ALT don’t want you to stay still, to stay where you are; they want you to keep developing and progressing

Jess Purvey is a Year 2 teacher, Key Stage 1 lead and English subject lead at Chesterton Primary School in Cambridge.

At 25 years of age and with four years of experience in the classroom, Jess has progressed quickly into middle leadership.

Back in 2014, Jess travelled down from Birmingham to interview for a role at Isle of Ely, an ALT primary school which at the time, was yet to open.

 “I was actually coming to the interview quite blind in terms of the area,” said Jess.

“But I applied because it was a brand new school and the thought of being there from the start and growing with the school was really appealing. 

“The fact it was part of a multi-academy trust didn’t really faze me. Everyone has their own view on MATs, but any negative points that I had been aware of from the media were proactively addressed in the interview and that completely eased any concerns that I had.”

On the interview panel was Executive Head of Chesterton and Isle of Ely, Bryony Surtees. Bryony saw the potential in Jess and decided to offer her a role at Chesterton, which itself was only a year old at the time.

Jess spent a year at Chesterton, before moving temporarily to Isle of Ely to support its opening in a nearby town. Upon her return, Jess was offered a role on the middle leadership team, despite having only been in the profession for two years.

 “It’s a massive jump from being a class teacher to being a middle leader,” said Jess.

“I didn’t have a lot of experience when I did it, only two years, but the Trust and school were incredibly supportive. They put me through the NPQML, which was great and I’ve found really helpful in terms of the role I’m now in.”

In addition to supporting Jess with access to professional development courses, the Trust also provided a professional coach for her to meet with and discuss any issues. 

“They brought in someone external, who I had one-to-one sessions with,” said Jess.

“We would talk about leadership, different things you need to be a leader, how to overcome any problems, and everything we discussed would be completely confidential which is obviously really useful from my perspective.

“The sessions helped me out so much with confidence – in fact they’ve just helped me hugely in general.”

“The sort of support I’ve received, things like the coaching, are definitely not common practice. I’ve got friends of a similar age who have not progressed in their roles, just not been given the option to, and those that have talk about just being thrown into roles without the support.”

As part of The Active Learning Trust’s Cambridgeshire hub, Jess and her colleagues at Chesterton will often meet with staff from the other three Trust primaries nearby to discuss individual challenges and share ideas.

“We work particularly closely with Isle of Ely, for example we might have training or moderation with them,” said Jess.

“But we also meet as a group of teachers within our hub, which is particularly useful as, although the Trust has a shared ethos, everyone’s slightly different so it exposes you to different ideas. It’s an opportunity to share best practice.

“Also, the cohorts are so different in different areas, so it’s interesting to hear about the challenges that other schools and teachers are facing, in comparison to ours, as a result of that.”

So, having barely paused for breath in her progression so far, does Jess harbour hopes of one day making the next step in senior leadership?

“Perhaps, a few years down the line. It’s more difficult within the school because it’s so small, but then that’s one of the benefits of working in a Trust.

“ALT don’t want you to stay still, to stay where you are, they want you to keep developing and progressing.”