name. What more could you ask for?

Looking to make your next move? Find the latest teaching jobs in the South West.

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