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Support Staff Journeys - Claire Lewsey

Claire joined the Trust as school secretary at what is now Haberdashers' Crayford Primary in 2001 and was our first ever Business Manager. Here, she tells us about her journey to joining the Trust and shares her tips on finding a good work-life balance

How did you come to join the Trust?

I trained and worked as a nurse, but found myself in an office-based role by accident, where I realised my skills for organising, staying calm and working methodically suited administration work. 

I worked for TNT, progressing my role until moving back to Dartford, my home town.

I then began worked in Erith as a PA for an Engineer developing a major project until I was made redundant and found myself working as a school secretary at Barnes Cray Primary school in 2001, which worked well around my primary aged children at the time. 

As I was new to the school environment, I took every course I could to increase my understanding of school admin and was given good advice to do my Business Managers' qualification (even though the role didn’t exist at that time in Bexley schools). The qualification gave me confidence that the knowledge I had already had was solid and relevant and developed my understanding further in the management of schools. This led to a promotion to Office Manager, and I was heavily involved in the development and build of the new Barnes Cray Primary school, which finished in 2009.

The Trust took over Barnes Cray in September 2009 and we became Haberdashers' Crayford Primary and started the process of expanding and developing a secondary school on the same site.

My role expanded with this and I started building the basis of an admin team for the Crayford schools.  In 2013, I was appointed as the first Business Manager in the Trust, followed shortly by Hatcham and Knights, a fact I am very proud of.

What does your role involve now?

A simple explanation is that my role oversees everything that isn’t teaching and ensures the smooth running of the building, providing an environment that is safe and supports the business of education for staff and students.

The role covers finance, health and safety compliance, administration, admissions, catering, facilities management and human resources.  

The role is varied and fast-paced - a day never ends with everything done, which you learn to accept.  But I enjoy working as part of a team, supporting and developing others in their roles, improving the environment for staff and students and knowing I am doing a good job. There is never a quiet moment.

What advice would you give someone considering a support role at the Trust?

Don’t undersell your skills, speak to others who might be identify the skills you don’t appreciate in yourself. Ask others about their roles and consider how your skills might work in a different role. Always push for courses – they are brilliant to help you confirm that you have the knowledge and skills and can develop them further. Finally, don’t be afraid to try, you can always agree with your management to try a role with the understanding if you find it isn’t for you, there are still other opportunities for development. 

How do you maintain a good work-life balance?

I don’t take work home. I do stay and work beyond my hours because I want to sometimes finish a certain job, but when I go home – I want to be present for my family (emergencies exempt of course!). You need to accept that all the work on your desk will not be completed but you have managed the most important things for the day and you know you have done your best.

I always tell my team to talk! Let your colleagues/ family know when you are struggling for whatever reason and I always find that support is there to get you through.

I have pictures up in front of me of my next break/ holiday destination, so I can remember on hard days, what my job allows me to do for pleasure.

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