This edition of Centre Stage is with Mrs Toole. A very familiar face to many parents at St James, she started working in the Prep School in September 2009 as a Reception class teaching assistant following a previous career as a Montessori directress. Last year Mrs Toole became our first SENDCo Teaching Assistant.

Can you tell us a bit more about your new role as a SENDCo Teaching Assistant and how it came about?

It became clear last year that in order to promote confidence and to support all the children there was a need for more specialised assistance working with individuals in the classroom and in small groups. I spend time with various classes using individual strategies to help a child understand a principle they are having difficulty with. I also take groups out of the class so it is possible to discuss the area they are working on and they have more time to ask questions and cement their understanding. Another area of learning that continues to be very important for the children throughout their schooling is reading – so I have a number of children who I read with each week.

How have you found the transition from being a teaching assistant to working in this capacity?

I have loved the challenge of carving out a new role. Up until now my work has always been with children under 5 so the greatest change has been working with older children. I am very lucky to be in the situation of having taught many of the children in Reception and it has been a delight to see how they have progressed and blossomed. Being able to facilitate their learning, give individual attention and building the child’s confidence gives great satisfaction.

You have worked at St James for 10 years and your children Josephine, Jerome and Helena attended both the Prep School and the Senior Schools. What is it that makes St James so special to you?

As a parent, St James has always been a place where my children have made wonderful lasting friendships in an environment where I felt they were safe due to the strong ethos of pastoral care. In terms of academics, I have always felt that St James offers a good balance between academic rigour and giving the child space to experience a rounded curriculum. As a teacher St James has been a delight. From the moment you step in the door there is a strong feeling of warmth and friendliness; the staff work together as a supportive team. The other aspect of St James that makes it special for me is the opportunity for both the children and the teachers to have moments of quiet and calm throughout the day. 

What do you like to do on a Sunday?

I am very lucky in having a wonderfully creative and warm family and spending time with them either on outings or for meals is a great joy. We still have big family holidays which are very special. My other loves are visiting beautiful houses, gardens and getting out into the countryside. We often go as a family to a special place in Kent where we can cook over an open fire, go for walks in the woods and just sit and enjoy the peace and quiet. In London the garden is a great place to be, just tending and watching the plants grow.