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News and Views

A warm welcome to Helen Thatcher

Helen joined the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Teaching School Hub (CPTSH) team on 1st September 2023 as our new Appropriate Body Lead. With teaching school hubs officially becoming the main provider of appropriate body services from September 2024, CPTSH is now offering a Cambridgeshire & Peterborough AB Service for 2023-24. We met Helen to discuss her role, her career in teaching spanning 18 years, and how she plans to make a difference to the region’s Early Career Teachers (ECTs).

Tell us about why you trained to be a teacher, and where your career has taken you. 

“It was my destiny, I think! I come from a family of teachers. My grandparents were teachers, my uncle and cousin too. I spent a lot of time with my gran when I was growing up and this probably influenced my career path. I was always interested in people, understanding different beliefs people held, having impassioned arguments about Philosophy and ethics, and passing that knowledge on so becoming an RE teacher seemed the perfect career. I completed my, what was then NQT induction at The Kingswood School in Corby and then went on to The Voyager School in Peterborough as Head of RE and Citizenship. I have also worked at Ernulf Academy in St Neots and St Peter’s School in Huntingdon.”

What inspired you to stay in teaching for so long?

“The students – we have had some amazing experiences together. Taking children on school trips who have never been anywhere before; getting a passport for the first time, seeing their faces when they go on a plane, and visiting countries they have never been to, or going to the seaside in England on Geography fieldtrips. Inviting guest speakers to the school, for example Holocaust survivors, making the learning more impactful and important to the students. Offering the Duke of Edinburgh Award and supporting students complete their expeditions. It is the knowledge that we are making a difference to children’s lives, and this is so much more than just their time in the classroom. Teaching is about giving children the chance to achieve things they would not have otherwise achieved and giving them opportunities, and it is a privilege being there to see them do it.”

What attracted you to the AB Lead role at CPTSH?

“I wanted more flexibility in my life, as I have two children, but I wanted to stay in education so when this opportunity came up it was the perfect mix. I have a longstanding passion and commitment to teacher development, having worked with The Cambridge Partnership for nine years as an RE subject tutor so bringing ITT experience, and I have also undertaken ECT mentoring throughout my career. I knew about CPTSH as I am currently completing my NPQLT, which has been a very positive experience for me. The Hub is clearly growing with the ‘Golden Thread’ running through it, offering great opportunities for teachers of all stages of their career!”

What are the key services you are overseeing?

“Appropriate bodies have two clear roles: monitoring of support, checking that ECTs are receiving their statutory entitlements and providing Early Career Framework (ECF) fidelity checks, ensuring that schools are supported to provide ECTs with an ECF-based induction; and monitoring of assessment, making the final decision on whether the ECT has satisfactorily met the Teachers’ Standards, based on the headteacher’s recommendation. Essentially, I see my role as ensuring that ECTs receive the support they deserve and are entitled to; making sure that schools are giving them what they need and having somebody independent that all stakeholders can work with to help navigate that when required.”

Based on your experiences, are you able to put yourself in the shoes of an ECT today?

“New teachers can feel they are expected to be perfect at their job, and it can feel quite isolating and overwhelming at times. When I started teaching, I went from a very reduced PGCE timetable to being responsible for classes of all year groups from year 7-13 and being a form tutor, it felt like I had been thrown in at the deep end! The induction process is designed to help support ECTs so that they have time to grow and develop their skills; giving them designated time to research, observe, learn and put into action all the pedagogy and practice that will help them to become excellent teachers. I think it is important to recognise that new teachers are still perfecting their craft, and we don’t stop after the two-year induction either. Learning is always important whatever stage we are at. At the Teaching School Hub we have a lot of teaching expertise, so we have a lot of empathy – we understand the difficulties of being a teacher and the pitfalls of being a mentor. Working together, we can help ECTs to feel that they can do the job and support them in this.

What does success look like for the AB Service?

“We have over 600 ECTs this year in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and that is likely to increase over time. The target for us is to ensure that 100% of our ECTs are able to successfully complete their induction. We want them to feel supported and know where to go to with any problems and know that these problems will be resolved as well as they can be. Another success measure would be to see ECTs completing their induction and returning as mentors in the future, passing on their invaluable learning to the next cohort of ECTs. My message to schools is that if they need support, we are available. I have an excellent team who are very efficient at resolving issues. No question is a silly question, we are here to help.”