Before starting my first year at university, I set myself a few goals. One of which was to complete work experience at the Department of Education. Fast forward to a few months later and this goal was achieved through my involvement in the Patchwork Masterclass programme. This summer I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks at the Department for Education in Westminster. My time in Westminster was a great opportunity for me to gain an insight into the interdependent nature of the Civil Service as well as learn about the different career paths taken to join the Government.
I had the privilege of spending time with a wide variety of friendly and accommodating teams. Such teams included the Teacher Recruitment, Retention & Strategy team, Social Mobility Commission, International and Comparative Education, Emran Mian’s EU-Exit team, the Correspondence and the Opportunity Areas Team. The Opportunity Areas team was a team set up through policy introduced by the Ex-Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening’s passion for social mobility and ensuring that educational opportunities are distributed fairly across the country. I have previously been fortunate to meet Justine Greening back in 2016 through taking part in a political discussion group organised by the Social Mobility Foundation when I was 17.
With my interest in the intersection between geography and educational inequality, I particularly enjoyed my trip to see the important groundwork that the department carries out in Stoke-On-Trent as part of the Opportunity Areas Project. This trip taught me how vital teamwork and excellent communication skills are when working in a sector that requires the effective management of relationships with people from a variety of backgrounds, with different aims and interests amidst an overarching goal.
Through shadowing the Private Office for the Permanent Secretary of Education Jonathan Slater and Children’s’ Minister Kemi Badenoch I gained a deeper understanding of the significance of the daily work that Civil Servants carry out. I really appreciated the time and care that each person I met with were willing to invest in me during my time at the department. I was fortunate enough to speak with Kemi very briefly and speak about the Patchwork Programme with her as well as the advice she would give to her 20 year-old self. She spoke about the importance of self-belief and staying focused on my own ambitions and not that of others. This reminded me of one of many quotes that I live my life by ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ and highlighted how having a positive mindset and utilising the resources around me, however big or small can help me in achieving my goals.
The diverse range of people that I met at the Department for Education all spoke very honestly, openly and genuinely about their experiences in a way that has enabled me to learn about the realities of being a Civil Servant and the joys of working with like-minded people on projects that will make a huge impact on society. With the lessons learned during my work experience, I now have a clearer vision of how to develop my wider interests in social mobility and educational inequality further. I am very thankful to Elaine Wilson and Civil Service Fast Streamer, Henry Phipps and others within the department for making my time at Westminster such an insightful experience.
Written by Victoria Ayodeji, a current Patchwork Masterclass Programme Participant.