For years Emily Croft dreamed of qualifying as a teacher – and, thanks to the support she received from the North East Autism Society, she is now Vice Principal of a brand-new school.

Emily’s career with NEAS began in 2007 when she landed the role of Learning Support Assistant at one of the Society’s adult day service provisions in Sunderland – and in the 14 years since, her career has gone from strength to strength.

The 38-year-old, from Peterlee, credits the Society with providing the right support to help her progress through the ranks, including funding Emily’s teaching qualifications.

Emily – who also has a degree in textiles - went back to university and completed her Postgraduate Certificate in Education between 2007 and 2009. The Society also funded her QTLS award, qualifying her to teach children of all ages, as well as a specialist teaching course on neurodiversity.

“My plan was always to join NEAS and get some experience as a Learning Support Assistant, and then move into teaching,” Emily says. “But I just loved the job, so I applied to be an Instructor.

The Society is such a nice place to work because the staff really want to be here.

While she loved working with the adults in day services, Emily’s passion lay in education so, after completing her PGCE, she transferred to Thornbeck College, where she spent two years as an Instructor, before progressing to the role of FE Tutor.

“I loved working at the college,” Emily says. “I’m just the type of person who thrives in a structured environment. We even got an outstanding rating from Ofsted while I was there.”

She adds: “The vice principal at the time also knew I had a passion for the communication side of the job. She mentored me to do some specific training and as a result I became Communication Champion for the college.”

Emily’s career trajectory didn’t end there though and, in 2018, she moved to Aycliffe School where she worked to worked with younger children, aged between four and 10. 

Then, from March 2020, she helped to set up the Mackenzie Thorpe Centre – which welcomed its first cohort of students in September – and worked as a teacher, before being promoted to Vice Principal in May this year.

“Before joining NEAS I wouldn’t have described myself as overly ambitious, but now I feel really passionate about what we do here and it’s made me want to apply myself more,” Emily adds.

The best thing about my job is seeing the impact that NEAS has, not just on the child, but on the whole family. It’s really nice when you’re able to spend time with the pupils’ families and build those relationships and trust up.

“It’s also really rewarding when you see children who haven’t been able to access school at all, progress and be happy to attend lessons.” 

Asked what her advice would be to anyone considering applying for a role with the Society, Emily advises that, while it’s not the right job for everyone, it’s a career that offers a wealth of opportunity for progression, as well as being highly rewarding.

“If you’re worried that you don’t have experience, the training you get at NEAS does prepare you for the role, and then you’ll work alongside more experienced staff who can help you,” she says.

“I would say that it’s really important for staff who are new to the sector to have the right personality and values though. That’s something we look for in all applicants.”

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