Sarah Kelleway 

BA Political Science (2008)

kelleway-sarah

"I frequently recommend Birmingham to my students when I know they are very sociable individuals, and would do well in a large university. I always comment on the range of societies and activities available, many of which I took part in myself. I also emphasise what a fantastic city Birmingham is."

Where are you working now and what are you doing?

I am working at Southend High School for Boys (SHSB), one of four selective grammar schools in Southend-on-Sea, and I am teaching AS and A Level Government and Politics. I also teach Citizenship and Drama to younger pupils. I have a pastoral role as well in supporting girls who come to SHSB for 6th form.

How has your career developed since graduating from the University of Birmingham?

Prior to graduation, I arranged a place on the Graduate Teacher Programme, and qualified as a teacher in June 2009. I completed my NQT year in June 2010, and have continued to teach at SHSB, which is where I trained.

What is the best thing about what you are doing now?

I love working with the students – everyday is different. I get such a buzz when the students enjoy something that they had little interest in before understanding it. A number of my students last year went on to study Politics at university which made me really proud, and a couple of my current students have applied to do Political Science at Birmingham next year. I also have some fantastic colleagues who are a constant source of support and fun.

Why did you originally apply to do your course at Birmingham?

My sister did Political Science at Birmingham and graduated in 2004, so I already had a good knowledge and experience of the university. However, I was keen to seem as if I was copying her, so applied to 6 universities aside from Birmingham, including Cambridge under my school’s influence. I got offers from all of them, but in the back on my head, couldn’t shake the feeling that none of them would match up to the experiences I knew I’d have at Birmingham. I rejected all my offers and re-applied in my gap year to go to Birmingham. I knew it was for me all along – the size, everything the campus and the city have to offer, and the course itself. I was also keen to keep studying aspects of British Politics, which many universities no longer offer.

What did you think were the best points of the course and the University?

I frequently recommend Birmingham to my students when I know they are very sociable individuals, and would do well in a large university. I always comment on the range of societies and activities available, many of which I took part in myself. I also emphasise what a fantastic city Birmingham is. In terms of the course, I like how by third year, you could tailor everything you were studying to your own personal strengths and tastes.

Did you find your degree at Birmingham challenging or easy?

I never found anything easy, but that doesn't mean I found everything a challenge. For example, with political philosophy and ethics, I had never studied anything along these lines before, so it was a challenge to get my head around these concepts. However, I found them so interesting, I loved studying them, so they never seemed that challenging. Third year was particularly challenging due to the way in which the deadlines were arranged – no deadlines for months and then loads all at once. This has taught me how to cope when this happens at work though!

Did you find the University helped you to find your first teaching post?

I didn't approach the careers centre for the reason that I was already aware of who to approach at home to get my teaching post. However, I did use the careers centre during third year when I was exploring possible career paths after university.

What advice would you give to current students?

I have advised my students applying to Birmingham to live on the Vale if possible, for the reason that this area tended to be the most sociable and also was ideally situated for campus. I have also recommended that they live in Selly Oak in 2nd and 3rd years for the same reason. In terms of module choice, I have recommended that they try new things in 1st year with the option of the MOMD – something like African Studies or Media which they would not have studied before, as it’s the perfect opportunity to try new things and they may discover a love for something they never knew anything about!

What are your plans for your future career?

At the moment I am not sure how I see my career evolving – I love teaching but a number of the aspects that go with the profession are making me think that I may not stay in it for the long term. However, I am confident that should I explore other career paths one day in the future, I have a degree which will be widely recognised and a number of transferable skills that will support me.