Profile: Dr Caroline Creaby
Dr Caroline Creaby is Deputy Headteacher at Sandringham School, a secondary school with academy status. She was previously the Chair of the Student Support and Access Committee.
How did it feel to step through the doors of Univ for the first time as a prospective student, as a student, and as an alumna?
It would be easy to be intimidated walking through the doors of Univ if you were to think too hard about whose footsteps you were following in. As a prospective PPE-ist I was walking the same quads as Sir William Beveridge, of whom I had learned so much at A level. As a student a year later, I felt proud and excited in equal measure; I was becoming part of a College that has really made its mark on the world. Probably like most students coming up with me, I did have some lingering doubts though – would I stack up? There is something quite freeing about visiting Univ now as an Old Member – no more pressure to study or perform in exams! I have such fond memories of formal halls, the college ball and nights in the beer cellar. I must confess, I am a little nosy and read the names of the current undergraduates occupying “my” old rooms in Main Quad and Durham Buildings!
Why did you become a teacher?
The cliché “the world is your oyster” felt very real to me in the summer of 2003. My year were getting their degree results and heading off to pursue a wide range of careers. Entry to sought-after career paths is never easy but having a degree under your belt and particularly one from Oxford without question opens doors and I felt very fortunate to be in such a strong position as I contemplated my choice of careers. Perhaps I was more keenly aware of my good fortune than some; my parents, who have always been incredibly supportive of my education had not been to university themselves and this gave me a heightened sense of the role of education in engendering social mobility. This set me wondering as to whether there was something I might be able to do for others from my background to allow them to benefit from the same excellent university experience that I had enjoyed. I had carried out some work experience in primary schools both whilst in the 6th form and whilst at Univ and had enjoyed it. This, for me, inevitably led to the choice to become a teacher, which I have never regretted. I chose to become a secondary school teacher as I felt this would allow me to have most impact. It has proved to be a very rewarding career thus far and I feel privileged to have worked with so many talented, (mostly) hard-working and very often amusing young people. Beyond the classroom, I have had opportunities to develop my career as a school leader, I have visited several countries to learn more about their education systems, I have led on research projects and worked with bodies such as the Education Endowment Foundation and the Chartered College of Teaching to support efforts to lead research across the sector.
How did you find going back to university and doing a Master’s then an Ed.D?
I decided to complete my Master’s and Doctorate alongside working full time which was quite a balancing act! However, once I had carved out the time, it was so valuable to have the space to delve into the research evidence and think more deeply about teaching and education. I am committed to teaching being an evidence informed profession and so my further study supported me to make a contribution to this aim both in my own school and beyond. I am proud of the fact that I will always be Cambridge University’s first Doctor of Education. It was also rather curious joining the newest college in Cambridge, coming from Univ, Oxford’s oldest. Notwithstanding the differences in tradition and customs, it has led to a bit of a dilemma on boat race day!
Why did you become the Chair of the Student Support and Access Committee?
I was asked to join the committee when I was a student at Univ and this opportunity opened my eyes to the way in which Old Members generously support students. When I was asked to re-join as an Old Member myself, I was very pleased to do so. Working in the education sector I am keenly aware as to the rather limited degree of social mobility in the UK. Serving on the committee provided me with an excellent opportunity to retain a link with my old college and at the same time see if, working with other Old Members and the college, we might address this important issue at least in our own backyard.
It has been a pleasure to see and shape the support for Univ students over the years. From the Staircase 12 website, to vacation bursaries and more recently, the Opportunity Programme, support has been developed to more fully provide for the needs of Univ’s students so that they have every chance of success, irrespective of their backgrounds. At times, and certainly initially, coming from a state school background and without a family history of university attendance, I felt something of a “fish out of water” at Oxford. These various initiatives have helped and continue to help students fully take part in the “Oxford experience”.
What challenges have you faced in your career?
The main personal challenge has probably been that doubting voice in my head questioning whether I am ready for my next professional challenge. I realise that imposter syndrome is not uncommon but it can be a barrier to taking the next step in one’s career. I have been lucky to have been supported by some great colleagues and school leaders over the years who have encouraged me to be a bit braver. And it’s because of them that I support initiatives and programmes to support women to prepare for and take their next steps in education leadership.
Describe Univ in three words.
Inspiring, progressive, community.
How do you feel about the celebration of 40 years of women at Univ?
I think it’s a really important milestone and one that I’m really pleased to see being celebrated. Although women have had a pretty short history at Univ, their contribution has been remarkable. In my own experience as an undergraduate, I benefited hugely from female role models; Ngaire Woods, Clare Drury, Tania Rawlinson and Elizabeth Crawford stand out in particular as ones who were fiercely smart and also supportive to me personally. Events like this celebration of the 40 years of women make me question how I am supporting women, like those that supported me. I look forward to next 40 years of women at Univ, especially now with such an impressive woman at the helm!
Women at Univ 2019. Celebrating 40 years of achievement by women students, academics and staff, and recovering the history of women in the College from 1249 to the present day.