Profile picture of Ellie Barker.

Head of Year, Leeds City College

By the time I was finishing my first year as an NQT I had been successful in becoming a member of the Senior Leadership Team.

How the Open Day convinced me to attend Leeds Trinity

Funnily enough, Leeds Trinity wasn’t initially my first choice. I went to look around so many other universities and had two other options that were my higher ranked choice. It wasn’t until a family friend suggested I attended Leeds Trinity due to it’s reputation for training teachers. I attended an Open Day and it just changed my whole perspective on university - it was exactly what I wanted!  It felt so different to all the other universities, for the first time I surprisingly felt comfortable but inspired. I remember walking out with my parents back to our car and I turned and said “this is it, this is the one” and I just got a buzz, one which never left me during my whole time studying here.

I felt so supported

I have never felt as supported as I did at Leeds Trinity, in everything I did. From my academics, to my sporting commitments away from university, to being part of the sports community even through to getting onto a PGCE. 

I met the most amazing people at Leeds Trinity, people that even now I would consider my closest friends and ones that I can turn to for anything; once you have seen each other at 2am in the library finishing an assignment, there isn’t much more you could go through. I loved the community events; the colour runs, BUCS Wednesdays, the midnight walk for This Girl Can; everything! The memories I made at these events simply came from feeling like I belonged!

Ellie Barker Netball reunion .

Challenges along the way

My biggest challenge was dealing with the academic strain. For someone that was never confident in their academic ability, managing the assignment deadlines, undertaking placements, as well as balancing a university life that I enjoyed was not easy at times. It was often tough to see the desired end goal when working so hard to do well in my degree to then have to face the challenging competition of applying for a PGCE to further my future career was also a challenge. 

Valuable placements

The placements Leeds Trinity offered were amazing, and gave me the hands-on, real-life experience I desired. When I started at Leeds Trinity, I didn’t actually know whether teaching would be for me, I knew I loved coaching from previous experience, but I was unsure whether teaching would be the path I followed.  But after three different placements; a selective school, an inner-City school and a Primary School, I was able to gain experience as well as an understanding as to what was involved. I loved my placements and even now in my career, I am using the techniques and games that I picked up from my very first placement.

Ellie Barker at graduation .

My career - early setbacks

I suppose someone looking from the outside in would say things have been tough! I finished Leeds Trinity (absolutely devastated that there wasn’t a secondary PE PGCE available) but ready to take on my next adventure. I did a one-year PGCE elsewhere, completing two placements, one at a Grammar School and one at an inner-City school. I had my heart set on working in the private/selective sector of education and they were the only jobs I applied for. I was knocked back so many times, often shortlisting to the final two or three and missing out because of lack of experience.

I would definitely say, by completing the accelerated degree I had a talking point in interviews (this being evident though, usually being the only NQT shortlisted). At this point I was so close to giving up, I couldn’t take the rejection any longer but there were simply no more jobs being advertised.

The turning point and joining the Senior Leadership Team

A friend posted on social media about a job at their current workplace, The 14+ Apprenticeship Academy at Leeds City College (I never use social media so for this to come about this way is rather strange). I went for a look around, ended up applying and getting the job as a Learning Mentor (not what I wanted, I wanted to teach PE full-time PE, I what I had trained to do). I spent a year working with young people who even now still motivate me everyday. I supported PE lessons and developed to take a lead on PE lessons, towards the end of my first academic year, a job opportunity came up for Head of Year. I applied and by the time I was finishing my first year as an NQT I had been successful in becoming a member of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT).

Ellie Barker teaching .

Award recognition

At the same time as getting on the SLT I took on joint-leadership of Physical Education as well as becoming a Designated Safeguarding Officer. My second year saw me develop these roles and enjoy every single minute of it. September 2019 saw me take on the line management role of four staff (something which a lot of 24-year olds can’t say) and in December 2019 I won the Leeds City College 'Enhancing Student Experience Award' across all colleges and provision within Leeds City College, The White Rose Alliance Teaching Trust, Keighley and Harrogate College. 

Ellie Barker award.

My advice

Leeds Trinity offers you more than a degree. Not only did I receive that piece of paper, I received self-confidence, self-belief, motivation for success and a career. My advice to others is simple:

  • Don’t ever doubt yourself, you can do anything you can even dream about. Using the support that Trinity offers you can literally achieve anything 
  • Don’t be afraid to work hard. I remember there was always a stigma of being the ‘teachers pet’ and going to university you should focus on the social aspect, but although some may not have liked how well I did in placements and assignments, it has helped me where I am now. The networking opportunities I have had and still have are amazing.