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Staff Success Stories

Beth Dawson

In 2009, I came to St. Michael’s C of E Primary School on two weeks supply and have never left. I have worked in the school as a NQT, class teacher, middle leader, Deputy Headteacher and am now Head of School. I have also completed my NPQH developing my understanding of leadership further. I have been very fortunate to have had numerous opportunities to progress in my career, which was supported by the Deputy CEO. The ethos of St. Michael’s is to ensure that everyone in the school achieves their full potential. 

Throughout my time at St. Michael’s, I have lead subjects as a middle leader and then progressed onto leading the curriculum. As Curriculum lead, I updated and implemented policies, ran CPD, ensured rigours monitoring was in place and supported middle leaders to lead their subject. Through this journey, I was able to support the Deputy CEO moving the school from Satisfactory to Outstanding in 2018. 

Our vision is, ‘Life in all its fullness,’ which is supported by the caring, encouraging and supportive ethos of St. Michael’s. It is believed that we should not only ensure the children achieve all they can achieve but also the adults working there. As a result of this ethos, I am fortunate enough to have been given a number of opportunities which have helped develop me professionally and deepened my understanding of education. 

A few years ago, I was given the opportunity to work with Durham SCITT to establish a primary course. I was able to write the course, plan CPD and set tasks that would develop trainee teachers. During this time, I wrote and delivered CPD, mentored trainee teachers, supported mentors in school and observed the trainees giving them ongoing feedback to improve their teaching. The SCITT course was a success and the numbers have grown year on year. The majority of the trainees from the first year are now in some form of leadership. This opportunity allowed me to develop teaching and learning in trainee teachers but also develop it further in St. Michael’s while fine tuning my skills and understanding. 

In 2018, I was given the honour of setting up and running St. Michael’s English Hub which is 1 of 34 English Hubs in the country. The English Hub focuses on Phonics, Early Reading and Language. From the start of the programme, we had to follow clear DfE guidelines and support schools across the North East to improve phonics. As part of this, we had to run Open Events to showcase the teaching and learning that happens in St. Michael’s, run CPD on the three aims, organise CPD from external speakers and audit schools. This has given me the opportunity to make links with different schools, local authorities, advisors and other professionals in education. We also choose certain schools to be Partner Schools, where they receive support from the English Hub Literacy Specialists. This allows us to raise standards in these schools while supporting SLT in implementing and embedding a focus system. Since the start of the English Hub, I have worked closely with Teresa Cremin to develop the reading for pleasure agenda in the North East. As part of this, I have had training from the OU University and lead CPD sessions for schools to attend. This work has allowed me to have an impact on St. Michael’s, schools across the North East and at times across the country. 

I am passionate about teaching and learning and always wanted to find a school where I would want my own children to attend. I have found this at St. Michael’s. I also feel privileged for the opportunities I have been given. I know that moving into One Excellence will strengthen these opportunities and develop my knowledge further. The work we have already started to do together shows that this trust is supportive and caring and has everyone’s best interests at the heart of every decision. I am very excited for the future. 

Chloe Hails

I joined St Mark’s Church of England Primary School in September 2016 as an Apprentice Administration Assistant. I loved working in the school environment and was made to feel welcome from my first day. Once my Apprenticeship was complete, I was delighted to be offered a full-time role at St Mark’s as a School Administrator.

Shortly after this, St Mark’s joined 1Excellence MAT and I was encouraged to take on more responsibilities within my role which included aspects of Finance. I realised that I had a passion for finance and that this was an area I would like to excel in. The Trust encouraged me to have further training in finance and it wasn’t long before I was dealing with ordering, processing invoices and completing the Bank Reconciliation each month.

In 2019, the Trust encouraged me to complete The Association of Accounting Technicians qualification (AAT), which would lead to me being a fully qualified Accountant Technician. I was really grateful for this opportunity and knew it would help me to progress further in my career and develop my knowledge of finance. I completed the level 2 AAT qualification in 2020 and I’m now half way through the level 3 qualification. The Trust have supported me in every way with this qualification and their encouragement has really spurred me on.

When the opportunity for the role of Senior Administrator at St Mark’s arose, I felt I had been given enough training and support throughout my four years of working for the Trust to apply for this and I was delighted to be successful. My responsibilities have recently broadened further, with me now supporting the other schools across the Trust with finance. I love working across the Trust and building relationships with the other schools. We support each other and share our skills to enable us to work in the most efficient way possible.

I appreciate all of the opportunities that the Trust have given me and have always felt valued and supported in every aspect of my role.

Debbie Hamilton

In 2011, I joined Evenwood C of E Primary School as a Newly Qualified Teacher and since then I have had many opportunities to develop and progress. I have taught across the Early Years and Key Stage One phases as a class teacher and phase lead until being appointed as Assistant Head Teacher. In my current role as AHT, I am given a great deal of encouragement to further develop myself and the school. I feel respected for the contributions I bring to the organisation while actively supporting the SLT team with school development.  

In the early stages of my career a passion for phonics and early reading developed. Through the introduction of the English Hubs, the opportunity arose to collaborate with St Michael’s and Westgarth English Hubs. I took on the role of Literacy Specialist which has enabled me to support a range of schools across the North East with their teaching of phonics, early language and developing a love of reading. This exciting role has given me opportunities to further extend my own professional development, widen my knowledge around early reading and gain experience in supporting other schools with school improvement.  

Alongside the Literacy Specialist role, I was also appointed as the CPD Lead for St Michael’s English Hub. This was an incredible opportunity in which I have been able to share my knowledge with schools nationally through leading virtual CPD sessions focusing on the aims of the English Hub programme.

My most recent opportunity for professional growth has been through collaborating with Durham SCITT and taking on the role of SCITT Lead for the organisation. This exciting position has provided me with the opportunity to inspire the next generation of teachers while delivering a high quality training programme to develop the knowledge, skills and passion of trainee teachers. It is always incredible to see the progress trainees make across their SCITT year and see them succeed in their own careers.

Helen Edney

I have enjoyed worked at St Michael’s C of E Primary for many years.

In the early part of my career, I worked as a class teacher in Year 1 and 2 and eventually took on the role of EYFS teacher which I very much enjoyed.  After several years as EYFS class teacher and early years lead I worked alongside SLT to open our own school nursery, which now operates as a EYFS Unit with children in nursery and reception being taught within the same provision areas.

Today I am EYFS lead and support teaching in our unit for a couple days each week. I help with the SCITT training every year and deliver information relating to EYFS ahead of their short teaching practise in Early Years.

Two years ago, I was appointed as an Early Years Champion for a professional development program for the department for education.  This has involved me learning and completing a qualification in early language and communication and then cascading this information to different settings. Currently I am working with my own school and Evenwood Primary to complete training to gain Communication Friendly Classroom Status.

In the past year I have begun working as a Literacy Specialist for the English Hub where I am supporting four schools in their reading and delivery of the SSP Soundswrite program.

In addition to this I am Art and DT Coordinator, as part of this role I have written plans and progression documents and led some staff meetings. I am also SENCo, a role I have enjoyed for around 7 years. Being SENCo has allowed me to support pupils, families and our staff and I have found it to be very rewarding. I achieved my NASENCO award in 2019.

Currently I am undergoing training and coaching in order to develop my new role as Senior Mental Health Lead. In addition to that I have been accepted to work as an Early Years Mentor for the DfE Early Years Covid -19 Recovery program  where I will be supporting other settings to enable their pupils to close the gaps left by the pandemic.

James Paley

Since joining St Michael’s Primary school as an NQT, I have had countless opportunities to develop in my career.

As a classroom teacher I received support with planning and received ongoing high quality feedback from a hardworking, determined leadership team. They fully invested in me and continuously offered bespoke CPD to develop my teaching further. They identified areas for improvement and arranged for me to observe experienced practitioners in the locality who specialised in these areas. During my time in the classroom, I had opportunity to work as a mentor for a number of trainee teachers. Working closely with these allowed me to develop my feedback skills and allowed me to critique lessons in a focused manner which in turn resulted in my practice improving further.

During my time teaching, I was also given responsibility of leading a subject with appropriate support. Because of this, I gained lots of experience evaluating a subject and developing procedures, making changes and offering CPD and support which ultimately improved the teaching of the subjects in the school. After this, I was given the opportunity to become assistant head teacher in St Michael’s where I further developed my leadership skills. Opportunities to develop the curriculum followed along with the opportunity to become a Literacy Specialist where I received specialist training in London on how to best deliver coaching and improve teaching and learning with a focus on phonics in other schools. I have worked with a number of schools across the region on school improvement and have been given the opportunity to lead curriculum development across two schools as well as leading projects for the Maths Hub.

I am excited about the future as I have just secured a role as Head of School.

