Katie Roberts is vice principal at Heanor Gate Science College, a medium-sized secondary academy school and specialist Science College located in Heanor, in the Amber Valley district of Derbyshire. She retrained through the Teach First Leadership Development programme.
“…the lure of teaching never left me. I realised that I could use all my previous leadership skills and experiences to work in education…”
Changing career to become a teacher
At 18 years old, the first university course that I applied for was teacher training but the sudden death of my father just before my A-levels led me to taking a year out and applying for a science degree course with a view to completing a post-graduate education qualification after.
I then found myself at the University of Cambridge, from where an emerging interest in sport and people resulted in me securing a graduate management training position with Boots. I worked with Boots for fourteen years and was supported with great training and experiences both in the UK and abroad.
I then ran my own company for eight years, working with organisations to develop people strategies and specifically those related to learning and development. However, the lure of teaching never left me. I realised that I could use all my previous leadership skills and experiences to work in education.
Teaching had all the best bits of previous roles like challenge and working with people but instead of the product being a consumer item, it is a child’s life. The reward does not get better than that!
My advice to anyone seeking a career change is research thoroughly! If possible, shadow someone already in the sector you are considering. Talk to those who like and don’t like the job. Be honest with yourself about what any change would involve, especially if it is financial. Make sure that you have the support of your loved ones and those whose help and understanding you might need. My husband, children and mum have been truly amazing!
A typical day at Heanor Gate Science College
Variety is a key feature of my working day. Activities vary from teaching lessons and senior meetings to liaising with parents and reporting to governors.
My school, Heanor Gate Science College, is a secondary academy. My personal view is that academisation has enabled us to work closely with other schools for the benefit of our students. This might be in sharing of best practice and resources through to networks and training programmes.
Gender balance amongst our pupils is not an issue. Good teachers enthuse all students and this is shown in our strong uptake of STEM students by girls and boys alike, through to and including A-level.
Women in leadership
Leadership roles are becoming more accessible to a wider variety of people. Schools are no different and as a woman, I have not experienced bias, or at least not to the degree that it has stopped me doing what I want to. I made my career change when my children had finished primary school themselves, so that probably helped. The reality is that if you want a role enough then there is normally a way round to tackle any challenges of work life balance.
The best job in the world
Schools are facing unprecedented change and our challenge is to continue to make improvements and never rest with where we get to. I love a challenge and the variety of a school leadership role. However, at the heart of what we do is securing outcomes for our students so that they have choices for their future. The reward of this and making a difference at an individual level to a real young person is unequivocally the best job in the world!