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Julie Cottenden

Support Worker, CHEXSJulie Cottenden

BA Education, 2009

What made you choose Middlesex University?

It was the location closest to home with the course that I required. As a mature student with a young family I needed to be near home and to fit into my work commitments.

What attracted you to your course and made you apply?

I chose this course as it was only one days attendance which the school I was employed at were willing to allow me time off for. I had previously been an attendance officer and teaching assistant in secondary schools and felt that the next step was a career in teaching even though I had always enjoyed working with the vulnerable students and could not see myself in a mainstream school.

How did your course and time at Middlesex help you get to where you are professionally today?

The course provided me with the core knowledge I needed to engage with schools at all levels and to appreciate how the curriculum, policies and pastoral care were intertwined.  The charity I work for delivers enrichment opportunities to children and young people who struggle academically due to social, emotional and behavioural issues that attend 13 schools (10 primary, 3 secondary).  Many of these suffer with mental health issues and are at risk of permanent exclusion and knowing the restrictions school face with regards to funding and scope to support helped me immensely to see the gaps schools were trying desperately to fill but not having the capacity to achieve.

The course gave me the confidence to address the needs of those who display challenging or vulnerable behaviour and also the confidence in myself to step out of my comfort zone to achieve. As a mature student I started the course feeling I could never achieve a degree but ‘would give it a go’.  With the help, support and understanding of the tutors I achieved a 2:1 whilst working and bringing up my family as a single parent, leading to me to feel able to apply for my current position.

As a result of my degree I am now a Children and Young People Support Lead working with targeted children and young people aged 8-18 on enrichment projects that take them out of the classroom to achieve something positive in the community, mentoring and coaching them in subjects ranging from families issues, sexual health, relationships, drugs, alcohol, internet safety and life in general.

Another aspect of my job is to provide level 1 safeguarding, internet safety and WRAP training to professionals and this has been the hardest task for me.  I have never been able to talk publicly and still struggle however the course provided a platform for me to learn these skills and to use them when delivering sessions.

What made you choose the industry you work in and what are its pros and cons?

Actually the charitable sector chose me!  I was working on the Extended Schools initiative that was thought to be coming to an end so my manager and myself created the charity to ensure that it would be sustainable should the government withdraw the funding, which of course it did.  The charity still received funding from the government but we also managed to enlist the schools we were working with to pay a membership towards additional services.  Five years on and the major issue we have is securing funding for the charity despite still having the school membership funding is always tight and I have had to learn the art of writing funding applications at the same time as completing the enrichments with the beneficiaries.  The benefits of this job is that I get to do what I love with people who are like minded.  I realise this could be said of many jobs but being part of a charity gives you the ownership of a project that you know is helping people to overcome difficulties they are facing.

What have been the most effective ways of enhancing your professional profile?

The most effective way has been by increasing the scope of knowledge outside of the average school curriculum on subjects that can be deemed difficult for teachers to address in a classroom situation such as sexual health.  Having the knowledge and capacity to work with the vulnerable young people outside of the educational setting has also been very beneficial.  Attending training courses that are provided by people who have worked in the particular subject they are delivering is definitely beneficial as they have an insight into the subject.

What has been your proudest achievement to date?

Personally, my proudest achievement has been the completion of the degree as I had never thought I could achieve it.  However, within my work, our charity has won quite a few awards and we are now in the finalists for this year’s National Children and Young People Now Award, Project of the Year.  We are just a team of 4 people so what an achievement!

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