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James Whelan

MA Education (teaching and learning), Class of 2013

James is head of mathematics at the Harris Federation, the UK’s leading academy chain.

What happened after I graduated

'After graduating from the University of Sheffield, I enrolled at Sheffield Hallam on a two-year Mathematics PGCE. I progressed through the teaching hierarchy quickly whilst contributing to various educational policy reforms.  I was also able to complete a Masters in Educational Studies. I have since moved to London to join the Harris Federation. I have headed the mathematics branch of the London Schools Education Fund, a project that provides London schools with the most up-to-date curriculum based on the new English Baccalaureate.'

What my job involves

'The Harris Federation is leading the way in which the "life without levels" GCSE reforms are being taught. I am heavily involved in the creation of an assessment-based system that allows students to be tracked from the age of four right up until they sit their exams. I would like to become a head teacher and special advisor of education, and would like to complete a PhD.'

How Sheffield Hallam helped me

'I thoroughly enjoyed my studies at Sheffield Hallam. The PGCE gave me the right amount of contact time in and out of schools, so I was able to gain experience whilst having sufficient time to reflect. I also benefited greatly from my tutors, whose passion for the power of education had a significant effect on my core beliefs on the matter.

'The masters course taught me how to conduct proper research and how to write a coherent, structured account of action based study. I learnt how to question ideals and enjoyed many a philosophical discussion with my wonderful tutor, Angie Evans.'

A word to the wise

'I would strongly suggest that students use their tutors for all they can, for both academic and employment purposes. My tutors were able to guide me through the application process involved in becoming a teacher as well as provide detailed interview scenarios. This advice was paramount to my success in becoming employed and provided a platform for future promotions.'

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