34 years supporting early years
What was supposed to be a two-week supply teaching post at Jubilee Park Primary Academy, has turned into 34 years of service for Nursery Leader Karen Keeling.
After leaving college, Karen gained experience as a nanny before joining Sandwell Council supply team as a nursery nurse.
Whilst on a two-week supply teacher posting at Jubilee Park, the opportunity came up to apply for a permanent nursery nurse post in Reception. Karen was successful and began working with Reception and year 1 children at the school, before moving to work in the pre-school when it opened in 1992.
What has changed in 34 years?
“The school hasn’t changed much in the past 34 years, there’s been some rejigging of classrooms and doors added to rooms (it used to be open plan), but the building itself has not changed”
Karen has seen staff come and go and worked with 4 different heads and a few acting heads over the past 34 years. “There has been an increase in the number of staff working at the school, mainly due to the need for each class to have a learning support or teaching assistant”.
How has the role changed over the years?
Karen has undertaken training over the years to develop her skills and expertise further and is now a learning support Level 4. The role of learning support includes planning activities to support the speech and language development of children, health and safety, child protection and transition home visits.
What has kept you in the role?
“I’ve worked with some great people and made good friends whilst working at the school. A new head generally sees changes and new strategies”.
Variety in the role and being part of children’s development and journey to independence is what has kept Karen in the role for all these years.
“I have seen children on the first day of pre-school, clinging to their mum’s legs not wanting to come into school and children not being toilet trained, to then see them in the Year 6 leavers assembly as confident, independent children”.
Karen now has children in pre-school whose parents she remembers teaching. Being a familiar face at the school helps with transition of children into pre-school, as many of the local families know Karen and have a good relationship with her.
“Time has flown by, the school and the role have continuously evolved, and no day is the same, this has kept the job interesting and is another reason why I’m still here”
In 2006, Karen was invited to set up and manage the breakfast and after school club. This gave Karen the opportunity to work with children across KS1 and KS2. The clubs were initially created to provide respite to parents of children with challenging behaviours.
Another memorable moment for Karen was when Baroness Betty Boothroyd OM PC opened the nursery in 1992.
What does the future hold?
Karen has no plans to move on from the school or to become a teacher. “I enjoy the work I do with the children. I don’t have the same level of responsibility as a teacher, but I get the same level of satisfaction from my job and know that I am making a positive difference to children’s lives”.