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How PEAK's Apprenticeship has changed my Life.

We recently popped in to see one of our apprentices, Olivia, at Horton Grange Primary School in Blyth. We were overwhelmed to see the progress she had made and her preparation for her own future. Olivia was keen to share her story:

Hi, my name is Olivia and I want to share my journey sine joining Physical Education & Active Kids in 2019 and my aspirations for the future. Hopefully this may help others to realise what could be achieved if you work hard and push yourself!

After completing my GSCE’s at Bede Academy in Blyth, I enrolled at Gosforth Sixth form to study A-levels including PE and History with aspirations to be a PE teacher.

I then noticed an advert offering a PE apprenticeship working in schools which would allow me to gain a nationally recognised qualification whilst gaining vital experience in a local school. This seemed perfect to me.

I updated my CV and applied through the government apprenticeship website and within a week I was invited to an introduction night at Sunderland College held by PEAK. I was over the moon. When I attended the introduction night, Dave and his team were very welcoming and greeted us all. This included previous apprentices who shared their own experiences and explained more about about the program.

I took this as my inspiration and knew I was making the right decision to continue this journey. At the event, Dave confirmed interview dates shared his top tips for the interviews. I took these on board whilst planning for my interview.

My first interview was at a school just down the road in Bedlington. Unfortunately, I wasn’t successfully at this interview but this just made me more determined. I got some excellent constructive feedback particularly around expanding on the many highlights and positives that I had already achieved throughout my life so far.

Two days later I had a further interview at a local school in Blyth. As soon as I walked in, I knew this was a school who strived to be the best they could be and truly wanted the best for their students. Throughout the interview, the Head and Deputy Head (and Dave of course!) made me feel at ease and allowed me to sell myself and my achievements, aspirations and what I could bring to the role.

I was offered the role the same day and the feeling that occurred at that moment I cannot easily explain. I was ecstatic, overjoyed and just couldn’t wait to start.

The following week it was all systems go and I attended Sunderland College for a week of training with PEAK before completing a further week’s training within the school itself in the last week of the academic year. My initial training was wide and varied and included different playground games and first aid which helped to build my confidence. My first week in school was a great starting point for me with all of the teachers very welcoming and helpful.

During the summer school break, I helped to run PEAK’s summer holiday camp. Within this I was quickly leading sessions with children aged three to fourteen. This was a great way to give me my first real insight of teaching and coaching many different sports and activities to a variety of children. This gave me a fantastic grounding in a range of skills such as team work, communication, self-confidence and versatility. At the end of camp, I was also offered an additional opportunity to teach sports in a school in Sunderland on a Friday afternoon as part of their orientating program. This was a massive opportunity for me which was given to me by PEAK as it allowed me to work in a different school with different children with a different set up. This helped me to gain more experience and knowledge about different schools and school sport.

Once the summer school break was over, I then worked in the two schools for the full academic year.

Within the school in Blyth, I was given numerous opportunities to develop and push myself. I learned about behaviour management, how to be an effective teaching assistant, how to plan my PE lessons in the correct way and in the true Horton style ‘being the best I can be.’

My typical timetable included supporting Maths and Literacy in the morning, teaching PE in the afternoon and running additional after-school clubs on the evening. I quickly gained peoples trust and ran a number the school’s different sports teams including tournaments against other schools. I was amazed to see the quality and ability in children of that chosen age group across the Blyth and Bedlington areas. It also allowed me to have a little competition against other PEAK member schools!

I was also able to attend Hawse End Outdoor Activity Centre, which is a 3-day residential with Year 6 pupils. This allowed me to see different sides to so many of the children. It also allowed the children to see their teachers and me(!) in a different light that they may not see outside of normal school.

In March 2020, lockdown occurred which meant my school moved into a rotated staff system. This is where staff came in for their allocated day to look after the children whose parents were key workers. Towards the end of April additional children were also allowed to attend meaning a fuller and more lively school.

It was at this point that my deputy head approached me and asked me what I aspired to be in the future and after discussing it further informed me about a program called the School-Centered Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) which allows you to gain a teacher’s qualification whilst working within the classroom. That night I went home and started my research on how I could get onto this program and what qualifications I would need to apply. The entry requirements for the SCITT were as followed:

1. You'll need to hold an undergraduate degree awarded by a UK higher education provider, or a recognised equivalent qualification.

2. You’ll need to have achieved a standard equivalent to grade C/4, or above, in the GCSE examinations in English and mathematics.

3. If you intend to train to teach pupils aged three to 11 (early years and primary), you must also have achieved a standard equivalent to a grade C/4, or above, in a GCSE science subject examination.

Whilst I satisfied points 2 & 3, I needed to look at how I could meet requirement no 1.

I looked into my options and I know that I did not want to attend university full time and found and applied for a part time degree in Education and Care through Sunderland University. I now attend three hours a week which is linked to gaining the practical experience in the school environment at the same time. This was just perfect for me. After three years, I will have a degree as well as valuable experience of working in a school My target is to become a fully qualified teacher by the time I’m 22. Its hard work but it’s worth it.

In July 2020, I was offered the opportunity by PEAK and my school to continue my development and complete my level three teaching assistant qualification, also through the apprenticeship scheme. I immediately grasped this opportunity and have never looked back since.

I am currently working across Year 6 teaching PE lessons as well as running break time games and supporting children inside the classroom. I also run targeted group sessions for SEN (Special Educational Needs & Disabilities) children which has given me new opportunities and insights into marking, planning and the teaching world of a level three teaching assistant.

I will be forever grateful to PEAK and my school for giving me such amazing opportunities, support, guidance and believing in me. I now have my career path mapped out and would recommend it to anyone who wants to be a teacher or a coach. It has definitely changed my life and the way I look at my future!

And finally, this has also given me the confidence to take on new challenges outside of school and am now the Head Coach for Blyth Town under 8’s girls football team!

So if you aspire, go for it and push yourself, you can achieve anything that you really want to!

If you are a school based in the North-East PEAK can help you recruit and appoint an apprentice teaching assistant like Olivia. If you would like to know more please call us on 0191 704 2022.

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