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Career case study: from TA to assistant head

In four years Sam Rutter has progressed from teaching assistant to assistant head. Here she explains her journey

Simon Lock

Teacher CPD in international schools: Why it is a never-ending journey

When did you realise you wanted to be a teacher?

I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. I used to play "school" at any given time and loved writing pretend lesson plans and taking the register.

I'm not sure I can pinpoint a time when I knew it was what I wanted to do. I just think I have always wanted to work with children and in particular teach them.

What was your first school role?

I started at Barnton Community Nursery and Primary School in 2012, after previously working as a manager in a busy day nursery. I was employed as a teaching assistant and worked across all key stages as one-to-one support and also providing whole-class cover.

From this, I gained experience from observing and working with the teachers and senior leaders around me. I was encouraged to begin my foundation degree and progressed to starting the top-up year to gain a full degree in education.

When did you start your teacher training?

In October 2015, while I was in the final year of my degree, the opportunity to work as an unqualified teacher in Year 1 was offered to me. I had always been vocal about my desire to become a teacher and Barnton had already supported me in starting my degree.

As I started in the position I had always wanted, I knew I couldn’t change back to being a teaching assistant. I loved having responsibility for my own class.

Having already gained a lot of classroom experience, I realised I could complete a school-based training route and gain QTS without leaving my current class. I was delighted that I could be qualified so quickly and didn’t need to leave the job I loved.

With my experience of working with such outstanding, passionate teachers and the opportunities I’d been presented at Barnton, it felt like the perfect way forward.

How did you balance studying with your role in the classroom?

It was tricky to find a balance. I had a class I was trying to get to make good, if not outstanding, progress. I also had all the pressures that come with classroom teaching, alongside trying to gather evidence, complete different training tasks and do additional online learning.

I had to be organised and use my time wisely. I had a full day of PPA and used this to observe peers and complete any work that I needed to. I also completed regular online learning modules, which really supported the development in my teaching. 

Looking back, I am not sure how I managed to do that, alongside the dissertation for my degree, skills tests, teaching a class full time and also buying my first home. They were some very busy months – but it was all so worth it.

What’s good about this particular QTS route?

I chose this particular route because it meant I could become a qualified teacher whilst still being paid to teach my class in a school I loved.

There were still lots of opportunities to learn and develop using the online learning modules, but the best part was learning from experienced colleagues and professionals around me.

It also meant I learned to organise myself and got to know the ins and outs of being a teacher, meaning the transition to a being an NQT was seamless. This, in turn, has meant I have been able to fast-track the progression of my career.

Do you have any other TAs at your trust completing the qualification? 

As an academy, we are now a hub for Tes and have trained a large number of TAs to become qualified teachers. This is the trust's vision for teacher development and retention. We actively recruit TAs who can go on to be developed into qualified teachers. 

What would you say to other TAs thinking about this route?

I would say stop thinking and just do it.

From my experience of doing the course, and now being a mentor, I would also say to make sure you stay organised. Dedicate time to it, because without this, you won’t be a qualified teacher in the end.

Also, get a supportive network around you. Teachers and support staff who inspire each other really are invaluable to your career progression.

Sam Rutter is assistant headteacher at Grange Community Nursery and Primary School

Tes S2T

Simon Lock

Simon Lock

Simon Lock is Tes senior digital editor

Find me on Twitter @simon_lock_

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