Where are they now? Paddy Cassidy, Vice Principal at Secondary School

Paddy Cassidy, who studied History at Oxford.

When I was looking at next steps after Sixth Form I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do. I decided to follow the advice that I was given to do something that I enjoyed at University. I studied A-levels in English Literature, Religious Studies and History and enjoyed all of them. I initially couldn’t decide between studying English Literature and History at University so I applied for joint honours. I went on open days and visited Universities to see whether they were the sort of places that I wanted to spend three years.

One of the Universities that I applied to was Somerville College, Oxford although I had initially been reluctant to apply. It was really important for me to visit the university on an open day to help me see whether I would enjoy my time there. I had support from my school to put together my application and I did a practice interview which was really helpful. The interviews were challenging but there were lots of people at Somerville College to support applicants. I was offered a place to study Modern History rather than joint honours and, in retrospect, this was a really good thing. It meant that I could really focus on that subject and also had time to get involved in other activities. I had a fantastic three years in Oxford and got involved in lots of societies during my time there which really helped me to develop my skills.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after University and I was worried about not having a job once I had left. I was looking for something that would be interesting to do but would also leave my options open. I went to Careers Fairs, events with graduate recruiters and tried to read as much as I could about my options. I was impressed by what I heard about Teach First – it sounded really interesting, like I would learn a lot and it was a two-year programme so I could decide if I wanted to stay in teaching. I had also volunteered to help Primary school pupils with their English and Maths during my time at Sixth Form. This experience had certainly helped me to be accepted onto the Teach First programme and helped me to decide whether I would enjoy working in a school.

As part of the Teach First programme I was placed in a secondary school in Croydon after six weeks of training over the summer. It was a very difficult start but, with the help of supportive colleagues, I began to really enjoy the job. I enjoyed the independence and responsibility that I had as a teacher and it was great to see the impact of the work that I did. The students were fantastic to work with and so I decided to continue working as a teacher at the end of my two-year commitment to the Teach First programme.

I have had a very varied career since training as a teacher – I’ve worked as a classroom teacher, Head of Department, Head of Year and now as a Deputy Headteacher. I’ve also taken time out of school to work in the national team at a Multi-Academy Trust which gave me a different perspective on education in the UK. I had never realised quite how varied the opportunities are in the education sector – it’s not just about being a teacher! Teach First was a great opportunity to make a real difference and it helped me to start out on an interesting career.