Alumni share their career insights within Education

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

On Tuesday 26 January, our alumni volunteers shared their career stories with students and recent graduates. The event was part of our Bristol Connects Live series- our online series of career and professional development events. The session focused on careers within Education and our alumni experts shared their career stories and experiences to inspire students and recent graduates to help them understand more about the sector.

The event was hosted by Shanice Swales (BA 2014) who works as a Senior Policy Advisor in Higher Education Access and Admissions at The Department for Education. Shanice was joined on the panel by Abbigael Bainton (PGCE 2014/MSc 2018), Assistant Principal at the the Cabot Learning Federation. Mark Barrow (BSc 1995), Chief Executive Officer at the Seckford Education Trust and Dr Nigel Newton (PhD 2016), Lecturer, Education Consultant and Writer.

Education insights
Pictured: Top (L to R) Dr Nigel Newton and Mark Barrow. Bottom (L to R) Shanice Swales and Abbigael Benton.












The panel begun by discussing the variety of ways that people can enter into the teaching profession. Shanice first got experience as a teaching assistant, which she felt gave her a good insight into a school setting, without too much initial responsibility. She mentioned it is useful to work out if you want to work in a school environment, as there are plenty of other non-teaching roles in education, such as behavioural support and managerial roles. There are also educational organisations such as: Ofsted, NUS, Student Office, Think-Tanks and Charities. Abbigael agreed and further commented that there are so many graduate teaching opportunities, such as tutoring or pastoral care.

The panel said that there are a few things they felt make a good teacher – including the importance of caring for your students in a professional manner. Nigel added that research shows that excellent subject knowledge is key and that you need to be willing to carry on learning yourself.

For Mark – hard work and passion are essential. “Be enthusiastic. Be passionate. Be organised,” he said. “It’s hard work to begin with but keep at it. Show students that you care and make sure you align to the school’s values.” Abbigael agreed, adding that developing professional relationships and building trust with your students can also really benefit teachers. “Be human and be yourself,” she said. “It’s so rewarding!”

When asked what qualities are needed for someone in a school leadership position Mark said: “Never lose sight of what quality teaching is like. It is important to have experience of change management, a good understanding of the curriculum and the basics of leadership.”

Our panellists also spoke about the importance of volunteering. Reflecting on her volunteering experience as a University Education Outreach Fellow, Shanice said: “A few hours a week looks great on your CV and it makes it easier to apply to teaching assistant positions.”

“We look for participation in volunteering programmes when hiring teachers,” Mark agreed. “Volunteering experiences gives you a sense of what a school is going to look like and if it is the right environment for you.”

Abbigael encouraged those who were interested in working in schools to be proactive in searching for a position. “There are lots of opportunities right now,” she said, “and there is no harm in writing to schools. There seems to be capacity for more pastoral roles right now.”

For alumni looking to grow and establish their networks, Bristol Connects – our exclusive online platform for Bristol alumni and students – is a good place to start. Activate your account and take advantage of the Career Expert module and make connections with alumni working in your industry.

The event recordings will be listed on our digital recordings webpage shortly.

All alumni who helped out at the event are volunteers on our Bristol Volunteers programme. If you are experienced in speaking publicly and are willing to share your industry insights or ways of working, then we would love to welcome you as a panellist or event host.

Please contact the Bristol Volunteers team at



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *