Career Journey – Cal Knight

Name:  Cal Knight

Current Position: Deputy Headteacher, The Priory School

Previous Positions: Assistant Headteacher for behaviour and safeguarding, Ashlyns School, Hertfordshire (2012-2016)

Head of Key Stage 4, Kings Langley School, Hertfordshire (2010-2012)

Head of Year and English teacher, Winterbourne Academy, South Gloucestershire (2002-2010)

What is your current role, and what does it involve? I am Deputy Headteacher at The Priory School, Shrewsbury, the founder school of the 3-18 Education Trust.  I am responsible for quality of education, which means oversight of the curriculum and teaching and learning, including monitoring, CPD and QA.  My main focus is ensuring students and teachers in our school have the best possible experience of teaching and learning, using the latest research to inform practice and address gaps in progress and workload for staff.  I’m also responsible for options, timetabling and staffing – not things I ever thought I would have the expertise to tackle but the A level in maths has come in handy after all…

I also teach English to Years 10 and 11, which I love; I miss teaching Sixth Form as this is the first 11-16 school I have taught in, but the calibre of our students and their thirst for learning still keeps me on my toes.  I love how, despite teaching the same texts year after year, students come up with new and exciting interpretations which I have never considered.

What has been your journey from your first role within the education sector, to your current role? I fell into teaching accidentally to be honest – I was in my final year of an English Literature degree at York University when I decided to ‘give it a go.’  From there, I never looked back and quickly realised that I had a natural passion for teaching, in particular the pastoral side.  In my second year of teaching, I became a deputy head of year in a school of 2000 students, then head of year in my third year – a very steep learning curve as I took on a Year 11 cohort of 320 students and 10 tutors to manage at the age of 24, but it gave me the opportunity to develop my skills as a leader and manager over the next few years.

Pastoral roles continued to dominate my career, leading me to Head of KS4 (pastoral) at my second school near Watford, then Assistant Head at my third school in Berkhamsted.  When on maternity leave, fate led me to look at jobs in Shrewsbury (where I spent most of my childhood and where my husband grew up) and the job for pastoral Assistant Head at Priory was there – I took the plunge, got the job and we could not be happier.  I love working at The Priory School and when the opportunity to go for Deputy Headship came up in 2020 I knew it was the right move for me and was delighted to get the post.  It came with challenges as it was a huge shift from my 15 years of pastoral leadership to a focus on teaching and learning, staffing and curriculum, but I have loved every minute and the collegiate nature of my current (and previous) SLT has given me the support, knowledge and skills to get me started.  I doubted my ability to undertake the role at first as I hadn’t had any specific curriculum experience, but never let this hold you back.

I am now even more fortunate to work as one of the Trust’s Teaching and Learning Consultants, which has given me so many opportunities to develop my own skills and work with colleagues across the Trust to develop our network and skillset.

What do you most enjoy about your job in school? This is almost impossible to answer as there are so many things to note.  I think the most enjoyable aspect of my job is seeing the incredible relationships between staff and students and the student body; our school community is something very special and it is truly a privilege to be a small part of fostering that.  Knowing that what we all do, together, makes those relationships and students’ experiences of school memorable and (hopefully!) positive, is a wonderful thing.

What does it mean to be part of The 3 – 18 Education Trust? Being part of the 3-18 Education Trust has enabled vital networking opportunities across all aspects of school life, which are developing further all the time.  My own personal experience of becoming a Teaching and Learning Consultant has enabled me to get into other schools to look at curriculum design, teaching and learning priorities and strategies and work with talented colleagues to continue to develop the quality of education across all of our schools.

The support from the Trust to the school during difficult moments (which we all have!) has been invaluable.