What it’s really like to work here…
MISS SURPLICE (ex-student)
LEARNING SUPPORT ASSISTANT
I first stepped foot in Bishop Challoner in September 2007, with a curious mind and no idea how much of an impact my time at this school would have on my life. Ten years later, I stepped back into the school grounds.
When describing Bishop Challoner school to others, I can’t help but use the word ‘special’, due to the truly extraordinary teachers and staff that never fail to go the extra mile. At school, it very much felt that the teachers were ‘walking with us’ as they genuinely cared about our progress both academically and personally. This was most evident when it came to taking our GCSEs. Many teachers would give up their own time to help us revise during lunch, after school and even on Saturday mornings; a rare and crucial opportunity for students that teachers never hesitated to get involved in. Not only did attending Bishop Challoner allow me to try my best academically, but it also inspired me to get involved in as much as possible outside of the classroom. Sports competitions, school plays, music concerts and charity fundraising were just some of the activities that we could participate in to develop as an individual – experiences that I think are just as important to a student’s development as academic learning.
Thanks to the tremendous encouragement and support from Bishop Challoner I then went on to study my A-levels at The Sixth Form College Farnborough, followed by a busy but exhilarating three-years at the University of Sussex. Even up until my last few months of University, I struggled to find a career path that I was truly passionate about (my ambitions ranging from wanting to be a Blue Peter presenter to an analytical chemist!). Yet when it came to graduating and taking the next steps into the big world, I realised that all of what I had achieved would not have been possible without my exceptional teachers at Bishop Challoner. I feel extremely lucky to have had such a great time at secondary school and I know, for a fact, that many of my school friends would agree with me. Therefore, I was delighted to have the opportunity to return this September as a Learning Support Assistant. As a student, you only experience your own path through school, so being able to develop and work with students from all walks of life is a sincerely rewarding role. I am keen to go into teaching in the future and so working as an LSA is an excellent experience and first step towards this goal.
Although the school has significantly grown since I was here, it is safe to say that all the staff are just as enthusiastic and still aim to achieve the best possible outcome for every student.
GEOGRAPHY TEACHER/HEAD OF BTEC
When I decided to leave my previous school, I had two criteria for deciding on where I wanted to work. Closer to home and a lovely environment, which would re-ignite my love of teaching. I had ruled Bishop Challoner out, as I had never seen positions in the Geography Department advertised anywhere before; until one Saturday morning there it was of Hantsweb.
From the moment I arrived for a tour of the school I knew that Bishop Challoner was different, I was greeted at reception with a smile and once I had met with the Deputy Headteacher, was taken round by a Year 9 pupil who showed me every inch of the school and took me into every classroom. In most schools, there are rooms that you would not let anyone near for fear of creating a bad impression, but not at Bishop Challoner. Every lesson I saw was calm and pupils were enjoying what they were learning, staff welcomed me in and spoke to me about what was going on and how wonderful the school was.
Three years on and It has not changed at all in that sense, everyone says good morning and there are plenty of smiles and laughter. I have not once had that Sunday evening dread of work the next day, and even when you are on your knees at the end of the half term, someone is always there to pick you up. I enjoy daily prayer with my tutor group as it gives us a chance to reflect on the day, whole school Mass is also a sight to be seen with 800 students and staff celebrating together. Bishop Challoner is a wonderful place to work and I definitely made the right decision to work here.
HEAD OF HISTORY
When I started at Bishop Challoner School, something that I noticed very early on was how quickly I no longer felt like the ‘new girl’, a feeling that had followed me in the previous schools I have worked in. Everybody was so welcoming and helpful, teachers and students alike, that I soon felt like part of the furniture!
I went to a faith school myself and one thing I felt then and I feel now here at Challoner, is how great a sense of community the school has. The ethos of the school helps makes it a safe place to work and learn and I try each day to do as Bishop Challoner himself taught: doing the ordinary extraordinarily well, and what is more extraordinary than preparing our young people for their futures.
HEAD OF ART
I joined the school in 2005 and I can honestly say that I have been happy working here all that time. Teaching is, and rightly so, always full of challenges and rewards. Working at Bishop Challoner has given me plenty of both. Having worked in a range of other schools the most immediate attraction was the religious ethos. Although I am not a Catholic I had a Christian upbringing and the language of Faith is one that I feel at ease with and familiar with.
Many schools will provide a moral framework for students to learn and grow within, but somehow the depths of Christian Doctrine go that much deeper for students to be guided by, even if they wouldn’t openly admit it. Bishop Challoner has always celebrated and been thankful for the subject I teach – Art. So often have I been reassured of the need for Art to be included on the curriculum (where sadly that is not so in other schools). I feel that I have been given the opportunity to grow as a teacher, to enjoy my subject and enjoy seeing others grow.
