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  • Writer's pictureSarah Alix

Dr Sarah Alix Heads Up Teacher Training

By Louise Schenk-Cooper


Passionate – Sarah Alix has had a lifelong love of horses

SARAH Alix has been on something of a journey - one that has taken her from the racecourse to heading up a training course.

Along the way, the mum of three has juggled raising a family and being a single parent with the demands of working full time and intense study.

Now, however, she can look back with immense pride at becoming an education specialist, a published author and the programme director at North Essex Teacher Training (NETT).

Sarah’s rise to Doctor Sarah demonstrates her resilience and a love for learning that is reflected in the many qualifications she has achieved.

However, it all started with a labour of love, working with horses and doing work experience in horseracing.

She left school at 16 with average GCSEs and went to Newmarket to work in racing, where she stayed for five years, riding horses up the gallops each day.

Sarah, who lives in Clacton, said: “It was an amazing experience and I loved working there with the horses and people.

"I then wanted to study a bit more and went to work for the Animal Health Trust, working in a laboratory where we sampled blood and DNA from racehorses to ensure their parentage was correct and the correct horses had won a race.”

She fell pregnant with her eldest daughter and, while a stay-at-home mum, she embarked on a degree in psychology with the Open University.

When her daughter started school, Sarah became a parent helper, volunteering in school and listening to children read.

This set the course for her journey into the educational profession.

“I decided I wanted to know more about children and the life I had brought into this world," she said.

“I remember watching the teacher, who was a newly-qualified teacher, and thinking what a fabulous job she was doing and how I would like to do that.

"Interestingly, that teacher is now a headteacher and supports trainees at NETT.”

Liverpool-born Sarah completed her degree, which took four years, applied for teacher training and gained a place on a PGCE course at Anglia Ruskin University.

By this time, she had a second daughter, who was around six months old.

“Training was an exciting journey," she said.

"It was terrifying going into classes and being observed teaching year six and year two, but I still remember those pupils today and the impact they had on me as a person and a developing teacher.

"I realised elements I had learnt from my own experience of raising children and my youth work were very useful and I developed a real interest in working with children with challenging behaviour and difficulties in school.

“I loved being in the classroom and that had been my original goal, but then I discovered all the other elements to the education profession and strands that you can go and learn and become involved in.”

Once qualified, Sarah spent several years teaching both key stage one and two children.

She then started studying for an MA in Education and began to work as a behaviour support teacher, working with many schools - primary, secondary and special schools.

“It was a fabulous job and I really enjoyed how much I learnt from pupils, teachers, parents and carers and how I could support them in my role," she said.

This is where Sarah developed her interest in working with Looked After Children (LAC).

A Looked After Child is a child who the local authority has taken ultimate responsibility for and is the legal guardian.

She felt more could be done to support them and much of her work has focussed and impacted on the education of looked after children.

“I've written blog pieces supporting teachers with ways in which they can support LAC," she said.

"I've also contributed to writing statements for DfE education frameworks to include support for LAC.”

Once her Masters was completed, Sarah decided to continue studying and research education and LAC through applying for a Doctorate in Education (EdD) part-time.

It was quite an undertaking as she was working full time, raising a family and had a third child around this time.

“This was where my doctorate journey began – a long seven years but a massive achievement for me," she said.

"I learned that if it's something you want to do, you'll get there.

"You just need to hold onto the passion for your goal and become resilient and flexible.”

Sarah took a position with Anglia Ruskin University, in Chelmsford.

She stayed with them for eight years, working across the education department and becoming the deputy head of department.

After completing her doctorate, CoramBAAF had seen an article on Looked after Children that Sarah had written and approached her to write a book.

They wanted something with an education focus they felt was missing in their range.

Sarah started co-authoring the book and then took on the lead to write it and develop it with several other contributors.

“I wanted to write it to support carers in being able to understand the education system," she said.

"As a parent and working in education, I still find navigating my way through education can be tricky.”

Her journey was not without its challenges.

As a working female and single parent for many years, Sarah had a lot to juggle.

“It's been a tough journey," she said.

"But I became very focused around my study.

"I had my setbacks and tears along the way, when things became difficult and elements needed many rewrites, but if you want something you just keep going."

Sarah is keen to learn more about Special Educational Needs.

“I gained my SENCO award a few years ago and have a personal interest in autism, as my son is autistic," she said.

"I'm undertaking further qualifications in this area to gain a better understanding and see what else we could be doing.”

It’s hard to believe Sarah has any free time, but she retains her passion for horses.

“I love the movement and speed of racehorses, elegant and powerful," she said.

"I now own my own retired ex-racehorse who lives a very pampered life.

"It gets me out into the fresh air each day and doing exercise. I’m not very good at going to the gym.”

As programme director at NETT, Sarah is responsible for overseeing teacher training courses, supporting staff and trainees to develop as educators.

She knows what makes an outstanding teacher.

“Someone who is passionate and give the role 100 per cent, is open to continued learning and change," she said.

"The biggest reward of a career in education is seeing children progress, as well as the moments of development, whether that's with children or trainee teachers.

“The best part of working with trainees is knowing they, in turn, will make a huge contribution in education and the lives of the children they teach.

"They're always full of enthusiasm and commitment to their career.”

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