Celebrating International Women’s Day 2021

For International Women's Day 2021, we are taking the opportunity to celebrate the inspirational women who work for One Education and the work they do to empower school leadership teams and teachers to enhance the quality of education for young people.
Children lining up in the playground, with a young girl smiling at the front.
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International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8th March every year. It’s a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge. “A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let’s all choose to challenge.” How will you help forge a gender equal world?

We are taking the opportunity to celebrate the inspirational women who work for One Education and the work they do to empower school leadership teams and teachers to enhance the quality of education for young people.

Jo Gray – Head of School Development and Literacy

Head of School Development and Literacy, educator, book fanatic, Mummy to two young children and ad hoc runner, Jo loves to be busy! She is a determined teacher who is dedicated to putting children first. She is passionate about supporting all children to develop the skills needed to succeed in school and beyond. She strongly believes the importance of supporting disadvantaged children as early as possible in education is extremely important, in order to close the gap and give all children an equal chance of success. Jo started at One Education in 2015 creating the One Education Reading Award and embarking on a journey to support schools in helping every child to become a life-long reader. Jo has continued to develop and grow both the Literacy and School Development team – writing several approaches for schools to implement such as ‘Reading Gems’ and ‘P.I.C.C. A Text’ along with creating and delivering many training sessions and yearly Conferences. Jo speaks at many conferences and events -as somebody who loves to talk this is one of her favourite aspects of the job! During the pandemic, Jo initiated a company-wide free Recovery Conference for schools and academies across England. She is currently supporting LAs in providing remote learning provision for children, along with training and supporting schools virtually – her virtual training skills have been picked up by her 8 year old, who is now an expert on zoom and helps to put virtual birthday parties together for his friends! Jo is also an author of ‘Complete Comprehension’ published by Schofield and Sims, which she wrote whilst pregnant and finished two days before going into labour!

Jo says, “I am extremely lucky to have the position that I do – working alongside many inspirational, passionate school leaders and educators is extremely rewarding. At the heart of everything I do, decisions I make and the advice I offer, are the children; supporting schools to help make a difference to the lives of so many children which will have a positive impact on their futures is a privilege.”

Jo Gray

Jess Lane – Education Welfare & Safeguarding Adviser

A large part of my role at One Education is to deliver various levels of safeguarding training across many dynamic education settings. I enjoy public speaking and the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience of safeguarding legislation with colleagues. Delegates on these trainings are often senior leaders or executives, who are legally and morally obliged to ensure that safeguarding practice within their setting is effective. Contributing to this professional development of safeguarding is something I take great pride in. It’s a great sense of achievement to know that a resource that you have shared, a piece of advice that you have given, or a reminder of the statutory requirements has been listened to, acted upon and has improved the safeguarding procedures within a school – effectively meaning that their children and young people are safer.

A huge part of my role, and any professional who works within safeguarding, is to feel comfortable with professional challenge. This is no mean feat when often you can be challenging a whole school’s approach to safeguarding, challenging the opinions or practice within a senior leadership team, and are often challenging decisions made by multi-agency partners within the police or children’s services. Of course, an understanding of safeguarding and knowledge of key legislation, supports these opportunities for professional challenge, but it requires a level of confidence too. I developed a lot of my confidence as a young person when I was a member of Girlguiding UK. I was surrounded by strong, independent and inspirational women and I now volunteer as a leader to ensure that girls and young women can access the same opportunities and experiences as I did. At the start of my career I had an aim: to improve the lives of children and young people. This is something that my role at One Education allows me to do in abundance and something I hope to continue to do throughout my life.

Jess Lane

Liz Harris – Clerk to Governors

Writer, editor, clerk to governors, networker, marketeer, entrepreneur. Not a teacher or a mother, though, so I actually wondered if I should be taking part in this. Not a team leader or an international speaker either, so I started second guessing my qualifications. It’s quite daunting to sit down to write a blog like this after seeing the amazing women who have been here before….

Then I realised that I know a lot of women who might feel the same (I’m sure we all do) – and I know they’re wrong, so maybe I am too! Women managing households, bringing up families, working many hours, being part of the community – and often all at once – need to be recognised and celebrated, too.

So briefly: I run my village charity, I clerk for School Governor meetings, I have a small marketing company with a few clients, and I work part time for a coaching CiC. I honestly believe that what’s important is meeting, working with and supporting people – young, old, all genders , nationalities, backgrounds and races, colleagues, acquaintances, families and friends. I also believe that many women feel the same and it is the day to day actions of millions of mums, businesswomen and neighbours – the sort of women we all know and see all the time – who are just as important as the high fliers and the superstars. Don’t misunderstand me, there are indeed trailblazers, leaders and visionaries: they are essential and must be celebrated and appreciated. And it in NO way, I hope, does it take away from them, to also spare a thought for those who make a difference in a smaller, day-to-day way. Hooray and well done to them – us – all.

