Darren Payne

Country: United Kingdom
Sector: Primary & Secondary Education
Job title: Deputy Head
Subject of study: Chemistry
Year of graduation: 1993
Type/Level of study: Undergraduate

Current Employer/Organisation Name

Shrewsbury High School, GDST

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

Since graduating from Exeter, I completed a PGCE at the University of Nottingham and then started my teaching career in the independent sector. I have worked in 4 schools in the UK and Bermuda and have held various positions of responsibility including Teacher of Chemistry, Housemaster, Head of Junior Boys Games, Head of Year, Head of Department, Assistant Head and now Deputy Head. I also coach football having completed my UEFA B coaching qualification and I am currently working with an U9 grassroots team, an U13 girl’s school team and an U14 League One Academy team.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

In my final year at Exeter I completed a module in Education through the School of Education at St Luke’s. Most of my friends at University were based at St Luke’s and their influence and enjoyment of their courses definitely had an an affect on me. I enjoyed the placement at a local school so I withdrew my applications for banking and management consultant positions and applied for a PGCE. The rest, as they say, is history.

Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?

I was a member of the Exeter University Football Club and played for the second XI.

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

I enjoyed studying Chemistry as it was a very practical course. Although the hours were long in comparison to many other courses, the course was very rewarding but also challenging. Completing my practical research project in my final year was a real insight into how research in a university context is conducted.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

Exeter was a wonderful experience, as for me, it was so different to my school background. I grew up and went to school in Coventry, a very different city to Exeter. The physical location of the university, the campus, the high standard of sport, the course, the friends I made, the experiences I had – I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of my 3 years in Devon.

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

When I completed my A Levels, I went to university in London to study Geography. From very early on, I knew I had made a mistake both in terms of the course and where I had chosen to study. So I took the difficult decision to leave, take a year out and reapply. I worked for 6 months and during that time, I took plenty of time to visit each of the universities that I had applied to so that I could get a real sense of the place I would be studying and spending 3 years. I had the grades to study at Exeter, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull and Manchester. After visiting all of the universities, Exeter was the place that felt most welcoming and where I could see myself living for 3 years. The courses were quite similar so it all came down to where I felt most at home.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

Studying at Exeter helped to boost my confidence and open my eyes to the world around me. Having attended a state school in Coventry, I was quite naïve about many things and being amongst students from wide and diverse backgrounds in Exeter, I gained a greater appreciation of the lives of others. There is no doubt that the demand of my course taught be a huge amount about self-discipline, hard work and organisation as without these skills, I would have really struggled. Finally, I grew up massively at Exeter. I became much more independent and developed skills that have stayed with me for the rest of my life.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

Be open minded to the variety of opportunities in education. Finding the right school is very important as the culture there has to be aligned with your own educational philosophy. Teaching is a demanding career and in comparison to most of my friends who took a different career path, isn’t as financially rewarding. However, having a direct influence on the lives of young people is a privilege and is incredibly rewarding. There are many opportunities in education and you will be able to travel the world as a teacher, if you so wish. If you are unsure whether teaching is for you, get some experience in a school – you will know fairly quickly if it is for you or not. I have been teaching for 28 years and I can honestly say, no two days are the same and I wouldn’t want to work in any other profession.

What are your plans for the future?

As a Deputy Head, I have a significant amount of responsibility for the operational and strategic leadership of the school. I enjoy this combination of roles and having very successfully navigated the last two years of major disruption in schools, I feel confident that as an organisation, we can deal with whatever is thrown at us. There is an expectation that Deputy Heads become Heads at some point but I would only take this step if the school and its vision fully aligned with my own educational philosophy. I am currently completing a Masters in Educational Leadership and I am Governor of a primary school. I enjoy all of my roles but as you can imagine, I am very busy!


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