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Case Study: Paddy Dempsey

Personal details
Degree:BSc Hons Biochemistry Profile picture
School(s): School of Biology
Year of Graduation:Jun-2010
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: TeachFirst
Job title: TeachFirst Science Teacher
Occupational Sector: Teaching
What has been your route to getting your current position?
In my last year at university I had no idea what to do post-graduation. I looked at the Times Top 100 graduate employers and Teach First really jumped out at me. I was attracted to the challenge it provided and the leadership skills I would build. I was astounded to learn that only 16% of pupils on free school meals progressed to university, in comparison with 96% of those educated in independent schools: the opportunity to have impact on this statistic in my own classroom, while starting build a career as a leader was a huge draw. I hadn’t thought about what I wanted to do after Teach First, so the flexibility of a two year programme was also a big thing for me, along with the huge and diverse range of doors opened by completing the programme.
What does your job involve ?
First, I came to London for the six week Summer Institute in preparation for my two years in the classroom. In the first year, I worked with excellent mentors, tutors and a leadership development officer who guided me in ensuring my pupils were achieving their best. Year one is all about making sure your classroom and transferable skills are developed effectively. After year one (and qualifying with a PGCE), you have access to a huge number of optional summer projects with a range of organisations from charities to banks. These can develop the skills you have learned further, increase your impact or even lead to job offers following the programme. Year two is about maximising your impact in school. I have set individual visions and goals for my classes this year to ensure every pupil achieves the best they can.
What are the best bits of your job ?
The pupils I teach. It always surprises me when I realise what an impact I have had. To look back at a child’s attainment previously and to see how far they’ve come or to have a child whose behaviour is really challenging, working successfully on their own or with other pupils and thinking - I did that. Without me that child might not be achieving as they are. It’s so rewarding, especially thinking forward to what that child might do having been successful at school and how this compares to the outcome had they not done well.
Why were you successful?
All the way through my Teach First journey my success has been about the Teach First values: collaboration, commitment, excellence, integrity and leadership. If you demonstrate these and hold yourself to them throughout the application process and your two year journey, you can't go wrong. (There's more about them on the Teach First website.)
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
I use science every day. At St Andrews I developed a passion for it and that passion really helps me communicate what it's all about to my pupils. In my third and fourth years, I took modules that required giving a lot of presentations and found this really helped me communicate difficult concepts effectively to a room full of people with varying knowledge.
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
Think about where you have demonstrated the Teach First values. Try to get some experience in a local school in St Andrews, Fife or Dundee. (I did an afternoon a week in a school in Dundee in the first semester of my last year and it really helped me to see what education and educational disadvantage look like.)  Apply early in the academic year because places fill up quickly. Also, get in touch with the graduate recruitment team at Teach First, they'll give you a real insight into what the programme is about and how to apply.