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How Denise went from making numbers add up to teaching others how to add up

One of most rewarding things Denise Barrow experienced as a trainee teaching assistant was watching a group of reception class children write their names for the first time.

“Letter formation is something children develop throughout their first year in education. It’s lovely seeing them improve and develop this skill,” said the mum of two. “Helping students with literacy and numeracy has been a big focus of the training I received within my placement. It was this and learning all about a school’s procedures and policies that helped me get employed in this environment.”

Denise completed a Level 3 diploma at Sutton Coldfield College in specialist support for teaching and learning in schools. Her hard work has paid off as she starts work in a local primary school in September.

“This is my first full-time role as a teaching assistant,” said the 35-year-old. “I’d always wanted to work with children, more so after having children of my own.”

But on leaving school, Denise took an IT course at college before spending 11 years working in a bank. It was having a second child and being faced with redundancy that led to her taking her career in a new direction.

“I’d worked as a credit card underwriter, business account officer and risk support officer. When the redundancy came up, I had no idea what I was going to do,” continued Denise. “My son who was in his first year at school at the time was learning phonics and was given letter sounds to practice for homework. It was going through this with him that inspired me to consider teaching.”

Visiting the college during an open day made everything fall into place.

“My lecturer encouraged me to start on a Level 3 course as opposed to a Level 2 course because I’d previously been to college and night school achieving GCSE Maths and English and a Level 3 diploma in business administration while I was working at HSBC. I did have to get some work experience in beforehand so I spent three months at my son’s school; something I really enjoyed doing.

“And the student services team told me about the loan I was eligible for which would pay for my course. The loan was just one form followed by my inputting some details online. I found out within a few weeks that my application had been successful.”

“Being a mature student can be tough,” admits Denise. “I was coming into college, doing my work placement in a school and getting assignments finished, on top of looking after a -year-old and five-year-old with a husband working nights. I would say it’s all been worth it though. As a family, we’re doing the things we always planned to and I’m in a career where I will keep up my professional development.”


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