At the core of Bishop Challoner is an Ethos that makes you feel that you belong, that you are welcomed, that you are valued, that you can succeed and that you can improve.
MR GOOK (ex-student)
LEARNING SUPPORT ASSISTANT
When I realised that I wanted to work with teenagers, as an ex-student of the school I knew Bishop Challoner was the school for me to start my career. As a teenager I wasn’t the model student at the school, but I felt the school never gave up on me. The way the staff dealt with me as a student, when I wasn’t the best behaved, made me realise that it has something special about it, and that the staff always try their hardest to get the best out of their students.
I came back to Bishop Challoner because after I left as a student I regretted my attitude to learning and behaviour there, but didn’t regret my time there. I feel it taught me so much about morals, and other people. As a result of this I wanted to come back and help some of the teenagers not make the same mistakes I made, to help fulfil their potential and to help them realise how lucky they are to be at a school like Bishop Challoner.
When I arrived as a member of staff it was strange, and there were a couple of staff whom I felt I needed to make amends, but everyone was so welcoming and treated me as if my teenage student days hadn’t happened. For me this is an amazing place to work, the atmosphere around the school as a whole is special. As you walk around, you see students of different ages and backgrounds all interacting and enjoying their time at school.
NEWLY QUALIFIED TEACHER
The ethos of community, outlined in Bishop Challoner’s Walk with Me policy, was evident from the very beginning of my time with the school; as a trainee teacher, I was made to feel a valued and welcome member of staff from my first day, able to ask for advice and guidance at any time. Staff were accommodating, understanding, and always willing to help, and this made my development as a teacher much easier.
Moreover, the sense of community was clear among the student cohort from the outset; students are visibly proud of their school, and this creates a culture of celebration and achievement – pupils at Bishop Challoner want to learn, and are proud of their learning. As a result, the staff at Bishop Challoner have high expectations of all of their students, and this helps to epitomise the school’s value of inclusion and achievement.
I was delighted to be able to remain at the school after my training year, and continue to embrace the diversity and joy that being part of the Bishop Challoner family brings.
HEAD OF Y9
I first visited Challoner in 2015, having worked on a project with Mr Dollimore the Deputy Head. I live locally but was not aware of the school. I spent a summers afternoon walking around the site, meeting children and popping into lessons. What I liked on that first visit was how quiet the school was during lessons and how the children walked with purpose to their classes. Their blazers adorned with badges to show their commitment to sports clubs, the community, arts or academic achievement. On that summers day at the end of term when most schools are running on empty, Challoner still had a vibrancy, lessons were engaging, pupils positive about the school and the drama studio was alive with the rehearsals for the forthcoming performance of Hairspray. The musical contribution was being heavily supported by ex-students returning to support the school. I knew on that first visit that Challoner was a school to watch.
In September 2016 I joined as Head of Year 8 and Teacher of Science. Joining the school has been wonderful. The children here are welcoming and friendly, the staff are fantastic and the parents actively support the school and work with us. As a pastoral leader we often use the phrase ‘walk with me’ as we follow the Challoner Way, this makes such sense here as it is about us guiding the children and supporting them on their journey through school and through childhood and into adulthood. As a Head of Year I have seen that the teachers here are prepared to go the extra mile for the children and that at the heart of the school is a love for our children and a desire to make sure that they leave the school having achieved their best and with a host of happy memories.
MR WHITTY (ex-Headteacher)
VICE CHAIR OF GOVERNORS
Teaching is a wonderful career; there are few other occupations in life which enable you to have such a positive impact on the adults of the future.
I had the privilege of being the Headteacher of Bishop Challoner for ten years between 1995 and 2005 and have since been a governor for the last five years. I also experienced Bishop Challoner as a parent, too, as my own three children were students here and they benefitted immensely from the quality of pastoral care and ethos of high achievement that are the hallmarks of the school.
Bishop Challoner has continued to move forward and develop in exciting and positive ways. It has always been a popular and oversubscribed school and student numbers have continued to grow over the years. The opening of a new block of classrooms this September is another measure of its success. From its origins as a very small comprehensive in 1975, it has now become one of the largest schools in Basingstoke.
The school enjoys a deservedly high reputation for the quality of teaching and learning in the town and also benefits from the strong support of parents. Inspired by the vision of gospel values the school welcomes students from a range of Catholic and other faith communities in and beyond the borough of Basingstoke and Deane.
A teacher new to the school will be warmly welcomed into a cohesive community, led by a very talented, committed and effective Senior Leadership Team. The opportunities to develop professionally in a school open to new ideas and building on the strength of experience are legion. Many colleagues have been internally promoted or moved on to higher level posts, including headships, in other schools.
In short, Bishop Challoner is an excellent school in which to begin or develop a successful teaching career.
