Case Study

Helen Mather

After speaking to the programme leaders of her course, Helen Mather knew she had made the right decision in studying at the University of Sunderland. After graduating in 2003, Helen now works at Southmoor Academy, working on the Senior Leadership Team as the Assistant Principal for Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

I initially chose to study at the University of Sunderland because of its great reputation in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Science courses, which is what I studied in my first year at the University in 1999. After my first year, I transferred to the BSc (Hons) Science Education with QTS degree, once I realised that the teaching I had done as part of my first degree was what I ultimately wanted to pursue. I knew I had made the right decision once I met the Programme Leaders within the School of Education who were really friendly and explained the Science Education course and what it would entail. The location of the University was also a bonus as it was close to home.

Before University I studied A Levels and spent a little bit of time working abroad in Tunisia. I have always loved Science, it explains everything in the world around us (or tries too), so studying a science-based course at University was always my first choice. I soon discovered that my passion would lie in working with people (in particular, teaching), and that working in a lab testing samples as a biomedical scientist was not for me!

I really enjoyed the small classes for the subject enhancement aspects of the BSc Science Education course. I genuinely formed some life-long friendships, and keep in touch with almost all of the other students in my year. The support from the Programme Leaders was also exceptional, and I always felt that there was someone to speak to if I had any problems. Due to having a disability I was given small extensions on some assignments, which really helped during my Teaching Practice when assignments were due alongside teaching for the first time.

I would recommend the University of Sunderland to other students, I really loved my time there! You should consider the course really carefully, and don’t be afraid to think about switching courses if your first choice just isn’t for you! Make sure you join some of the Students’ Union clubs and societies; I was secretary of the Ski and Snowboard Club for a year (a member for four years), as well as a member of lots of other societies where I learned the basics of canoeing, Jiu-jitsu, and even scuba diving!

My first teaching job was as a Science (Chemistry) teacher at Southmoor Academy, Sunderland in September 2003. A few years later I was promoted to an internal TLR position to lead KS4 Science. After that, I passed an external assessment to be an Advanced Skills Teacher and worked one day a week for Sunderland Local Authority visiting other schools and coaching colleagues. ASTs were made redundant nationally, but I was still at Southmoor Academy and was given a role as part of a Raising Achievement Team to work closely with the Senior Leadership Team to improve the quality of Teaching and Learning across the school. Currently, I am still at Southmoor Academy, working on the Senior Leadership Team as the Assistant Principal for Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

Studying at the University of Sunderland gave me the skills and qualifications to enable me to be successful in my chosen career, as well as creating an environment where I made some life-long friends."

Published 5 June 2018

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