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You Can Call Me…

My first blog for Nexus Education

Well, this is good and real. I had drafted an article thinking that I would have to submit it for editorial approval to the team at Nexus Education. Having logged in for the first time, I’ve realised, it is actually more straightforward than that. Thank you Nexus Education for essentially providing a WordPress based blog community. It means those like me can now go beyond the 280 character limit on Twitter…

Allen who?

I was intending my first article to reflect on something entirely different.  I thought that my pen portrait may come across as really bland.  It doesn’t, to use ‘Ofsted-speak’, really effervesce my ‘why’.  So, hello again.  I’m Allen.  I am a prolific user of Twitter (@TsuiAllen). As my pen portrait there says, I was born and ‘educated’ (in the loosest possible term) in London.  My parents came to London in the 1960s from the former British Colony of Hong Kong at the time of the ‘Cultural Revolution’.  The BBC Stories documentary first broadcast in 2019 presented and produced by Elaine Chong (Twitter: @____elainezyx ) deeply resonated with me.  I would have been flagged as an English as an Additional Language learner. My earliest memory of school was frequently sitting in the book corner on my own.  Thankfully, my teachers realised I was good at Maths. I managed to come out of the book corner and got to sit in the main part of the classroom.

Allen Tsui 1
This school building is the place I had my final form or tutor group.  The building was part of the secondary school I attended between 1979 and 1986.

Cultural Capital

Thinking about my ‘journey’ into where I am today, it was on the PGCE course I completed, that I read an article by Becky Francis and Louise Archer. (Francis, B. and Archer, L. 2005, “British-Chinese Pupils’ and Parents’ Constructions of the Value of Education”. British Educational Research Journal, 31(1) pp. 89-108).  The school I work for is part of a Multi-Academy Trust. A member of the Board of Trustees wanted to start an Action Research programme in 2017. It was reading the Francis and Archer article which inspired me to make an application and join the programme. This has meant being sponsored by my employer to study on the MA in Educational Leadership course at Manchester Metropolitan University. I am currently (Spring 2022) at the dissertation stage. The focus of my study is on Bourdieu’s theories of Cultural Capital. It is difficult for me to reconcile the differences expressed by some teachers that perpetuate and impose “middle-class” values.  Anyway, that discussion is for a future article.

Fortune over design

I feel very fortunate to work at a school where senior colleagues have this “can do and want to” attitude. My senior colleagues embrace the ideas I have bought to my teaching practice. As I’ve alluded to already, my path into teaching and reaching the point I am today was by no means straight-forward.  I received a police caution at the age of 14. My time at secondary school stalled. From starting as a top-flight student, I officially finished with barely a fistful of school-leaving qualifications.  With the support of my family and the determination of my teachers, I was encouraged to resit my O-Level examinations. Yes, I am that old. I secured a place to study A-Level Maths, Physics and Chemistry at the School’s Sixth Form.  It was during this time I suffered significant growing pains.  I now recognise that due to the state of my mental health, I didn’t put the effort to study. At the halfway point of my first year studying for A-Levels, I was given the ‘choice’ to leave.

Entering into the World of work

When I left school, fortune was once again on my side. The Local Authority Careers Service was wonderfully supportive.  Unemployment was at unprecedented rates. I received support from the Local Authority Careers Service with making job applications. It was at this time that the Civil Service were offering entry-level roles to those with sufficient school-leaving qualifications.  I managed to secure interviews with five different departments in one working week in June 1986.  Being in my late teens, I lacked worldly knowledge. I accepted the job offer from the Crown Prosecution Service. My decision was based on the fact that the newly formed Department had its office within walking distance of home.

It was through my experiences being a pen-pushing desk jockey at the Crown Prosecution Service that bought me into teaching. But that’s a story for another day… Thank you for reading. Continue the conversation with me on Twitter: @TsuiAllen

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The author

Allen Tsui

Allen Tsui is the subject lead for Computing at a primary school in North East London where he has held the role since Summer 2020. The school Allen has worked for since December 2015 is part of a twelve school Multi-Academy Trust. During school year 2020-21, Allen was tasked by senior colleagues at the Trust to work forty percent of his week at one of the Trust’s (former) Secondaries to teach Computer Science A-Level. The students he was working with all achieved the grades they required in Summer 2021 for their first choice of University entrance or Apprenticeship programmes. Since September 2021 Allen has been working across the neighbouring schools within the Trust teaching Computing to Years 4, 5 and 6. He also jointly teaches Reception at both schools as well as the Year 1 classes at his ‘base’ school.

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