Deputy Head leaves Derby special school after more than 20 years
A TEACHER who has spent more than 20 years at a Derby special school is preparing to say goodbye.
Deputy Head Laura Taylor will leave St Giles Spencer Academy – the city’s only special primary school – after Easter to take up a new role as a Specialist Practitioner with The Harmony Trust, where she will be working with children in mainstream schools who have additional needs.
And although Laura is excited about the challenge ahead, she will miss the school she first joined as a helper on a residential trip in 2002.
“I volunteered as a helper on a trip to Lockerbrook in the Derwent Valley and after that experience, where I assisted with youngsters who had moderate learning difficulties and being away from their families for the first time, I knew that working in special needs was something that I wanted to do,” said Laura.
“I found it so rewarding and, in 2002, I took my first steps into teaching by becoming a teaching assistant. I had a fabulous mentor – Jill Moore – who inspired me and encouraged me to study teacher training at Nottingham Trent University.
“I did my work placement at St Giles; it was a bit of a risk for then-headteacher Patrick Walsh, who had never had a newly qualified teacher working at the school. I’m very grateful to Pat for taking a chance on me.”
Laura went on to gain experience in a mainstream setting, returning to the school where she was once a pupil, St Albans, before securing a permanent job at St Giles School.
“St Giles has been a focal point and main drive for me over the past 20 years,” added Laura, “and I feel that we’ve both grown together. I have great pride in everything the school has achieved and given back to me personally.
“I’ve made some fantastic, life-long friends. We’ve shared some incredible times together and I leave knowing that the school will continue to shine like the star it always has been.”
Over the last 20 years St Giles School, in Hampshire Road, has celebrated several milestones.
In 2019, St Giles marked its 30th birthday with a tea party for pupils past and present. It went from being an Ofsted-rated ‘good’ school to an ‘outstanding’ school in 2016 and, in 2019, they joined Spencer Academy Trust – where Laura studied for her National Professional Qualification for Heaadship (NPQH, citing this experience as ‘giving me valuable skills for the future.’
For Laura, who has held several roles at St Giles including Acting Head for 18months when the school was expanding to take an extra 22 pupils, with three more classrooms were being built to accommodate them– ‘it was one of the most challenging times of my career; we were going through a difficult time with no head and even no caretaker’ – playing a key role in helping a pupil make the transition from a special school into a mainstream setting was a personal highlight.
“The school has always been a cornerstone in high standards of care for special needs children in Derby city and I can only see this continuing,” said Laura.
“Achieving ‘outstanding’ following an Ofsted inspection was a highlight as it was a real team effort, as was taking two children on a trip-of-a-lifetime to Kenya with Derby County Community Trust. Then-headteacher Clive Lawrence told me that the trip would change my life, and it really did.
“Two children were chosen at random and (Assistant Head) Karen Toulson, Beth Rogers (Global Learning Lead) and I travelled to Kenya with them where we worked with children in a village called Nakuru
“However, a personal highlight was helping a child transition from our special school into a mainstream setting. The young man – who I’m still in contact with now – left St Giles when he was in Year 6, joined Bemrose School. He then went on to study at college and the University of Staffordshire, before getting a job as a graphic designer.
“I feel unbelievable pride and a sense of achievement that I played a small part in this happening. I have absolutely loved my time at St Giles School and it will always hold a special place in my heart – but I’m very much looking forward to a new challenge with The Harmony Trust.”