Sport has been a passion for as long as I can remember. I used my father’s thick leather football boots; those with nails in the studs and which were like concrete. I could hardly move my feet but when I took to the field as a 10 year old I was filled with a plethora of possibilities about where I could be.
I imagined playing for United – to me there was no other team – and winning the FA cup. Well that didn’t happen but my love for sport continued. I qualified as a PE teacher and helped many youngsters develop sporting skills. Outdoor activities and rugby added to my other sporting interests.
Being involved in sport helps develop many skills and qualities essential to being a member of a successful team.
Building successful teams has been the centre of my career. Building the foundations first containing all the necessary basic skills to then move forward by adding specific layers. Whether it is a small senior management team or a large teaching team in a 2000 pupil secondary school, the ingredients are the same. My career has focused on helping leaders to become better leaders and create highly effective teams. My focus is on inspiring people by helping them look at problems in different ways to reach solutions, motivating them by showing the possibilities of being creative and delegating responsibility so potential leaders have the opportunity to understand the challenges of leadership.
When I met Beth five years ago I was transfixed by her passion for early years education. My beliefs and understanding about leadership resonated in the learning programme she had developed. It is based on the principle of key skills being the basis for future learning and success. Her curriculum teaches children the important basic skills and then builds layers of learning, which matches my philosophy of leadership. We are both creative in our own ways, Beth, through her curriculum model and me through my leadership style. Creativity is what we share as well as a passion for improving children’s learning. Developing creativity is how we will help children to become the leaders of tomorrow.
Sport remains a passion. I still believe in its power to change lives. I still have high hopes for United and England rugby.
Co-founder & Early Years Consultant
I am the co-founder of Red Panda Learning which has been formed to provide all those involved with early years childhood development a forum where they can meet with fellow professionals. Here they can discover how each area of learning can be taught through the freedom of spirit and the wonder of the world.
My journey into early years was not a direct one. I initially opened a preschool in a village hall. I was faced with a number of challenges – not being able to display children’s work, unable to use any sensory materials, dragging furniture and equipment from under a dusty, spider ridden stage, but I was creative. I had previously completed an Art Foundation Degree, and every element of my imagination was used to its full ability. I became versatile and children learnt, explored and discovered in an environment that allowed them to be who and where they wanted to be. Each day was a new day of discovery for the children.
My adventure soon took me into a school. I had my very own room that belonged to the children and showed the children’s abilities in every edge of the room and beyond into the glorious outside learning area. I remember my headteacher saying to me, “make learning inevitable”, so I did.
Moving into the world of schools, local authorities, academies and Ofsted, I learnt that many people have many different ideas about how children learn. I learnt that, for me, child development is the basis of everything. When you can understand how real life experiences, hands on learning, sensory exploration and practical problem solving form a strong, resilient, determined, curious, independent healthy brain, then teaching becomes a way of life and a mantra to march forward from.
So we have opened Red Panda Learning to everyone. We have developed a curriculum, a step by step, skills based journey that ensures no child has any learning gaps. Our assessment system allows practitioners to immediately see where each child’s learning is within each area of learning. Planning is a way of life and takes its lead from the continuous learning environment. Our environments create a space of total immersion, where children can strive, conquer and succeed. We are proud of our success, because our success means we have changed the lives of many adults and more importantly, children. Someone once said to me, “I work with builders, dentists, doctors, police officers, politicians, teachers, train drivers, pilots, farmers, kings and queens, shop keepers, fishermen, and all of them were under the age of 6”. I am proud to be an Early Years Consultant and proud of our brand, Red Panda Learning.
Early Years Practitioner
I am first and foremost a mother and second I am an early years practitioner – some may say there are some blurred lines surrounding these job titles. Both these roles make me who I am and enable me to be an active participant in the ever changing world of education.
At the age of 17, I was training to be a dance teacher. I experienced the humbling feeling that I was able to teach new skills to children, skills that would help shape their future; I was fascinated. Fast forward a few years and I began my teaching degree. It was life-changing and made me who I am today.
My teaching practices took place predominantly within London’s inner city schools (very different to the lovely small seaside town I grew up in) and I quickly learnt how difficult a job a classroom teacher and teaching assistant have. To name a few, English as an additional language, special educational needs and child protection are all issues that immediately jumped out at me upon entering a classroom. It was hard, but I loved it. I loved creating an environment which made children gasp in amazement. I loved answering a child’s question, who three weeks earlier spoke virtually no English. I loved going home in the evening knowing I had taught a child that they were worthy of an education and the very best education at that.
I once had a maths lecturer who gave me perfect advice, he said, “the best place to be in life is wrong”. I’m not talking about answering a question wrong in an end of year exam, but being fallible in the first instance in order to revisit and grow stronger. I have always tried to teach children to be open to mistakes because they are inevitable, and not be scared to take risks or to not succeed the first time. As Thomas Edison said, “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” I see this idea as evidently today as I did in that university maths lecture. I like to be wrong, I like to seek out the truth and I love to teach children and practitioners to do the same in order for them to see that education should always be fascinating, thrilling and empowering to all lucky enough to receive it.