Liz Harris

Jade Walwyn – HR Adviser

Mum, wife, HR Adviser, chef, cleaner, Teacher and home maker are some of the many hats I wear on a daily, even hourly basis, most often one piled on top of the other! I imagine to a lot of working Mums out there this all sounds very familiar right now. I returned from my second maternity leave mid-pandemic. Not only was I worried that “baby brain” and 4 months of being locked down in my living room with a baby and a 4-year-old had stripped me of my knowledge of HR and Employment Law (it hadn’t!), I was returning to a completely changed world and I had to catch up quick. The skills I have gained over the last 14 years in my role as HR Adviser and the skills I am learning as a Mum overlap for me, including the art of negotiation, counselling, project management, communication and at times refereeing(!!) – and more recently using Zoom, screen sharing and speed reading the latest Government Guidance to name a few.

I wish I could sit here and write that I have lots of extracurricular activities that I am part of but the truth is I don’t, all of the above keeps me very busy with little time for anything else at the moment – except for the odd walk or Zoom catch up with a friend. There are so many inspirational women around me who appear to be smashing motherhood, their career and running their home that at times it makes me question my resilience – but then I remember I am surviving too!

So do I think this is worthy of being recognised on a day such as this? Yes! Not just me but to every Mum out there who is trying their best to keep on top of everything, keep your career on track and keep your children and home happy – bravo, you are all incredible.

Jade Walwyn

Nicola Hilliker – HR Adviser

Nicola began working at One Education in September 2020 at the start of a very busy and challenging term for the HR Adviser team. I don’t think anything can quite prepare you for starting a new job and a career change in the middle of a pandemic but her can-do attitude was certainly a good starting point!

‘In the early days of my Induction I still going into the office, seeing lots of colleagues and shadowing lots of meetings in schools which was a great experience just with lots of mask-wearing and hand-sanitizer. Then we had the November Lockdown and we moved to more remote working and remote meetings where I quickly learnt the etiquette of HR meetings via MS Teams and Zoom, remembering to un-mute myself a few times and cries of ‘can you hear me now?’. It was great to be able to continue to deliver our HR services remotely to help support schools where needed at an exceptionally busy time.

I did miss the lighter moments of chats in the kitchen with colleagues so set up a ‘social & chit-chat’ group on Teams which quickly became a lovely place to share non-work-related photos and stories of our day’s experiences and also to motivate and celebrate each other too. I also led a fun quiz one evening that was really fun and enlightening and got to ‘meet’ some colleagues that I’d not really seen so far. It’s not the same as face-to-face but we’ve made it work as a team; with lots of humour and the reunion when we can get back together will be an emotional one I’m sure.

Work carried on like this until the January Lockdown when schools closed to all but key-worker children which presented a whole new set of challenges with my two 9-year old twin boys now home all day too. I’d love to say we thrived in the last 2 months but survived would be more honest and accurate! As well as my day job in HR, I now wore lots of other hats including home-school teacher, baking assistant, chief cook and bottle-washer…. oh and dog-trainer to our new puppy. At times it felt like I was running a café for gamers on the side, they never seemed full, and grazed all day! I don’t think I’ll forget the many moments when the children burst in when I’m on a call or meeting to say the dog is ‘up to no good’!

It was sometimes hard to switch-off when your dining room is suddenly an office but with the support of our fabulous leaders and mentors we were often reminded to take time out to look after ourselves; and especially to get outdoors which on a sunny day was sweet relief and gave a moment of calm and chance to refocus.

So, all in all and now looking back on the last 6 months I feel I achieved a lot and learned loads, do I get a certificate Miss?

Nicola Hilliker

Andrea Inman – Payroll Advisor

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

In our company at One Education everyone is very busy helping schools, children and staff. But quietly behind the scenes there is one woman who works hard to make sure everyone is paid on time has the correct overtime, mileage, tax codes and everything to do with peoples pay whether Teachers or TA’s working in a school or working for One Education.

This woman is inspiring and always ready to help her colleagues in the team especially when we become stressed with work loads.

She has also been home schooling two children whilst in the pandemic and working from home. She has been given certificates for her children being stars of the week from both schools.

Sometimes it is the quiet ones who just get the job done that we need to celebrate. I would like to put forward my friend and colleague Andrea Inman for recognition.

She is too shy to write about herself, which shows here modesty, but I want to shout from the rooftops how great this young lady is!!

Andrea Inman
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