I am a Primary School Teacher, qualifying with a First Class (Hons) BA Primary Education Studies with QTS as part of the first cohort of the Troops to Teachers programme. The Troops to Teachers programme, funded by the Department for Education, aims to recruit the best Service leavers into teaching, including those with the highest qualifications, qualities and experiences, who have the potential to become outstanding teachers. It has been designed and developed with a group of outstanding schools and ITT providers in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence and the Career Transition Partnership. Please see the course outlined here.

During my time on teacher training, I managed to acquire some essential and valuable skills by observing and being observed by fabulous groups of outstanding teachers. Their wealth of knowledge provided me with an incredible insight into the profession. If you would like a laugh – here is my first video on the programme during the first residential week – talking about my ambitions and thoughts at the onset of my new career.

As my work based training developed, I have acquired thorough knowledge and understanding of the new curriculum due to teaching all year groups at primary level with an appreciation of early years learning and framework by previously working closely with the EYFS co-ordinator. That in mind, I am always willing to teach in new year groups when such occasion arises. I have been very fortunate, as this has given me incredible insight in to the difference of objectives between year groups and how the new curriculum has changed to accommodate core subjects and a ‘skimming down’ of foundation subjects. Nevertheless, I feel that foundation subjects are incredibly important to provide children with a breadth and wealth of knowledge that can be applied to real life situations rather than focusing on a narrow field of English, Maths and Science. (See my continued journey here.)

Throughout my study and career so far, I have contributed to extra-curricular and other wider school (and personal) objectives. A few examples of this include, after school Meteorology club, Crime Club, establishing connections with universities and other professionals to enhance learning and understanding of curriculum areas (particularly Science). I have also written an article which featured in the British Armed Forces Centenary Magazine, titled Values: our ethos on the battlefield and in the classroom, which explored the transitional skills ex-service men and women can complement the education sector. Following on from this, I was a speaker alongside the Head of the School of Education, Brighton University, at the School Led Conferences, to school leaders in the North West region, supported by The Teaching School Council, NCTL and LA’s across the region.

I have been a qualified teacher now for over three years, including my NQT year, and have a wealth of experience working with children of various backgrounds and disabilities, including hearing impaired. I have worked alongside the SENco to support pupils with specific learning needs and help set appropriate targets in their individual plans. To improve and further my own knowledge and teaching ability in this area, I am undertaking a Masters in Education, Inclusion and Special Needs. My research focus is exploring the educational experiences of children diagnosed with Pathological Demand Avoidance (an area some of my blogs will be investigating.) My passion and drive to develop inclusive practices of outdoors learning has led me to pursue a greater understanding and academic analysis of this emerging field of research. It is suggested by the literature that we have become an indoor, sedentary society. Several reasons are reported, such as being a culture of fear (stranger danger, unknown terrors), safety concerns (traffic, accident prevention), obsession with cleanliness and germs, indoor enticements such as games consoles and TV, lack of parent or teacher confidence and finally urbanisation. There is emerging research and policy interest, such as Learning Outside the Classroom (Ofsted, 2012), in the health and wellbeing outcomes associated with the use of outdoor spaces. In particular, interest in a conceptualisation of health that links to not only physical abilities or impairments, but also mental health and wider notions of wellbeing including behavioural and social health problems. Complementary to this, I have completed a Level 3 One Awards accredited course in delivering the Primary Curriculum Outdoors to engage and facilitate inclusive learning.

I also value the input and ideas from external courses to colleagues. Throughout my time in school, I have explored and discussed diverse ideas and proposals put forward by colleagues and believe this to be a valuable way fore professionals to gain a better knowledge and understanding of education.

During my last teaching post, I taught a mixed class of Year 1 and 2 children, frequently planning and delivering objective led exciting and inspiring lessons to motive all children through mastery and greater depth challenges. I ensure each lesson provides meaningful learning experiences, with links across the curriculum to help prepare children for their lives beyond their time at school. An example of this was creating a “real life” maths resource box full of, but not limited to, bus and train timetables, menus and catalogues. Handling real life data and information gave the lesson a sense of purpose which was given positive feedback by the children.

I am always keen to utilise the learning environment to enable progress and celebrate pupils’ achievement, for example, through the natural environment provided by the school grounds or displays around the classroom. During my last post, I aimed to spark enthusiasm and interest in Science by introducing “Scientist of the Week” for KS1 and “Professor of the Week” in KS2 whereby the child who has put extra effort into their Science work that week becomes my assistant the following week. My assistant and I wear goggles and a lab coat as they assist me in working scientifically, modelling experiments, ensuring health and safety is adhered to always and at times, take on a teaching role. An interesting observation from this, was the increase in participation and enthusiasm shown by the female pupils and an ease of transition for older students in to the next phase of their academic journey. It also promoted positive learning behaviour, promoted independent and peer to peer learning, with heightened levels of discipline conducive to learning. This has been evident in children’s responses to tasks such as “How can I improve my work to become scientist of the week?” Due to the success of this, I supported and collaborated with colleagues as the Science co-ordinator by passing on information and advice across the whole school staff meeting on how they could use this as an effective strategy in their own classrooms.

I have led, monitored and evaluated the progress of pupils’ learning including phonics screening checks, SATs at KS1 alongside managing the effective use of staff during these times. I believe that it is paramount to follow school policies to ensure consistent standards when assessing, recording and reporting of pupil achievement which can then be used to set achievable targets for further improvement. During the last academic year, we received congratulations in a letter from Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Standards at the time, on our ‘outstanding achievement in the 2016 phonics screening check’. He goes on to say that with 100% of the children achieving the pass mark, it put us in the top 3 per cent of all primary schools in the country.

I have worked alongside many outside agencies and had the opportunity to mentor a trainee teacher for the University of Sunderland. Throughout my career, I have always embraced and supported a team culture, by utilising feedback from colleagues and students, it furthered and improved my own teaching style and enabled me to explore strategies to encourage students to engage each other in their learning too. I decided to pursue a career in teaching after a career change from the Royal Navy as a Meteorology and Oceanography specialist, which also had a training provision and leadership role supporting and mentoring new recruits in the Met Office at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall. Both roles have given me a critical insight into the importance of being aware of and responding to the pastoral needs of all pupils. As part of my duty and responsibility, I ensured parents or other colleagues were contacted should there be any concerns, and responded swiftly if any parental concerns highlighted difficult home circumstances as this can have a significant impact on an individual’s learning.

As part of its commitments under articles 7 and 24 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UK Government is committed to inclusive education of disabled children and young people and the progressive removal of barriers to learning and participation in mainstream education (SEN Code of Practice, 2015). This in mind, leaders in early years settings, schools and colleges should establish and maintain a culture of high expectations that expects those working with children with Special Education Needs (SEN) or disabilities to include them in all the opportunities available to other children and young people so they can achieve well.

Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has become increasingly used as a term to cover a range of individuals showing the qualitative differences in social interaction, communication and the ability to think flexibly that make up a triad of impairments (Christie, 2007). Now widely recognised as a distinct profile of autism, Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) difficulties and characteristics fall within the category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders. The PDA profile is seen in people of both genders and in equal proportions affecting people of all backgrounds and nationalities compared to typical ratios of 4 or 5 boys to 1 girl in autism and 10 boys to each girl in Asperger’s Syndrome (Christie, 2007). This in mind, part of the blog will focus on the educational experiences of this group of children, benefits and limitations of outdoors learning when facilitating inclusive practices for all children.

Thank you for taking your time to read this page and I look forward to hearing from you!

Happy teaching!

Lessons from the Hedgerow