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Helen’s career change was made possible through her empathy, ambition and an apprenticeship

Friday 7 February 2020 10.17am

Helen worked in fashion retail for ten years, working her way up to managing a large store in the local town of Shrewsbury. Many of the employees were students, which Helen loved managing. Their personalities seemed bolder and ideas were bigger than her peers in retail. Helen: “I enjoyed the young people’s dramas and how best to deal with their issues – I think this was the first time I thought I would like to support young people”.

Helen began to fall out of love with retail; the long hours and hasty pace started to take their toll. Soon after thinking of changing her career, Helen moved home to Herefordshire from Shrewsbury to be closer to her family. This felt like a good time to try something new – a fresh start.

“I knew I wanted to make a complete change and move away from retail. I have always enjoyed supporting young people, so I started to look into working at a school.” said Helen.

Soon she found an opportunity to join Weobley High School and joined the team as an Apprentice Learning Support Assistant (LSA) in January 2017 after a successful interview. Her apprenticeship in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools (STLS) delivered by Hoople has given Helen the basis to form a great understanding to support all areas of a school, teachers, students and the curriculum.

The contrast between a school and a high-street shop were worlds away. Until reflecting back on her time in retail, Helen didn’t realise how much variety her previous roles lacked – doing the same things day in, day out. Now even her quietest days at the school bring new challenges, which she feels is so much more rewarding.

Helen is now the English Specialist LSA, supporting English lessons and leading a programme called Fresh Start, which helps students in year 7 and 8 who need support to develop their skills in English.

In-between delivering and supporting English classes Helen works as the School Librarian, which at the start of this new role Helen was slightly sceptical about; but it didn’t take long to realise how rewarding her time spent in the library is.

Helen provides a lot of students with emotional support through a mentoring programme. “I love chatting and supporting the students, finding out what they have been up to and if they need any support in certain areas. It’s really rewarding and I find their views so interesting” Helen said.

Supporting students through some pretty tough times at school inspires Helen to continue building bonds with the young people. Helen is set on continuing seeing her students grow in confidence and hopes to change their lives for the better.

Kirsty Staunton, Hoople STLS Assessor and tutor: “Helen’s main role within the school when starting her apprenticeship was providing mentoring and pastoral support to students who had varying levels of emotional and social needs who needed someone they could talk to.

Through her intervention and one to one support, I observed Helen building strong, trusting relationships with the students that enabled them to open up and share their feelings and concerns with her. Her empathy towards her students sees positive results for her in relation to integration within the school, social skills and becoming independent.

As Helen progressed to the next level of apprenticeship so did her role within the school. Taking on the lead of English, quickly identifying areas of support required for the students to meet the curriculum while using the skills she learnt in her mentoring role to build confidence, resilience and a love of English to her students.”

If you like the sound of a similar route, or want to find out more about apprenticeship opportunities with Hoople, contact