From education to employment

Safe pair of hands: Semi-professional goalkeeper shares Teacher Apprenticeship experience

Meet semi-professional women’s footballer Faye Baker, who swapped standing between the posts for Brighton & Hove Albion and Lewes FC for honing classroom skills at Varndean School as part of the University of Brighton’s Postgraduate Teacher Apprenticeship – a programme which blends paid work-place learning with university study. 

“I have played football since the age of six and reached both professional and semi-professional levels. I joined West Ham at the age of nine and then gradually began to climb the leagues, most notably playing at Brighton and Lewes in the Women’s Championship. I have also represented a variety of counties (Kent, London, Sussex) and attended trials to represent England in a camp abroad as a youngster, however, decided not to pursue that at the time.

“I am currently still playing for AFC Wimbledon in tandem with teacher training however not at the same level due to the commitments of the course.

“I grew up wanting to be a lawyer – I went to law school and completed a law degree. However, whilst studying, I received a football offer that was too good to turn down. I now have different career goals in education and would like to become a Special Education Needs and Disability Coordinator (SENDCo), whilst adapting the PE curriculum to promote inclusion for SEN pupils.

“My previous role at Varndean school was head of autism. I started as a Teaching Assistant before specialising in Autism and becoming an Autism Champion. From this, I was part of a team that created a bespoke provision for Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) pupils within my secondary school and led on all things ASC, working closely with SENDCo and external agencies.

“I felt the apprenticeship route to qualify as a teacher was the next natural step in my career. I am keen to become a SENDCo myself and, in order to achieve this, I needed to complete the qualification. I feel strongly about inclusion and inspiring the next generation and feel there is no better way to advocate for this than through working with pupils in a school.

“To anyone considering an apprenticeship, I would tell them to go for it. It is an exciting opportunity and is a much more hands-on approach to training. The requirements of the course allow you to get lots of teaching under your belt whilst you are training, and this enables you to build your experience and pedagogy quickly in a supportive environment.

“I still have lots of goals and ambitions within football that I would like to achieve whilst building a successful career off the pitch. As I mentioned before, I would love to become a SENDCo and really promote inclusive practice through educating other professionals. My aim is to create a positive learning environment to physically educate pupils with SEN and enable them to spark an interest in sport whilst developing other key areas such as their social communication and confidence.

“I like the fact that no day is the same. It’s a very rewarding profession that enables you to really make a difference. Through football, my aim has always been to promote the women’s game and inspire the next generation to continue developing the standard of women’s football and I’ve got the same ambitions in teaching. It gives you the platform to inspire, progress and develop the learning of the next generation of pupils.

“I feel the apprenticeship is an appropriate route for those who have already spent a great deal of time in a school environment. It is important to have had that exposure in order to understand the ways in which schools work and the expectations placed on you. The course can be demanding, stay organised but do not be afraid to ask questions and lean on your course tutors. Everybody is extremely supportive!”

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