Sometimes the strangest turns bring the craziest opportunities

My responsibility as Head of Music had reached its 14th year and being the only music teacher, the role has lost its spark a little. So I began looking at other options within my Academy, a chance to expand my horizons, be part of the ‘whole school’ and find my enthusiasm again.

As a 6th form tutor I learnt about Apprenticeships and grabbed my interest, thus starting the journey onto Career Guidance. With a new headship came new opportunities and so I joined PSL, Preparing for Senior Leadership, an internal CPD programme for those wishing to progress. I was also accepted on the Women in Educational Leadership initiative. Both programmes encouraged me to be braver, make a difference.

Taking on a whole school responsibility was part of the process and I decided that Career Guidance was just the thing, having already dipped my toe in for 6th form. All of a sudden, working alongside a member of Senior Team, a whole new world of undiscovered educational opportunities emerged which could potentially change the future for many of our students. I completely absorbed myself into it.

My first task was to organise a week of career guidance workshops for those year 10 students who were not going on work experience; 5 days, off timetable, including a Careers Fair. I worked closely with our local Enterprise Advisor, an amazing, enthusiastic lady, to make contact with local organisations and speakers and I worked tirelessly to ensure that every minute of every day was filled with inspiring information around higher education and careers for our students.

The research around Career Guidance led me to the Gatsby Benchmarks, National Careers Week, STEM opportunities and the discovery that there are countless organisations, including online services, who are committed to ensuring young people are preparing for their futures.

But the task itself is only part of the story. It’s the catalyst for all that followed and why I am now part of the Senior Team.

As I delved into this new world, my enthusiasm for teaching music returned. It’s just what I needed; a new focus, a distraction if you like, to create a balance. I found myself enjoying everything I did. I liked my job. I wasn’t afraid to apply for promotion, knowing I had the qualities to succeed in a new role. It’s a good feeling knowing that you are the person building a programme from the ground up.

So here I am now. Assistant Principal responsible for Careers and Work Experience (amongst other things). The world of work is now a firm part of our tutor programme, with weekly foci including career spotlights, LMI as well as recognising essential skills and challenging stereotypes. Work Experience preparation has begun for yr10 and 12 and a variety of external organisations are presenting to our students this half term and beyond.

It’s been a couple of weeks and yes, it’s full on, exhausting and I am feeling the pressure of my responsibilities. That said, I love it and as a proud member of NCW2019, I hope to make a lasting impact on our students, this year and the years to follow.

About the Author

Nathalie van der Weide is an Assistant Principal responsible for Careers and Work Experience. Find her on twitter at @n_vanderweide.