“I am very fortunate to have a role that is fulfilling in many ways.”
The SWIFT Central Team also counts itself fortunate to have Fiona McNeile as a key team member.
Albeit modest sized, the team is highly functional and purposeful with Fiona as Programme Manager for our key Department for Education Golden Thread services from the Appropriate Body Service and Early Career Framework for Early Career Teachers, to National Professional Qualifications for aspiring school leaders.
Fiona transitioned seamlessly to her role in SWIFT having previously worked as Business Manager with the former Dartmoor Teaching School Alliance; which has helped to enhance and evolve her understanding of the emerging role of Teaching School Hubs. We value Fiona for her clarity, diligence, pragmatism, and powerful work ethic and drive.
As this second complete year of the Early Career Framework draws to a close, we thought that it would be fitting to invite Fiona to reflect on the programme.
1. As SWIFT Programme Manager what are your number three priorities working closely with teachers and school leaders?
As SWIFT Programme Manager, a key priority is to work with our SWIFT Team to ensure consistent, high-quality programme delivery to all schools in our region. The processes and requirements of the Golden Thread programmes are complex, and my aim is to support schools by providing access to the world class programmes with minimum workload for leaders and teachers.
Having worked in educational support roles for over six years, I have built an in-depth understanding of the pressures and demands on schools, Multi Academy Trusts (MATs), leaders and teachers. We work hard as a team to keep informed through constant one-to-one communication with SWIFT schools and leaders to ensure our delivery models are aligned to the needs of the region. This has been key to the continuous improvement and development of enhancements beyond the requirements of the Golden Thread programmes and services which are now in place.
2. What is most rewarding for you personally in your role as SWIFT Programme Manager?
I am very fortunate to have a role that is fulfilling in many ways. From our Early Career Framework (ECF) programme, it is a privilege to be able to support Early Career Teachers (ECTs) to develop their craft and to progress in their careers.
Already we have Year 2 ECTs who have completed their SWIFT ECF programme and statutory inductions, who will be Mentors to new Year 1 ECTs in September. Others are fulfilling Subject Lead roles or taking on School Leadership Team responsibilities, and many are progressing their training through the National Professional Qualifications (NPQs).
To be part of this journey is very rewarding and from my Appropriate Body Service role, I learn how this translates in the classroom and affects whole school progress. As NPQs Programme Manager, it is humbling to support future leaders and be part of their career journey too.
I also get to work with awesome and fascinating professionals! MAT CEOs, Mentors, Facilitators and Delivery Leads, Subject Specialists, ECTs, the wonderful network of SWIFT partners and our super SWIFT Central Team mean that I learn something new every day. Given the variation to my role, I am lucky that there is never a dull moment!
3. What has been the biggest challenge (if any) and how have you successfully overcome it?
Moving from a Teaching School Alliance Business Manager role to a regional Teaching School Hub Programme Manager role was a shift in gear and I have had to upskill my knowledge in national programme delivery requirements extremely quickly.
As with any change to the education system, navigating the best path for delivery to schools which best meets local needs has also taken a lot of careful planning and I would not have been able to do this without the support of our Central Team, in particular, Chris Harris, SWIFT Deputy Director who has been my Line Manager for the past two years and a wonderful Mentor and also Natalie Markham and Elisabeth Wandl who are superb administration professionals.
4. What do you believe to be the most important element of SWIFT that you wish to convey to our Teaching School Hub /programme member schools?
SWIFT exists to serve schools – ‘simple as’ SWIFT staff and partners are aligned in this task to serve schools with quality Continuing Professional Development services and support. We have a shared moral compass demonstrated in all that we strive to achieve.
Our Utopia is that all children in our region have high-quality education and we will do all we can to support schools, leaders and teachers to achieve this outcome. This is what SWIFT team members have in mind behind every part of the programme delivery, every email, every conversation and every offer of support.
5. What are your hopes for the next academic year?
For the first time in 2023 - 2024 we will be aligning with two lead providers to ensure that schools have the best choices and options available to them for their Golden Thread provision. We have a strong partnership with Teach First, an Ofsted Outstanding ECF Lead Provider and now, through our role as an Associate College, we will be part of the regional research work and programmes led by the National College of Teaching (NIoT).
This presents internal challenges as we integrate new processes whilst maintaining the same level of service and delivery. However, these are exciting challenges and whilst we go through some of the ‘baby steps’ I am hopeful that they will lead to further programme enhancements and improvements in our core offer to schools.
We thank Fiona for her continued commitment and conscientious good work.