Inside Schools: Teacher Daniel Tye and Harris Academy Peckham

Featured News / Our People & Culture Back

The basis of someone’s choice to step into the world of Education can be one and many things. It has always been one of our driving forces to provide a workplace that is accommodating and supportive of a teacher’s passion to teach. After all, this is the bedrock of great teaching. From speaking to our dedicated team at Harris Teaching School, it is clear that our mission to provide inclusive and enriching opportunities is working. This week, we speak to Daniel Tye, Teacher of History at Harris Peckham, currently on the Harris Diploma in Team Leadership apprenticeship.

Starting at the beginning, what would you say is your background in Education?

My background in education was that I stayed very local to home. I went to my local primary school, my local secondary school and my local university in the North East of England. I had always enjoyed school and since being a very young child was fascinated by the past – I was very lucky to have so much history around me in the North East, from Hadrian’s Wall to the mining heritage of my hometown. At school, I was labelled as Gifted and Talented, but I had to work incredibly hard to get the grades that I got at GCSE and A level. My biggest highlight in my education journey was when I received my First Class (Hons) Degree from the University of Sunderland. This was “reaching the summit” moment for me as there were many moments in my education that teachers doubted my abilities and thought I wouldn’t amount to much. Getting that First Class degree vindicated all of my hard work. The cherry on top of the education cake, per se, was when the History Department at the University of Sunderland decided to publish my dissertation into the scandal of “educationally subnormal” streaming of Afro-Caribbean students in the 1960s and 1970s and how the campaigning of the Afro-Caribbean community at the time helped shape the educational policy landscape for the better. It’s still something I have a passion and a moment in history that I would like to return to and explore further.

Since being young, I wanted to be a teacher. I flitted between wanting to teach Art, English and History. I finally landed on History as I loved the subject so much and learning about how the past shapes the world we live in today. And I wanted to cultivate that joy within the next generation of students, too. However, I became enticed by politics and spend 4 ½ years working in politics, most of it focused on education policy, working for a Shadow Minister as their Senior Parliamentary Researcher and then as Head of Public Affairs at the Holocaust Educational Trust. After what was a successful, and incredibly enjoyable, career in politics and public affairs, I wanted a new challenge and working for an educational charity which focused on a major historical moment, I really begun to reignite my love for History and rediscovered that passion and the desire to cultivate that joy and passion for the past in the future generations. That’s when I decided to make the jump from working in the corridors of power in Westminster to working in the corridors of inner-city London schools.

In starting his career in teaching, Daniel touches on his timeline with Harris as one from the ground up. Having started in Harris, he now resides in Harris Peckham where he had his placement.

DT: My very short career in teaching so far (I’m only in my third year) has been all with Harris. I started my training with the Federation via the Harris Schools Direct programme. My placement school was Harris Academy Peckham, where I am still to this day. At the end of my Schools Direct training year, I was appointed More Able Coordinator and am in my second year in this role now. Now that I am in my third year, I am also taking on more informal leadership around broadening the curriculum within History (most recently I developed our resources for Black History Month and will be engaging with external organisations, such as the Migration Museum) and being involved in more pastoral work with our Year 8 cohort, where I am a tutor. This all contributes to a more formal leadership training I am doing as part of the Level 3 Team Leader Apprenticeship. This apprenticeship allows me to receive a more formal training to build on my previous experiences in leadership roles outside of education and help inform my approaches to leadership in my future career path.

Working with the Federation for me is all about collaboration and sharing of ideas to provide high-quality education to the students who attend Harris academies. Despite coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, our students still receive a phenomenally high level of education that gives them the knowledge to hold their own amongst those who come from more privileged backgrounds who attended the top schools. There are many ways the Federation facilitates this for their teachers. From the October Conference, the February subject-specific INSET day to close working with the Federation’s Consultant teams. All these avenues have allowed me to develop and improve my teaching practice. I have been lucky to work with incredible consultants - both within the History consultant team and the English consultant team - who have all given me advice on my teaching practice, curriculum and my future ambitions as an educator. They’ve been an amazing resource to me in my time within the Federation.

What motivates you to keep doing the job you do?

