Emma P.

Assistant Principal
Happy to mentor
Happy to be contacted

About me

Emma P.
United Kingdom

My employment

Assistant Principal
Harris Federation
United Kingdom
Large business (250+ employees)

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A day in the life of a Assistant Principal in the United Kingdom

I could name something that motivates me from almost every single day at work; I am lucky to find the work I do incredibly rewarding and each day brings achievements, big and small.

Briefly describe the organisation you work for

I work for the Harris Federation, which is a group of nearly 50 academy schools operating mainly in London. We work in areas with higher proportions of disadvantaged students trying to provide the best education to close the gap between highest and lowest performing students. It is an inspirational organisation; every employee, be it teacher, premises staff, finance or admin is there to do the best for our students and all of them change students' lives.

What do you do?

I am an Assistant Principal in a secondary school which means I have responsibilities across the whole school. I am still a teacher (a Maths teacher in fact), and teaching students makes up about 50% of my day's work. I teach from 11 years through to A Level. When not in the classroom teaching I fulfil my leadership responsibilities; I support behaviour across the school and supervise at break and lunch time. I am also in charge of homework across the school and run a training programme to develop Lead Teaching Practitioners.

Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?

Immediately after graduating I volunteered and interned with some local charities, including teaching English in the Refugee centre. I then trained as a Chartered Accountant in audit, eventually moving to one of the top firms running their internal training program. I wasn't fulfilled in this industry and looked back at what I had enjoyed the most and decided to get some experience visiting in schools. This was easy to arrange as there are School Experience Days offered on the Train to Teach website. A lot of schools are also happy to have you visit if you contact them directly. After spending time in both primary and secondary schools I decided I would fit better in a secondary school and applied to the School Direct scheme. This meant I earned my teaching qualification whilst teaching and earning a salary.
After joining my current school I became Second in charge of the Maths department, then Head of department and now an Assistant Principal.

Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?

I wasn't sure what I'd do when I graduated. It is certainly different from what I thought I'd do when I started my course! During my degree I decided a career in Psychology wasn't for me and I did feel a bit worried. However it turns out to have prepared me well in ways I couldn't expect; the statistics element supported my A Level in maths to help schools to consider me, and made me good at handling all the data I manage now, and the child and educational psychology I apply most days.

Describe your most memorable day at work

I could name something that motivates me from almost every single day at work; I am lucky to find the work I do incredibly rewarding and each day brings achievements, big and small.
To choose one standout is also fairly easy. When I has been teaching for only around 6 weeks a student brought her parent to me so that I could say how well she was doing, only for the parent to take over and explain how happy she was that her daughter had finally started to enjoy school and that she felt I was the first teacher who really listened to her and helped her. My student and her mother were both crying because it was an important moment for her in a key exam year. Whilst I recognised then (and even more so now!) that I was far from the amazing teacher they thought, I realised how much impact a good teacher can have on a child, and that if I worked really hard, I could help a lot more students enjoy school.
That moment helped me to keep on track when training, and gave me the biggest sense of achievement I had ever had up until that point; no promotions, awards or pay rises came close. It was also nice that she passed her exams at the end of the year, when she had been expected to fail!

Are there any challenges associated with your job?

Teaching is a challenging profession, especially so working in inner London. You need to be resilient as there are times when behaviour in classes is difficult, the workload can seem a lot and your organisation and interpersonal skills have to be really good.

What’s your work environment and culture like?

I think most people can remember their own school, so it's very similar. We wear smart clothes and follow the same break times as the students. Generally I start work at 7.30 and leave around 6, and most teachers in my school are in the building from 8- 5.

What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?

I have to be honest and say I did very little that was very helpful. I was part of the committee for a society about little acts of kindness on campus, I did yoga and had a brief placement in the York Psychology Clinical team.

What would you like to do next with your career?

I'm going to be in teaching for as long as I can see. I am new to the Assistant Principal role so I am going to make sure I am doing that brilliantly before I make any other plans.

What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?

Don't worry too much about finding a career for life; most people I know have had several careers and transferable skills are really valued.
Focus on what you need to do to be successful now- what are you hoping to do after graduation? Can you find a mentor in that field, or visit a workplace? Organisations might not always advertise opportunities but are normally very excited to find someone proactive who had reached out to them.

What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?

Anything to do with teaching, or Chartered Accountancy.

Next steps...

If you like the look of Emma’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Emma a message to find out more about their career journey. If you feel you would benefit from more in-depth conversations, ask Emma to be your mentor.

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