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Sam O’Brien

Sam O’Brien
Course studied:
Modern and International History
Year of graduation:
2014

City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College 

Sam O’Brien is a Learning Support Assistant at City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College, where he works with students with special educational needs and dyslexia (SEND). The former student of the same College, Sam also uses his experience and qualifications to occasionally teach and support the current sixth form students, having gained his PGCE from Staffordshire University.

“I have put myself in a position where the college didn’t want me to leave,” said Sam, who has studied, completed work experience, taken part-time work and now a full-time role at the College since he first walked through their doors in 2007.

Studying at Staffordshire University

Sam is originally from Newcastle-under-Lyme, in Staffordshire. He studied History, Chemistry and Biology A Levels before signing up to a sciences degree at Keele University. Deciding the course didn’t suit him, Sam switched to a degree in Modern and International History at Staffordshire University.

He said: “I’ve always been good at history, with a preference for modern and local history, and I always enjoyed it. There were also other modules on the course that interested me, such as international relations and the intelligence and secret services module. The wide choices and the supportive lecturers were highlights.”

Sam also undertook a work experience module, which he spent at the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College, before being offered a part-time position as an Accelerated Learning Coach for History during the second half of his degree. He continued to work for the College part-time after graduating in 2014, when he took up a MA in History at Keele. Towards the end of the one-year Masters, he was offered a full-time position and started working as a Progress Coach in September 2015.

“It was a pastoral role, where we look after around 200 students, providing tutorials which covered soft skills for employment, as well as mandatory topics including sexual health,” he explained. “We also offer subject-specific support and look at the safeguarding of students. I did that role for a year before signing up to the PGCE in Post Compulsory Education and Training at Staffs.”

From student to teacher

Sam completed a teaching placement at Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College during his PGCE as well as working one-day a week monitoring attendance for the GCSE students. Since gaining his teaching qualification, he is back working full-time at the College, while applying for teacher positions elsewhere.

He said: “I wanted to get a teaching job straight after graduating but, so far, I’ve been unsuccessful. However, I have a really good and rewarding role at the College, working with SEND students, which I started in September. I’m still looking for teaching jobs and I occasionally do a little teaching at the College.

“I stay in touch with the history department at the University, as I run the College’s History Society. The PGCE staff have also been really helpful since I left. They gave me a lot of ideas about working with SEND students, which has been great. I’m always willing to support Staffs as they have always supported