If you are a prospective parent reading this, then the one thing I would want you to know is that I believe a child at Challoner is lucky to be part of this school community. The children here feel valued, they know there are staff here who can help them when they need it and pupils here have high aspirations to be happy and fulfilled in adulthood, academically, spiritually and socially. As a teacher here I feel delighted to have found a workplace where the management team are passionate about children, about learning and about focusing on our mission statement to do ordinary things in an extraordinary way, which in turn makes my ordinary job an extraordinary one to have.
MR HARWOOD (ex-student)
After placing my three children on their journeys along the ‘Challoner Way’, following my own path, that started in 1977 and ended in 1981, I started to think about how I could ‘give back’ to this fantastic nurturing community using my own limited talents! I started by making tea and serving fish and chips for the PTA and then joined the Governing Body, where my contributions have been sporadic but channelled on supporting the Chair and the Head. I aim to continue for as long as I can contribute and my contributions are useful!
Teresa Cripps (ex-student)
Assistant Head, Head of RE
If anyone had told me back in the late 1980s, as I left Bishop Challoner School post-exams that I’d be back in the future as a teacher, I wouldn’t have believed it. Not that I hadn’t loved my time here as a student (I had) but because I didn’t even consider teaching until I was in my early twenties.
After cutting my teaching teeth in a school in Southampton, I heard that an RE position was open in Bishop Challoner Catholic School. Despite some initial reservations about returning to work among my former teachers, I went for it and haven’t looked back.
It was like returning to a family. The special atmosphere of the Challoner community was as strong as ever and our students never cease to amaze me with their talent and capacity for greatness.
My colleagues are a real source of support and friendship. Our Head is wise, fair and has an inspiring vision for our school community.
Another thing I love about working here, is its diverse nature. With 41% of our students being other than White British, it is a wonderful opportunity to develop life-affirming attitudes, understanding and celebration of diversity. It’s a worldwide Church represented in our school and the dignity of everyone is tangibly respected.
And so, all these years later, I am now Head of RE and an Assistant Head with responsibility for Ethos, PSHE, Wellbeing and Student Leadership. All areas that are very close to my heart. Although undeniably a demanding profession, deciding to come and teach here at Bishop Challoner is one of the best decisions I have made. It’s an adventure that I would recommend to anyone.
Martin O’Driscoll (ex-student)
In September 1975 I walked into a scarcely finished, sparsely equipped Bishop Challoner School building as one of only approximately 110 eleven year olds. Only 18 months earlier we had visited the same South Ham playing field to witness Father Scantlebury laying the foundation stone. Now we were lucky enough to be part of the founding intake on which the future school population was to be built and further developed over the following 40 plus years into the School of which we are today so rightly proud.
A new building is only fleetingly a new building, and the memories of a then skinny young lad with a dodgy 1970’s haircut, and an oversized blue blazer maybe vaguely interesting, but not relevant in helping you choose today where your children should be educated or in helping decide whether Bishop Challoner is a good place to work. What is more relevant than the mere material elements of the School are the enduring foundations. The success, both educationally and pastorally, is built upon relentless encouragement by staff, strong discipline, the resulting student endeavours and the vital parental support. These foundations were originally introduced by Mr Connolly, our founding head teacher, and have since been maintained and developed by the subsequent custodians, into what we know today as the Challoner Way, which gives the school its unique DNA and it’s heartbeat. Even as insensitive teenager I was acutely aware that Challoner was different and I was hugely proud to be part of it.
I returned to the school about 8 years ago, this time as a parent of two prospective students. I listened intently to the headmasters welcome and address containing the unashamed re-establishment of the schools traditional expectations of both students and of parental support. I was instantly reassured to recognise that nothing had changed. The buildings and student capacity have scaled up and modernised considerably but the essence remains.
I have witnessed first-hand how the Challoner Way enabled my first son to develop and make the best of his strengths, and as a result turned an average pupil into a highly enthusiastic student embarking on his first exciting year at University.
In a time when you have to look ever more closely at the small print and read terms & conditions to understand what you will get, it is hugely reassuring to plainly know the expectations and returns. As a parent governor I have reflected on and witnessed what it takes to achieve and maintain high standards of achievement in education and how some schools do and some don’t. It is not one big element, I believe it can be captured in the words of our patron, Bishop Richard Challoner, who urged simply to do “ordinary things, extraordinarily well”. The school encourages students using these words but they are equally relevant to the work of the staff too, who unselfishly “go the extra mile” to ensure our students achieve and are committed to the founding ethos incorporated within the Challoner Way.
I am hugely proud to refer to Bishop Challoner as “My School”, as “Our School” and, whether you read this as a prospective parent or staff member, I would have no hesitation in urging you to also make Bishop Challoner “Your School”.