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Meet an apprentice

My Name is Sam and I have been an apprentice at Purple Oaks Academy since February 2019. Purple Oaks is a special academy that has students with a range of special educational needs, but mostly autism and severe learning difficulties. 

Why did you decide to start an apprenticeship? 

I decided to start an apprenticeship at Purple Oaks Academy as I am a practical learner (I’d rather learn on the job than through exams and textbooks). I first joined the Academy in September 2018 on a college placement which I thoroughly enjoyed as I learned a lot about Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Autism. I was then told there was an apprenticeship position available for the classroom that I had worked in whilst a college student and I was keen to apply to further my knowledge on SEND.

Can you describe a typical day?

A typical day for me at Purple Oaks Academy consists of me welcoming the students into the academy and supporting them to complete their morning task. I help them to understand their schedule for the day, as some students find it hard to cope with transitions. The children will then start their first lesson and I support them by helping them to understand their work or regulate their emotions if they’re finding it hard to cope. 

The children then go out for playtime and I encouraged them to play games and start conversations. After the break, they go to Snack, where they learn key life skills. After another lesson, it is lunchtime followed by a 15-minute Relax session to help the children calm their emotions and prepare for learning.  During this time, they learn how to regulate themselves and cope with their emotions as sometimes their high-anxiety levels can cause them to struggle throughout the day. After Relax is finished, they will move on to their afternoon session which is usually a topic lesson based on our them, followed by Reward Time, if they have made the right choices, then a story and snacks before going home.  

During the school day, I support the class teacher to deliver the best teaching and learning possible for the children during structured lessons. Throughout the day we are consistently promoting that our students learn key life skills to set them up for their future, whether that’s by teaching them to tie their shoelaces, put their coat on or regulate and manage their emotions. 

What do you like best about your role? 

The thing I like best about my role is how rewarding it can be. I get to see first-hand what a difference we can make to a student’s education. Also, the staff I work with whilst being at the Academy have been extremely supportive to me throughout my apprenticeship, especially my mentor who provides any help I might need. 

As part of my role, I have also had many training opportunities provided by the Academy.  Just last week I was sent to do a Paediatric First Aid course. 

What are your plans after you complete your apprenticeship? 

After I have completed my apprenticeship I would like to get a full-time job with children or adults with learning difficulties, such as autism; and then in a few years, I’d like to go to university to do a degree to become a teacher of students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

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