#WhoIAmWhatIdo What made @Mishwood1


Prompted by the inside story from @cherrylkd and encouraged by others including @Nichola80 and @eddiekayshun , this is me now putting pen to paper to give my potted professional history!

You know how when you’re young and people ask you what you want to do when you grow up? I always knew! I always knew I wanted to teach and I always knew I wanted to work with people with learning difficulties. I took the opportunity whilst at school to make contact with a local special school and whilst doing my A levels I supported in the classrooms as a volunteer each Friday morning. This confirmed my view that the path I had chosen to pursue was the right one for me.

Having investigated teacher training courses, Westhill College in Selly Oak, Birmingham (affiliated to Birmingham University) was one of the few places that delivered The Bachelor of Education Degree with what was at the time called ‘Mental Handicap’ as the main subject. Off I went therefore to Birmingham for 4 years….and a great 4 years it was! As well as learning about child development, child psychology etc, the course enabled me to study about learning difficulties of all different types in great depth. My teaching practices included mainstream as well as special which I think was an important part of the context of what I was doing. I also spent one summer on a residential placement with a family with a 10 year old autistic son which gave me another important perspective to support my understanding of the work I was embarking on.

Birmingham was a great place at the time as well for people who have become significant figures in the world of SEN including spending time at the school where Barry Carpenter was the headteacher and placement at the school where Penny Lacey was teaching.

Out I came into the world with a B Ed hons – a shiny new special education teacher ……………

I am a Lancashire lass with my family still living in Blackburn and as a coincidence, a teaching post came up at one of the Blackburn special schools – Dame Evelyn Fox.  As I was approaching qualification I applied, was delighted to get the job, did supply work there as I finished in the June / July and started as a full time teacher in the September! The school was an all aged school (2-19) and in the 10 years I was there I taught all through the secondary department with music as my ‘specialist area’ *coughs. In the time I was at this school I became TVEI coordinator and then assessment co-ordinator. One thing I was very sure of – I was never going to be a headteacher!

Having ventured out of the classroom a little to dip my toe into aspects of leadership, I then began to apply for deputy headships. I was successfully appointed to another all aged special school where my teaching role was across the school releasing teachers for PPA / training etc. This was a great opportunity for me to get to know all of the children and staff across the school and for me to teach all ages right from EYFS to post 16. My headteacher and the Chair of Governors at the time encouraged me to do my NPQH – which I reluctantly agreed to do – but only to become a better deputy mind you!!


I then applied for my first headship! I was headteacher at a small special school in south Manchester, an under 5’s assessment centre where children were placed to complete their statutory assessment and determine which primary placement was the most suited to their needs whether that be mainstream or special. I loved it! A significant part of the role here was the relationship with parents and families. For most it was their first contact with the world of special education and families came to the school with a whole range of experiences varying knowledge, fears and worries, hopes for the futures…….

I was headteacher there for 5 years before applying for my second and current headship at Camberwell Park School. www.camberwellpark.manchester.sch.uk, a primary school for children with a wide range of learning difficulties and disabilities. In the time I have been there I have completed my M Ed in Educational leadership and worked as an LLE, been lucky enough to have had an article published in an educational journal and been proud of the school achieving two outstanding inspection outcomes in 2010 and 2013.

So, what made @mishwood1?

A passion for working with children with learning difficulties which is still as strong now than all of those years ago when I was considering it as a career choice, an empathy with families of children with learning difficulties and a commitment to supporting families in whatever way I can. I would not be where I am though without a number of other elements. My parents who supported me through university and all of the people along the way who have inspired me, encouraged me, empowered and enabled me to do what I do – there have been many of them. As a people person myself and a believer in being an ‘Investor in People’,  I now enjoy not only working with but encouraging and empowering others to develop just as I have been encouraged in the past.

Why be a headteacher? Having said through my entire early career that I wouldn’t; here I find myself in my second headship! I love being with the children and find it hard sometimes not being able to spend as much time with the children as I would like, however, at the risk of sounding ‘twee’,  I now feel I can make a difference on a bigger scale, not just in my own school, but as a system leader sharing good practice across different schools.

I am Passionate about the work I do, I Respect all of those I work with, I am an incredibly Organised person, I feel I have developed a good Understanding of the needs of the children I work with and their families and I am Dedicated to be the best I can be.

I am PROUD to be the headteacher of Camberwell Park School

Thank you for taking the time to read my story

Mary Isherwood



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