Gateshead College was recently named the Best Place to Work in the North East but what does that really mean for its staff? Maths teacher Sands Dobson gives an insight into what lies behind this prestigious title.
It’s well known that happy staff make for a productive workforce but many companies can forget this. Winning awards is great and gives us all an incredible boost and something to be proud of. But it’s just a moment in time. It’s the other 364 days of the year that need to count too and I can honestly say that every day I get up and look forward to work, which I think is extremely important. We spend such a high proportion of our lives at work and if employees dread turning up, they won’t stay in the job or if they do, they won’t be productive.
Working in such a supportive environment has worked wonders for staff and students at the college. The supportive, open door policy comes from the leadership of our principal, Judith Doyle CBE, and permeates our entire staff structure. This in turn is clearly reflected in our outstanding student results and positive feedback.
Recognising and rewarding staff for their achievements is a quick and simple way of making staff feel valued and something that Gateshead College continually does. Just recently I received the innovation in teaching and learning award, voted for by my colleagues, which was truly humbling! Recognising employees not only incentivises them; it gives them a real boost throughout their careers.
The college is honestly like a second home to me. They invest in the personal development of all of their employees, which acts as a huge incentive for them. Teachers are given the opportunity to tailor their own training and development to areas in which they’re interested. I’m keen to learn British Sign Language and could clearly articulate the strengths and benefits of this training for the college, so they were only too happy to let me pursue this.
When we’re away from the college, we can’t wait to get back to teaching and influencing students. Our end of year conference was so interactive and down to earth; the college made every effort to make everyone feel welcome. Little touches like buying ice cream to cool us in the blistering heat had us in extremely high spirits and looking forward to what our next term would bring.
Another thing the college does is encourage peer to peer feedback; we do this by sitting in on each other’s lessons and we’re tasked with finding three positives and one area they could potentially improve upon. It could feel quite uncomfortable giving feedback to colleagues, but we’ve managed to create a supportive environment where we have a great network of support that runs throughout the year.
New ideas are also regularly welcomed which helps you feel motivated when you see them in action. I recently tabled an idea to communicate more with our students and their parents to help them understand what we were teaching in the classroom. Many people find maths daunting, so this is a way of building bridges and helping them overcome the fear factor so they can then offer support at home with homework and projects.
I’m also a proud member of our Knit and Natter club, a lunchtime club where staff come together to knit, chat and chill out which is part of the college’s mental health programme. I’m a complete beginner but have really enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people, learn a new skill and do something different with my free time. Businesses that focus on the health and well-being of their staff, and their personal development, are generally respected and valued by their employees. The culture at Gateshead College is one that breeds enjoyment and success – and that can only be good for business.