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Opinion15th March 2016

“My experience in the police has given me a lot of transferrable skills”

Lorraine Clarke is the Executive Principal of Ark’s primary schools in Hastings: Ark Blacklands Primary Academy and Ark Little Ridge Primary Academy. Both schools joined the Ark network in 2013. Here she talks about what drew her into teaching from a succesful career in the police.

“I studied Psychology at university and started off specialising in child psychology before becoming interested in criminal psychology. I became really interested in the point at which something could go wrong psychologically – the impact of a painful childhood experience, for example – and that’s something that has stayed with me as an interest and a motivation throughout my career.

After university, I joined Sussex Police as part of a fast-track scheme. As a graduate, I was ambitious, so one of the things that appealed to me about the police was that it promised fast promotion to high performers. I was in the force for nearly ten years and I loved it, even though I was dealing with people at their very worst – people who had experienced something shocking, had done something illegal or were at risk of offending.

I worked as a detective sergeant, which meant that I had to manage a team of first responders to secure crime scenes, ensure that evidence was kept intact and that everyone on the job was objective about the case.

After nearly ten years in the police, I began to realise that what I really wanted was to help people to have positive experiences in their lives and find a way to have a positive impact early on. I had been training other police forces in how to use profiling techniques and liked being in the classroom environment. I also knew that my greatest rewards came from working with young people.

Being in the police meant that I was trying to help people achieve justice after something awful had happened, rather than preventing that awful thing from happening in the first place. I wanted to be in a career where I could make a difference before things went wrong, rather than just pick up the pieces afterwards.

It was hard to be at the start of a new career again, but, within three years, I was a phase leader and six years later, I was a headteacher.

I think the same ambition that had led me to the police drove me to succeed in schools. Even in the police, I wasn’t happy doing one thing for more than two or three years, so I’d move to different teams on a regular basis. Teaching has proven to be really great for someone who always wants a new challenge.

My experience in the police has actually given me a lot of transferrable skills as a teacher and school leader – I know how to support parents who are upset about things at the school, and I know how to project authority in the classroom and manage a class of children or a large staff team. It’s also meant that I have really good resilience and coping mechanisms for stress. My psychology degree means I understand when things can go wrong in a child’s development, and I can make positive changes to help them through it.”

“I’m here to tell you that the impossible is possible” Watch Lorraine talk about her remarkable turnaround story as Principal of Ark Blacklands