For me, teaching can be quite a thankless and tough job. But what keeps me going is what I call the small wins. A “small win” for me is where you see the light bulb moment with a student who you have persevered with to understand a complex historical concept, a student who behaves well in your lesson after weeks of misbehaving or simply having a funny conversation with a student in the corridor about the latest Tik Tok craze. These are all what I call “my reasons to smile”. It allows me to keep perspective of teaching and why I do it, especially when you can’t see the wood for the trees. I used to tweet about them but stopped recently. I think I am going to have to bring them back especially during these challenge times with COVID-19.

Talking through working and learning at Harris Peckham, Daniel tells us a bit about the working culture and environment he is a part of as the History department and wider academy..

I’ve mentioned it before as something that I enjoy within teaching, but within the History team at HAP we’re all about collaborating with each other. As a new team of young teachers, we’ve spent a lot of time co-planning lessons or schemes of work and sharing the load in what lessons need to be planned. For me, I am currently in charge of the Year 8 scheme of work looking at Reformation and will then re-plan our Schemes of Work and lessons around the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Empire and Black Civil Rights – as these are my areas of specialism within history - and will be planning a series of intervention lessons for our Year 11 SEND students focused on knowledge retention. We’re all passionate historians who want to offer the best history curriculum we can. We all have lots of ideas that we share with each other to facilitate this. During lockdown, our department meetings incorporated CPD time where a member of the team would share their ideas from a reading they did or a podcast they listened to and shared these with the team. I did two which were focused on leadership during change and incorporating Black history into our curriculums more and how to keep teaching as simple as possible to address workload issues.

What does CPD look like at Peckham?

CPD at Peckham is relentless. The high expectations of the students are met by the high expectations of staff to understand the science and evidence behind the pedagogy, have a thorough understanding of how to implement new practices and continually reflecting on our practices to improve them for the future. Our LEAP (Leadership, Enquiry, Aspiration, Perseverance) ethos runs right through our CPD. This is also mirrored in my own approach to CPD where I am relentless to continually improve my practice and understanding of how best to teach the students in my classes. This was something I enjoyed having the space and time to focus on during lockdown and became very active in improving my CPD through attending the Schools History Project virtual conference and engaging with teachers across the country via social media. This CPD is encouraged by the school and bring back to share with others.

How did you hear about the Team Leader Level 3 apprenticeship?

It was a funny story, actually! I was sitting in my classroom co-planning a lesson with one of my colleagues, when a member of our Senior Leadership Team popped their head in and asked me to join another group of teachers he had gathered. I had no idea what it was about and why it was happening, until they explained that we had been selected to be our school’s cohort on the apprenticeship as potential future leaders. I was slightly taken a back, as it was not something I was expecting or thinking about at the time. To be selected to be on the apprenticeship by the Senior Leadership of the school was humbling. Being on the programme has so far helped me to consider my future career options, how to go about achieving them and how to prepare to be an effective leader within education when I get the chance to.

How far are you in your Team Leader Level 3 apprenticeship and how are you finding it?

We’ve currently finished the first half term of the course which has been focused around understanding different leadership styles and receiving our results from our CME analysis. The results were fascinating and helped me to reflect on myself and how I deal with various situations. Learning about the different leadership styles helped me to understand what kind of leader I was in my previous roles in politics and public affairs and how understanding different leadership styles now can help understand my previous experiences as a leader and what kind of leader I will be in the future. The knowledge I am acquiring on the apprenticeship and having the space to think and reflect on leadership will be invaluable to me going forward.

Advice for anyone looking to step into teaching

Simple: Do it! Don’t hesitate. It sounds cliched, but if you want to help mould the minds of the next generation, then go for it. It’s a tough job, but the small victories I mentioned earlier make it worth it. There are so many different pathways into teaching; research them all and weigh up their strengths and weaknesses in terms of your own personal circumstances. I’d also suggest engaging with teachers. A great way to do this is on social media – EduTwitter is one behemoth of a staffroom of supportive teachers who will take anyone under their wing, especially those dipping their toes into the teaching career. One thing I would strongly urge is focus on subject knowledge before entering the teaching world, forcing yourself to digest pedagogy when you have no experience to hang the pedagogy on to will be difficult. Before entering the classroom, you must rediscover your love for your subject. This is one thing I loved before entering teaching, rediscovering my passion for history. In usual circumstances, I’d also suggest shadowing teachers but with COVID-19 that is difficult. Think of some creative ways to get involved with schools would be a good way to navigate around that road block – there are lots of organisations that work with schools via virtual platforms that you could get involved with, tutoring in your subject area or even becoming a school governor.

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