Laura Corkin

The first line of the St Mark’s Primary School ethos is: “We welcome everyone”. I absolutely agree with this statement.

I joined St Mark’s Primary School in January 2018 as a 1:1 Teaching Assistant. I began working with a Y2 pupil with Down Syndrome. One of the specific criteria for working with this child was being able to use Makaton to support communication and learning. I have used Makaton for over 15 years, so was able to bring this skill into St Mark’s. When I arrived and began using Makaton, children and staff began to show an interest. I would often walk down the coridoor and be asked how to sign something. The next time I saw that adult or child, they would use that sign. This was so heart-warming to see. The whole school community embraced the use of Makaton and me. Soon, KS1 were able to learn and perform “This is me” from The Greatest Showman. Our Facebook video has had over 50,000 views!

I have been supported in my continuing Makaton journey by senior leaders. I have completed Levels 1-8 and will hopefully be completing Makaton Tutor Training, which will enable me to train staff within the trust, run sessions for our local community and continue to develop the use of Makaton in school. The trust have trained 20 members of staff in using Makaton – something I have never seen a school do before. This shows the senior leaders and the trust are committed in developing the skills of staff.

For me, I have never felt so supported and encouraged in a workplace. I feel confident to approach senior leaders, teachers and support staff with any ideas or questions I may have. The phrase “a family” is heard often around St Mark’s…and I could not agree more!

Laurie Kidd

EYFS Executive Trust Lead

Whilst perusing a successful career in marketing I always felt that something was missing and although I was climbing the ladder in a global company, it was far from fulfilling my true passion of working with children.  I was fortunate enough to given some work experience in a special school and instantly knew that teaching was the missing piece of the puzzle. After taking the role of a SEN  teaching assistant, I made the big decision to jump into my newfound passion, with both feet! A few months later my dreams came true and I was accepted onto SCITT (teacher training) and I have never looked back.

After three years teaching in reception at St Mark’s, I moved into a teaching role in nursery and as the school expanded, I became EYFS lead with a large team of EYFS practitioners. As the trust has grown, so has my role, which is one of the benefits of working in such an ambitious and successful partnership. My role now involves leading across St Mark’s and Pentland nursery and reception settings, which is extremely fast paced and fulfilling. One of my favourite aspects of the role is working with our experienced and dedicated EYFS teams to develop each provision to meet the varying needs of all our children from each community. 

Within 1 excellence trust, the opportunities for CPD are endless due to the vast and varying experience and skills set of the professionals within the organisation. This has included quality training surrounding the new EYFS framework, which has helped to build the confidence of all staff and is reflected in our provision and practice.  

Pentland Pre-school has recently opened the doors of our very first two-year-old provision. The impact of the enabling environment and language rich experiences that the children are having within the provision is already evident.  With endless talk and laughter flowing out of the doors  all day, every day! It is wonderful to feel we are really making a difference to the youngest children within our community.

As part of my role across the trust, I also work for St Michael’s English Hub, as a Literacy Specialist. This is a very fulfilling role, in which we support our partner schools on their phonics and reading for pleasure journeys. Watching staff grow in confidence and in turn their children become successful readers for life, is extremely rewarding and a role i hope to continue to grow within for years to come.

Working within 1 excellence as EYFS trust lead is an extremely rewarding and I feel proud to be part of such a successful and nurturing organisation.

Lis Featherstone

Lis Featherstone is Lead SENDCo across One Excellence and works closely with all SENDCos to ensure effective SEND provision. She also leads on Mental Health for the Trust and co-ordinates the sharing of good practice between the Senior Mental Health leads in each school.

In a career spanning thirty years, Lis has taught across Key Stages 1 and 2, and been a team leader in both phases. In her Senior Leadership role at Pentland, she has led on a variety of initiatives to promote the education of the whole child. She worked with partners from the Local Authority to create a broad and exciting PSHE curriculum, gaining a National PSHE qualification in the process. Pentland was one of the first schools in Stockton to achieve Gold Healthy Schools status, and by establishing a School Council, she enabled the children to have a voice for change in school. 

The importance that Lis places on all children being able to have their voices heard was a reason why she was asked to take on the role of SENDCo and teacher in the Enhanced Mainstream Provision for children with Cognition and Learning needs. During her time in this provision, her learning of SEND developed and she gained a distinction in the NASENCo qualification. 

