Continuing our Sector Spotlight on Education, today we hear from Wendy Bowen, who is the Head Teacher of Papdale Primary School.
Wendy became a Primary School Teacher straight out of University, working in various schools in Caithness and the Highlands, eventually working her way up to Head Teacher. She came to Orkney in 2014 as Head Teacher of Sanday Junior High School, before moving to Papdale in 2019. While still a school pupil and as a student she undertook a variety of part-time jobs including working in shops, at Caithness Glass and with the Tourist Board.
Can you describe a typical day in your role as Head Teacher at Papdale Primary School?
I come to work just after 8am. I check my calendar for the day to plan out what I have to do for the day ahead. I check with the office staff that I have a full staff team, and that should there be absences that there is cover. Just before 9am I sometimes welcome the children and families in the playground and I often tend to visit classes between 9 and 10am. It is good to meet the children and teachers.
I have meetings throughout the day to attend this will be with parents, pupils, other people who can help the children in the school. I have meetings with my staff team to support them and provide leadership. I try to stop and enjoy a chat with the staff over lunch and we often have lots of laughs.
In the afternoon, I might spend time with more classes or go and see the nursery. When the children leave school at the end of the day I meet with the teachers, I help provide training and lead meetings to plan our next steps. I attend meetings with my other Head Teacher colleagues. Most days I finish work around 5.30pm to 6pm. I then like to go home and unwind by reading a book, or doing some craft activities.
How did you end up in this role?
My first job was working in a toy shop in Wick as a Saturday girl. I then went on to work as a Saturday girl in a jewellers in Wick, which I thought was just brilliant, and I have to say started me on a lifetime of loving jewellery! When I left school I worked in Caithness Glass, that was the worst job in the world and I smashed many of the bowls and glasses.
During my holidays from University I worked in the Tourist Board and helped tourists on holiday to find accommodation and to tell them which sights to visit.
I became a class teacher in Halkirk Primary school when I first left university and have worked in a number of schools as class teacher and support for learning teacher in and around Inverness. I became a Depute Head in Cauldeen Primary in Inverness, and then ended up covering for another Head Teacher in Kilchuimen Primary, in the end I became the Head of Kilchuimen in Fort Augustus. I moved to Orkney in 2014 as I saw the advert for Sanday Junior High School and thought it would be a total adventure coupled with the fact that I really liked to have the challenge of leading a Junior High School.
In 2019 I moved to Papdale Primary where I am the Head Teacher.
What is the best thing about your job?
Nothing makes me happier than seeing children making super progress in their learning. I like to feel that I have made a difference to their lives.
What is the worst thing about your job?
Sometimes when I have tricky decisions to make and I know that I cannot please everyone but have to make the best decision for the wider school community.
What skills do you need to undertake your role?
As a Head Teacher you need to be able to communicate and develop good relationships with people, you need to be able to put people at their ease. You need to have a good sense of humour and to have a positive outlook. You have to truly believe that every child is going to do well and succeed. You need to be able to stay calm in a crisis and to find solutions to problems as they arise, these can be wide and varied!
You must be able to communicate well both orally and in writing as you have letters and reports to write.
As a Head Teacher you need to be able to make sure that people can trust you. You must always be respectful of everyone you meet even though you may disagree with their opinions. You need to be able to work as part of a much larger team in your school and to work with the bigger Local Authority team.
You also need to be organised and think ahead. You must be able to plan, and to see the big picture.
You must love children and to work with other people.
What qualifications do you have?
Seven Standard Grades, five Highers and an Advanced Higher. I also have:
Would you recommend this job to young people, if so why?
I would recommend this job as no day is the same! There are always changes, there is challenges but this is good. There is a chance to make a difference to many people’s lives not just the children but the staff and the wider community. You can truly help to shape a life.
I would also say that the job is well paid, there is (hopefully) a good pension scheme and the holidays are pretty good too. I strongly suggest that you should not enter the job for the pay and conditions. You should only consider this career if you have a passion to love the people you serve.
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