I started working as a classroom assistant volunteer in a local primary school 1997 at the age of 19 and have worked in a Young Mums Unit in Hendon since 2007.

Having had my son at the age of 15, my education had been interrupted, but I desperately wanted to work in education and when volunteered to work in my local primary school I used this opportunity to gain the experience I needed. After a year of volunteering I was really pleased to be given 4 hours per week paid work and within 4 years I was working full time. I had also gained many qualifications by studying at college which started me on the path to becoming an HLTA.

Ten years on from my time as a volunteer, I was seconded to Sunderland Young Mums Unit in 2007 and this gave me the inspiration to continue with my own education. As well as gaining HLTA status, I studied part time at Sunderland University for four years and was awarded a BA Hons degree in ‘Working with Young People’.

Being a young mum, I can empathise fully with the pupils in the Young Mums Unit.  As well as helping them with their academic work – I know from personal experience the importance of this – I also try to support them emotionally. In my role I have developed a good all round knowledge of all subjects so I used this to support pupils in all areas of the curriculum but I also withdraw pupils from lessons if required, continuing their lessons on a 1:1 basis.

While working in the unit, I requested permission to complete training for CoPE and Speakeasy in order to deliver these qualifications and have also undertaken relevant training in more specialist areas – mental health problems, domestic violence, sexual exploitation etc – so I can provide support for our young mums if and when these issues arise. They are difficult topics to handle but I try to establish trusting working relationships with all the pupils and this, together with my specialist knowledge and my understanding of what they are going through emotionally – seems to help. Recently I worked alongside another colleague, producing evidence and delivering feedback to other professionals in order to gain the ‘Positive Relationships Charter Mark’ for the Unit.

When it was announced at the celebration event in Leeds that I had won the HLTA award for the North East Region I was overwhelmed; it was a great honour to receive it.

 Comment from Alison Collins, Manager Young Mums Unit, Hendon Health Centre 

Winning the HLTA award in 2014 for the North East Region was a fitting tribute to the years of hard work and dedication that Kelly has put in.

Kelly quickly forms good relationships with new pupils and encourages other pupils to welcome them into the group.  She sets an excellent example to pupils with her hard working attitude and caring manner.  She sets firm boundaries and a good environment for learning, while maintaining friendly, trusting relationships.  Some staff prefer Kelly to handle difficult/challenging situations, as they know she will deal with things in a diplomatic and professional manner, achieving the best possible outcomes.  Kelly always discusses future plans with our pupils, encouraging them to aspire to achieving good qualifications and to apply for further education.