In 2017, Lis stepped away from her teaching role to become the Lead SENDCo for the Trust and to oversee the creation of a new Enhanced Mainstream Provision for children with Communication and Interaction needs. Within this role, Lis has supported colleagues across the Trust to develop high quality practice and provision for children with SEND; become a mentor for new SENDCos in the Local Authority and a member of the High Needs Funding Panel and has delivered the Early Bird Plus programme to parents of children with Autism.

She strongly believes that an inclusive education benefits all children, and is proud that our Trust family of schools welcomes all children and provides them with the opportunity to flourish.

Rachel Ashford

I joined St Mark’s in September 2016 as an NQT, after completing my part of my teacher training at the school and with support from Debbie Carr. The school ethos and inclusive attitude towards all children enabled me to explore my passion for supporting children with SEND and I was offered the opportunity to complete my NASENCO award through the Trust and with encouragement from then Head Teacher, Val Hall.

During the academic year 2017/2018, I was able to complete my NASENCO award and take up the role of school SENCO whilst being mentored by Lis Featherstone, Trust SENCO. Throughout the year, I was able to fully learn and understand the importance of the SENCO role and learn, from hands on experience, how to successfully support the children at St Mark’s, encourage the staff to create an inclusive environment for all pupils and effectively communication with parents or carers of children with Special Educational Needs.

Since becoming St Mark’s School SENCO, I have continuously been encouraged to pursue my passion for Special Educational Needs support and my want to progress. I have had the opportunity to work in and manage the EMS provision, attend Local Authority Panel to discuss funding for other schools and agencies, complete outreach work for other schools, successfully set up an EYFS Nurture Provision and continue to work and maintain an excellent school ethos relating to the effective and inclusive provision for children with Special Educational Needs. Without the encouragement and funding from the trust to complete the qualification and take up the role at such an early stage in my career, it would have not been possible for me to achieve my career aspirations.

Sarah Hutchinson

In September 2021, I joined Pentland Primary Academy as ASD Lead and Class Teacher in Hub 3. As an experienced SEND teacher, I applied specifically for this post as I was aware of the exceptional ASD provision and wanted to be part of contributing to further success. As a passionate teacher of children with ASD, I enjoy working with and supporting my colleagues at Pentland and across the trust, to ensure our pupils access the best inclusive provision they deserve. My ASD role also includes Outreach for the Local Authority to other primary schools in Stockton on Tees. I give support and advice to SENCOs and class teachers to ensure that best practice is disseminated.

In November 2021, I attended the Team Teach Intermediate course and became a Team Teach trainer. This was an exciting opportunity and something I had not considered before! As a teacher who uses de-escalation & regulation techniques daily and positive handling on occasion, I am very aware of how important this is. I believe that this opportunity would not have arisen had I not been working here and I am grateful for the opportunities I have had in such a short space of time!

Stacey Rand

When I joined Evenwood C of E Primary School, I was a full time deputy with a part time teaching responsibility.  We started working closely with St. Michael’s Primary School due to the Head Teacher position becoming available.  Evenwood is a small school and budgets were tight.  As a passionate teacher and an enthusiastic leader, I began working collaboratively to develop teaching and learning and the curriculum with the school. This was an exciting time.

I began to work closely with SLT from St. Michael’s and the Executive Head Teacher to develop my leadership role within the school.  I built upon, and gained knowledge and skills which made me think about the next steps in my career.  Not long after, there was a restructure and the position of Head of School became available.  It was the perfect opportunity to continue to build on new leadership skills.  The promotion has given me confidence of leading a school while still working closely with a strong leadership team. In December 2021 we joined 1Excellence Multi Academy Trust.  Although the partnership is still in its early stages, the collaboration between SLT continues to develop my role as a leader.  I am excited for the further opportunities with this supportive and ambitious partnership.


As well as being Head of School at Evenwood, I became a Literacy Specialist for St. Michael’s English Hub in 2019.  I spent a year travelling to London to train to support primary schools with phonics, reading and early language.  I have supported (and continue to support) over 10 schools by offering them tailored advice to improve phonics teaching, implement phonic programmes, resource phonics, ensure reading books are fully decodable and match the phonics programme. In addition to this, I have supported other schools by conducting audits on the school looking in depth at reading and phonics.  I offer advice and share good practise. This year (2021), I have taken the position as joint hub lead.  I have supported with the running of the English Hub, trained and supported new Literacy Specialists and helped lead CPD to other primary teachers from all over the country and even from different parts of the world.