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Hannah Tuffnell

Hannah Tuffnell profile picture

What degree course did you study and when did you graduate?

History and Politics (2010)

Why did you choose that particular degree course?

I studied History and Government and Politics as two of my three A Levels and I absolutely loved both subjects. I particularly enjoyed the crossover between the two subjects and was keen to explore them further at degree level. At the point of choosing my degree course, I didn't have a specific career path in mind but thought I may be interested in pursuing a role in the civil service or in law. My careers advisor at school suggested that a history and politics degree would provide an excellent foundation for either career.

Warwick University appealed to me for a number of reasons. Firstly, the course offered a huge range of modules to choose from and there was the option to take modules from outside the history and politics faculties. I visited the university on a open day and loved the feel of the campus and knew it was where I wanted to be.

Tell us about your employer, your role and what attracted you to them

I applied for the Teach First Leadership Development Programme whilst in my final year of my degree. Teach First are a leading provider in teacher training and teacher leadership development.

I met with one of the Teach First graduate recruiters at a campus careers event and the mission and values of the organisation really resonated. I wanted a career where I could make a difference but I also didn't want to restrict my options in the future. Teach First has excellent links to lots of other employers so I was drawn to their programme and what it had to offer.

Since joining Teach First in 2010, I have worked in two schools: Bradford Academy and Trinity Academy Halifax. Both schools serve communities of high socio-economic disadvantage. Despite thinking that I might not want to remain as a teacher beyond the two year Teach First programme, I'm still working in education and this September (2023) will be the start of my 14th year in the profession.

When I was recruited by Teach First, I joined their graduate 'Leadership Development Programme'. The programme was two years long and provided on the job teacher training. I took part in their six week summer institute and then in the September, began teaching. I had responsibility for my own classes. I worked at my Teach First placement school for 5 years and was promoted to a head of department role.

After five years, I decided it was time for a change and applied to teach at another school. I joined the school as a classroom teacher but was soon given lots of opportunities. After 3 years I became head of the Humanities faculty, holding responsibility for four subjects and approximately 15 staff. A year later, I joined the senior leadership team within the school as an Associate Senior Leader, then Assistant Principal and finally two years ago, I became Vice Principal. I am responsible for the curriculum delivered within the academy, write and maintain the school timetable, lead on Year 10 and 11 progress, line manage a number of senior and middle leaders, whilst also continuing to teach history.

I was attached to Teach First primarily because of its mission and values. I wanted a job where I was making a difference. I was very fortunate to have an excellent experience whilst at school, fully supported by my parents. I firmly believe that all children are entitled to an exemplary education and Teach First puts this at the front and centre of what it does. They aim to address educational inequality and socio-economic disadvantage.

What are the key skills you learnt at Warwick that have helped you with your career to date?

Being a university student at Warwick taught me so much and I still look back on my time spent there incredibly fondly. The key skills that I learnt that have helped me in my career are being organised and meeting deadlines. I work in a very large secondary school (we have over 1600 students) and the days are fast paced. In order to ensure that the academy runs smoothly, I have to be incredibly organised with my time and ensure deadlines are met.

I also developed my interpersonal skills, meeting students from all different backgrounds, cultures, and countries whilst at Warwick. Considering the viewpoints of others and finely balancing the needs of stakeholders is a crucial part of my role.

Whilst I was at Warwick, I was able to balance the demands of my degree against having a very active social life! I had a lot of fun and made lots of brilliant friends. Sometimes my job can become very consuming but I reflect back to my time at Warwick when I was able to balance work and life and it reminds me that it is possible!

What has been your greatest career challenge to date and how did your experience and skills help overcome it?

The pandemic posed a huge challenge to the education sector. The 18 month period where schools were disrupted were incredibly challenging as my senior colleagues and I navigated the ever changing government guidance. From one day to the next, the expectations on schools shifted and the timetable had to change. As an academy, we opened to a large number of key worker children and I managed the provision to ensure we had the required staffing levels and the curriculum provision was exemplary. I was able to draw upon my organisational skills and my ability to communicate with staff at all levels. I remain incredibly proud of how everyone at Trinity Academy Halifax, and the wider education sector, responded during a really challenging time to provide the very best for the students.

What top tips would you give to students looking for a career in your market sector?

Spend some time in a school setting to develop an understanding of the requirements of the role. Schools vary considerably so it may be worth spending time in a few different settings to see what appeals most.

Ignore the negative press around teaching! At times it is incredibly challenging, but the job is so rewarding and the sector needs enthusiastic and bright young graduates to join us.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were applying for jobs?

Don't undersell yourself - when applying for jobs or going for interviews make sure you illustrate your strengths as a candidate for the role. Sometimes it is uncomfortable talking positively about yourself but don't sell yourself short and be confident in what you have to offer.

Consider a wide range of options when applying for jobs. I had never considered teaching as a profession but was drawn to Teach First when I met their recruiters and have been rewarded with a brilliant career as a result.

Don't feel pressured by what everyone else is doing. It can seem overwhelming when everyone else is frantically applying for graduate schemes but do what is best for you. Take your time and make sure you are making the best decision for you.

Any additional advice or comments?

I absolutely loved my time at Warwick - I really did have the time of my life! Get involved in everything that the university has to offer from all the clubs and societies, to attending the brilliant range of lectures, and having an active social life. It is the place where you will make your friends for life and where you will make so many amazing memories.