Kelly Andrews

Taking an Information, Advice and Guidance qualification post-pandemic, Kelly Andrews started to get her mojo back.

Her love for learning has seen her flourish at the school she works in, where she helps vulnerable children with their welfare and achievements.

We chatted to Kelly about her apprenticeship experience, what a typical day looks like for her, and her aspirations to move into a pastoral care role.

Hi Kelly! Tell us a little more about you.

My name is Kelly Andrews and I’m a Level One Teaching Assistant in a high school. I started my journey with children on the autism spectrum, but I specialise now in behavioural needs and children with ADHD. I currently work one to one with a pupil with quite a complex amount of needs, but mainly ADHD.

I love my job. I work at a high school in a pretty deprived area, so it’s a tough one, but it’s a trauma informed school. And I really enjoy it.

What does a typical working day look like for you? What sort of things are you getting up to on a daily basis?

I come in at 8:20am and have a briefing from our manager to see what the day looks like and what teacher assistants are covering. Usually, I am always with the same pupil. I have been for three years and this is really because he responds extremely well to me whereas he doesn’t tend to have that rapport and respect with any others.

Some people think that’s a bit hard, but I really enjoy it. I look at him as one of my own kids. I want him to do so well. At 8:30am, I then go to my learning family which is a vertical tutor group. There are people in there from all years – ages 11 to 16 – and I run that myself.

I deal with their welfare, their attainment, their achievements and it’s really good. Then we have lessons throughout the day and meet again as a learning family for 20 minutes just before 3:00 o’clock.

A busy day! It must be lovely to see that child’s progress throughout the years in the school.

Yeah, absolutely. This one child, as I say, is quite complex. Before joining us here at at the high school, he wasn’t taught in a mainstream class. The primary school couldn’t manage his behavioral issues; they literally just sat him in a room with an iPad. So I knew I had my work cut out, but he is in mainstream, he’s chosen GCSE options and he’s quite low ability, but he’s really trying hard.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s not perfect, but we’re getting there.

And what apprenticeship are you taking with us, Kelly?

Information, Advice and Guidance Level 4. The reason I chose this is because I’m so close with the pupils day in, day out. I like to be someone there to support them, but I also see it as a mentoring position. As a learning family tutor as well and looking after the kids on a pastoral basis, I want to be confident in giving them advice and help them through their journey.

Do you think the apprenticeship has improved how you do your work? Can you see the parallels between what you’re learning and what you’re doing on day-to-day basis?

Yeah, absolutely. And more so when I have small groups and I’m running interventions or when I’m in the learning family. Before, I used to think about how people learn differently. But this has highlighted and prompted me to further research different learning styles. It’s fully helped my learning family because I’ve got a range of children in there with different abilities and learning styles.

But also, it’s raised my confidence as well in facilitating the learning family. So yeah, I’m really grateful to this course.

That’s so lovely to hear. Tell me what it was like to work with your Training Advisor, Lisa.

This is my second apprenticeship with TSW and Lisa matches my learning style completely. She’s always there when I need her, and from the beginning, she understood how I worked. She’s set me timescales and work along with that, which means that I’ve completed the assessments and units in a much quicker way.

Actually, she’s been fantastic. It almost feels a bit like a friend because she’s always been there.

It’s nice to have that rapport with someone and that connection, especially when you’re learning from them as well. Did you learn on your own or with others?

I think I’m the only one in the school to take this apprenticeship.

To be honest, I’ve worked well alone but that is also down to Lisa because she’s been so available for me. Personally, I do like being in a team but I also like to manage my own time effectively. But yeah, I think down to Lisa, I haven’t felt like I’ve been learning on my own.

And does your employer do a lot to support you?

Yeah, they’re really helpful – my line manager always gets back to emails and stuff straight away. They’re always asking what I’m doing and how I’m doing. So yeah, they are really supportive.

What motivates you to learn, Kelly?

I was trying to think about this earlier because my answer is really cheesy. But I always want to do better.

As I say, it’s a trauma informed school with a lot of children that have lots of background issues, mental health problems, and I personally love them all. I want to be there for them, and my belief is that every child deserves to be a child. That’s why I want to be there and help them through their journey. That motivates me to learn because I want to have everything available that I can for them.

That’s wonderful, though, that you’re able to give that support to them and be that person.

Yeah, my job’s really hard, but it’s worthwhile because I know that I’m helping.

And do you think taking an apprenticeship has changed your life in some way?

Yeah. Like I said, my confidence, especially in front of the whole class has grown. I mean, I was OK at doing it before, but I mean, looking further into things and researching has helped me massively. It’s also helped me have that confidence to approach certain situations and even ask for advice and help myself.

It’s pushed me back into learning, which is great because I don’t know if everyone felt the same, but the pandemic really got me stuck in a rut. This has fully helped me get back on track, so it’s made a quite a big difference to me – I’m wanting to learn and and I’ve just put myself fully back out there with the kids. So yeah, this made a difference to me.

It’s getting that motivation back, isn’t it? Especially after we were locked in for so long, it’s getting that get-up-and-go back again. It is quite a difficult thing. So, what advice would you give to people thinking of taking up an apprenticeship?

Just do it. When I started my first apprenticeship with TSW, I was a bit like, ‘am I going to find the time? Is it going to be helpful?’

But when you get a tutor like Lisa that is there for you, it’s just so worth it. It advances your learning but also, it’s built my confidence up so I just think it’s well worth it. And there’s always someone there to help if you feel overwhelmed or if you need to ask questions, there’s always a great community of people that can answer you and be there for you.

I am an extremely busy person. I mean, I’m a single mum to a sports mad 14-year-old teenager that plays for two quite high teams and needs to be taken everywhere. I myself play sports and so as well as a full-time job, I can still fit this in. I would definitely advise, even if you think you’re too busy, there are people there to help you.

And what are your career aspirations? Where will we see you in 10 years’ time?

Well, I’m very nearly 40 now, so 10 years is scary!

In the next few years, I’m hoping to progress within the school to more of a pastoral lead where it’s more to do with the well-being and the attendance and the attainment of the pupils. And I think it’s more of a mentoring role.

This apprenticeship has made me realise that I can do that. I think when I see a job opening up, I’m going to apply, I’m going to push myself and do it. Before, I used to think I’m not good enough, but this has helped me think I can do it.

So, that’s the next step. 10 years’ time – no idea!

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