Benjamin Bowles - Head of School
Can you explain your career path into teaching?
I made my mind up in Sixth Form that I wanted to teach, making a difference to children's life chances and ambitions. That driving force has not left me 26 years on. I completed a BEd with Honours in Physical Education at De Montfort University which was shortly followed by my NQT year as a fresh-faced 22 year old at what is now called The Eastbourne Academy.
Over the 18 years I was there I gained a wealth of experience through various leadership roles; Subject Lead, Mentor, Director of Learning, Director of Curriculum, Associate Head of Mathematics and as part of the Senior Leadership Team.
I felt I had my calling to Primary Leadership and I secured a secondment as Head of School at Langney Primary Academy in Eastbourne. Within the year, I was successful in securing the permanent position and I have just completed my second year.
What advice would you give to others, who are looking to change their career and move from Secondary to Primary?
My main piece of advice revolves around being willing to fully immerse yourself in the Primary Sector. I was fortunate to work in four different Primary school settings, this provided me with the opportunity to work alongside four different Headteachers, various Senior Leadership Teams and be part of developing individual school visions. This experience has been invaluable. In addition to this, I feel that reading through publications and policy that I can put into action has given me the foundation to build upon.
I would also embark upon a suitable Headship CPD programme to hone your own values and vision as well as being prepared to deal with a great deal more of parents and carers at Primary level!
How easy was the transition between Secondary to Primary and what transferable skills did you rely on?
Any change of setting or promoted role brings its challenges but also opportunities. Changing sectors at the same time was challenging so I relied on previous skills and attributes that had been tested in many previous situations.
These have included:
- Establishing, retaining and only settling for the highest of expectations from all
- Being able to stay calm in high pressured atmospheres
- Relying on emotional intelligence
- Maintaining transparency
- Being confident in making logical decisions with the children's learning
- Putting progress at the forefront
- Staying balanced
- Most importantly, asking for help and advice when needed
What opportunities has Swale Academies Trust given you?
It was a Swale Academies Trust Executive Headteacher who saw my potential and took a risk in appointing me. However, this has given me the opportunity to further my career. She represents what I believe Swale Academies Trust stand for; forward-looking, fresh thinking and providing an education that really makes a difference to children's lives.
Now as part of the Trust, the support and advice from colleagues in the Primary Improvement Team and other leaders in Kent are excellent. There is a culture of sharing, giving and taking that is not just economically viable but also helps to reduce workload at all levels.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Always learning! I am keen to keep developing myself and continue to widen my experiences. I would hope and believe this would still be within Swale Academies Trust, as our values connect and this is a great Trust to be part of.