They made the brave decision to change careers and now these new South Wales teachers are almost ready to take up their first posts in September.
‘Change Career, Change Lives’ campaign
From January this year, the ‘Change Career, Change Lives’ teacher recruitment campaign saw the charity team up with Trinity Mirror to urge people across England and Wales to recognise the value of teaching, and consider the benefits a teaching career can offer in the classroom and beyond.
By March, we reported how a total of 60 applications from the South Wales area had been opened with Teach First following the campaign, a 50% increase on the same period last year.
Six months on, we spoke to two South Wales people who enrolled with Teach First, and are entering the final fortnight of the charity’s ‘hands-on’ summer institute.
They are now just six weeks away from taking up their first teaching posts.
Nia James, Pontypridd High School
Nia, 24, from Pontypridd, will be teaching English at her old school – Pontypridd High School – from September.
She studied English Literature at Bath Spa University before working in the world of events and wedding management for two years.
While holding down the job, she gained experience at Pontypridd High as a literary support member of staff, and will now return as a teacher.
Nia said: “I wasn’t enjoying events management, and was really enjoying my work at the school.
“It was good to see it from the other side as a member of staff.
‘I knew Teach First was for me’
“I was then looking into the PGCE route into teaching, and that’s when I came across Teach First. As soon as I saw its message and its vision, I knew it was for me – and going through the application process gave me even more confidence in it.”
Nia found out about Teach First over Christmas, and by February she had gained a place on the course.
Launching the Teach First campaign
And Nia said she cannot wait to get back into the school she enjoyed attending herself, which has given her great support.
The head of English at Pontypridd High – who Nia will be working with come September – taught her from year seven through to year 13.
“We’re in the fourth week of the summer institute and it really has been amazing,” she added. “It’s been really nice being together with the Welsh cohort of applicants.
‘It has come around so quickly’
“I think that, 100%, this is the right way to do it – I believe you learn by doing it, by getting into the classroom.
“It has come around so quickly, and really added to the excitement of it. I didn’t have to wait a whole year for things to happen.
“My advice for people thinking about going into teaching is that Teach First offers a unique opportunity to do it.
“We are taught what we need to know, but we are also in classrooms teaching straight away. It was perfect for me.”
Bleddyn Penny – Fitzalan High School
Bleddyn, 27, from Carmarthen, will be starting his teaching role at Fitzalan High School in Cardiff this September.
He has just finished a PhD in History at Swansea University, and sealed his place on the Teach First programme last year.
He said: “I’ve been aware of Teach First for a while.
“I’d done my Masters degree and then my PhD, and a lot of people would assume you would then go on further into higher education, but that wasn’t for me.
Challenging, but rewarding
“It was around this time last year when I applied to Teach First, and at the time I was still considering a variety of options.
“I was immediately sold on the Teach First way of doing things – and in some respects it is a more challenging route to throw yourself in at the deep end.
“But I also found that very rewarding. Having been in university for the last seven years I didn’t like the idea of going back again.”
Our reporter Abbie Wightwick has a go at teaching
Applicants will soon go to Leeds to complete the summer institute, before having a break in August to prepare for their placement at school in September.
“I’m really enjoying it,” Bleddyn added. “It’s something really different to what I was doing before, and it’s been great meeting up with people who are in the same position.
‘I’m really excited’
“It’s been great to engage with young people, and to learn about things like class management and behaviour.
“I’m actually going back to Swansea University to work during August, and I’m really excited to return to school in September. I’m a bit nervous too, but I guess that’s the same whatever route you get into teaching, and whenever you start anything new.
“The PGCE route will suit others and that’s fine, but it did not suit me.
“The Teach First route was absolutely for me, for the situation I found myself in when I was coming to the end of my PhD.
“I’m really looking forward to the next step.”