FE Case Study: Nicky Hawkins
Please can you tell me a little bit about your current role in FE?
My job title is a long one: Programme Coordinator – Quality, Teaching, Learning and Assessment, but in a nutshell, my role is all about staff development.
What are your key interests?
I lead a fantastic team of Teaching and Learning Coaches who are each assigned to a section within the college to support, observe and develop teaching staff. We take a lead on whole college Training and Development days, as well as regular “Best Practice” events, where teachers are encouraged to bring and share their own innovations and ideas.
Lesson observation culture is changing, so this is now something which is perceived as supportive, developmental and nothing to be feared. We have a core team of practitioners who observe cross-college and it’s my job to train and support this process, including moderation of observations and reports.
Do you have any other roles or responsibilities?
I regularly take part in internal quality reviews, including work scrutiny and I also mentor staff with QTLS applications. I sit on a number of panels, which are all concerned with key priorities such as English and maths, Teaching, Learning and Assessment and Continuing Professional Development.
How did you get into the job? What prompted your decision to move into FE?
My background is in teaching English as a Foreign Language and Teacher Education. Having taught English abroad for several years, I moved back to the UK, but quickly decided that teaching Business English was not my thing. I applied for a job at an FE college in London, teaching English to large groups of 16-18 year olds, which I loved, and this in turn led to an opportunity to train as a teacher educator. Following maternity leave, I applied for a job in another FE college close to where I grew up. During my last few years in teacher education I became very interested in coaching, so I was ready to take up a new post as lead teaching and learning coach within the Quality team.
How does your current job differ from other roles/experiences you have had?
Training groups of qualified staff can be quite different from teaching trainee teachers. They can sometimes be quite a tough crowd, as they bring with them a wealth of experience and confidence. Having said that, I’m always overwhelmed by how receptive teachers can be to new ideas and initiatives. Ultimately, we’re all working towards the same goal, which is to improve the achievements of and experience for learners.
What do you enjoy most about your job in FE?
It’s a real privilege to be able to discover all the excellent practice which is going on and help teachers to share this via e.g. peer observations, video clips or at CPD events. Spending time talking and listening to teachers who are passionate about their subject and their skills is incredibly rewarding and I do everything I can to boost their confidence and encourage them to try out and evaluate new approaches to teaching.
Have you got any advice for anyone interested in a similar career in FE?
The Training, Assessment and Quality Assurance (TAQA) qualifications are also essential for many roles in FE nowadays. Coaching and mentoring are both gaining momentum within colleges, so it would be worthwhile gaining a qualification and experience in either or both of these subjects.