Zoe Hughes joined Progress Schools The Hive in 2016 as a Teaching Assistant and has since worked her way up to Head of School. Zoe admits that this isn’t the path she had planned for herself throughout her time at university. However, she has found it to be a very rewarding and fulfilling career, one that she thrives in and enjoys thoroughly.
Upon reflecting on what a ‘normal’ day might look like in her job role, Zoe revealed no two days are ever the same when working at Progress Schools.
“I normally start the day by getting in between eight and half eight in the morning, I greet everyone before going off to do any administrative work that needs doing. I will check emails and catch up on any outstanding work.
“If I’m working on something urgent such as a risk assessment, I will lock myself away so I don’t get distracted and I will normally do these things after half two, once the students have left.
“My priority though is dealing with any students that get sent in during the day and supporting the teaching staff with any disruptions.”
Zoe explains that there is no way to predict how many times this may happen in a day. Sometimes she won’t have chance to complete any of her tasks due to her attention and time being required with the students. However, on other occasions, it can be much calmer, she says.
“At the minute we’ve had a lot of new referrals and new students so that normally rocks the boat as the other students get a bit over excited. When a new student starts, I will sit down with them and their parents where we will go through expectations, rules and get parents to sign all the consent forms, then send that off to head office so we can get them enrolled on our systems.
“Between 3-5pm we have 1-2-1s with the students and that enables us to build up positive relationships with them and gets the students used to the environment so they feel more calm and welcome.”
Zoe listed seeing the children return to mainstream school and succeeding in their reintegration, among the biggest rewards of the job.
“I have had a couple of students come back to us with the information that they’ve moved up a set in Maths following their return to mainstream school. I’ve also had comments from Head Teachers where they’ve been shocked by the amount of work they completed with us.”
One of the most common misconceptions around alternative provision schools, Zoe believes, is the stigma that the level of education provided is not as high as mainstream schools.
“Alternative provision schools are a lot more personal. I could tell you the names of all my students, their parents names, who they live with and what their background is. I spend my lunch times playing pool with the students, I eat my lunch with them and sit and chat with them all because I want to know them, work with them and support them.
“Its also about assessing their individual needs. We do try and make the environment more relaxed in order to break down the barriers and we also like to personalise the lessons so that they are more relevant to them.”
Zoe is not shy about expressing the struggles and difficulties that come with the job too. Working with vulnerable and disruptive children can come with its challenges, but the positives far outweigh any struggles, she says.
“I think that is what I like about the job – that not every day is the same – some days you have really good days and sometimes you do have tough and challenging days, as with any job, but the rewards that come with it are seeing the progression from the students.
“When I first started, I would feel rewarded at the end of the day if I had ticked everything off my list and I’d completed all my tasks. Now, as Head of School, my priorities are completely different because it doesn’t matter whatever time I stay till, I never get everything ticked off.
“I now see the rewards in other places like when I see my staff excelling or one of my students that didn’t enjoy mainstream school, enjoying their time at Progress.”
Zoe expresses the value of staff mentoring and credits this as a big factor to her development.
“Within our first year we had only a small number of students at our School in Liverpool so I would work in Northampton and Carlisle and that really helped build my confidence with the students we were working with.
“I was able to watch staff and learn how they reacted to different situations and students. My understanding of the needs of students definitely has improved through this.
“I’ve learnt how to adapt and be flexible whilst supporting them in the best way possible and this was key for my progression I think.”
From understanding the significance of this practice through her own experience, Zoe now recognises how important it is for other teachers to have the same opportunities to aid their career development.
For more information on the different roles we have within Progress Schools, please get in touch today via our contact form or social media pages. Alternatively, to find out about any job opportunities available within the business, visit our ‘Vacancies’ page.