Meet Ms Angela Farley ...
Hi Ms Farley, tell us about yourself
Hello, I'm Angela Farley. I head up the Maths team at Sompting Abbotts, teach the girls' games alongside Ms Scale, and assist on drama tuition with Mr Douch.
What's your educational background?
My academic qualifications include a First Class honours degree in Maths and Sports Science and a Masters in Education in Mathematics and Dyslexia. At this time dyscalculia was not recognised by the DfEE and hence I chose to study the impact of dyslexia on my students for teaching maths. I studied other dyslexia courses alongside my Masters. I found it fascinating to understand the problems that some students have to overcome to make sense of the simplest problem.
You've had a very varied career combining your passion for maths and science. Tell us about it
Previously I lived in London and worked mostly in Adult and Higher education. As a younger woman, sport was my passion and the fitness industry started to boom in the 80s. I found that I could combine my Sports Science education with my physical talents by becoming part of the fitness education industry. I worked as a college lecturer and external verifier for the awarding body RSA. I also lived in Malta for two years and, with my own company, initiated fitness education courses. I also worked for Joanna Hall as an 'Elite Trainer' for her 'Walkactive' programmes, both here and oversea
I first came to Sompting Abbotts in 2001 for my first teaching job on the South Coast and stayed until 2007. I loved the school. It was a combination of the family atmosphere, the strange mix of staff that somehow worked, and the feeling of making a difference with the children I was teaching. I have many happy memories of that time. I left to explore different aspects of teaching. I moved to an EBD school and lead the KS3 maths and then became Head of Girls' Games at Hurstpierpoint College. I also developed my own small business tutoring maths for predominantly GCSE students.
When I was approached to return to Sompting Abbotts in January 2017, it felt like the right thing to do. Sompting Abbotts has always felt like home to me and now I feel as if I have never been away!
Sport is a big part of your make-up isn't it?
Working within the fitness industry allowed me to keep my fitness in peak condition for my netball career. As a girl, I made U16/ U18/ U21 final England trials. I played New Zealand and travelled to Barbados with NW England. When I moved back to London, I decided to go a different route and set up my own club. It was in South London and eventually we had four teams, all with their own identities, but the main club name was 'Queens'. None of the girls had any previous high level experience but our 1st team made it into the National Clubs League. We had our own style as club with our motto 'victory in style', and the media soon caught onto us. We had articles in The Standard, Mail on Sunday, The Guardian, and appeared on various TV programmes including Blue Peter (yes, I have a Blue Peter badge!). The club still runs to this day so I feel I have left a legacy of sorts.
When I moved to the South Coast, I played netball for Sussex County 1st team (now in my 40s!) and undertook athletics training. It was something I had always done as a sportswoman. I knew about veteran (masters) athletics and it felt exciting to develop my sprinting skills as a new goal. I trained at Brighton and Hove, Withdean, with the men's sprint squad (there were a dearth of adult female sprinters).
I absolutely loved the training and although it was gruelling, loved the camaraderie and physically feeling like a teenager again, because my fitness improved immensely. I entered local and regional competitions and started to realise that I was pretty good for my age. I entered the British Championships in 2004 and to my utter amazement came away with two gold medals! Sadly, back problems that I had most of my adult life then became insurmountable. I've now had to hang up my spikes, and say goodbye to netball and high intensity sports.
So where are you channelling your energies now?
I've been taking drama courses. For the past two years, I have studied the Meisner technique with Brighton Meisner. The opportunity of developing some of the drama curriculum here with Mr Douch is something I hope to expand on over the coming years.
Coming back to school means that there are so many extra-curricular activities that I'm involved in. There is the big post-exam year 8 residential trip to Cornwall that I'm planning to continue as Sarah Strachan did an amazing job setting that up. At present, I run a free-style dance session for Friday activities. Thursday break-time sees Lego Club in action. We have been fortunate to have some older children who are 'master builders' and one of them supervises a drop in lego building club for the year 3 children. They get very excited to show Mrs Kelly their models!
I have arranged a TEDx talk trip with the year 8 group for October 2017, which I'm really excited about. We are in process of arranging a year 7 trip to Shoreham Airport to bring the idea of maths topics such as speed and bearings alive! I'm lucky to work alongside two other fun and creative maths teachers and we're working hard to create a 'Maths Day' that will inspire the children. We have a series of 'maths challenges that are changed every fortnight. It's wonderful to see the children across all the age groups putting in their entries. All the 'correct' solutions are put into the box and a winner is selected raffle style and awarded a small 'maths prize'. Given the size of the school, it is easy to organise such a diversity of activities with relative ease, which makes my role at school far more interesting.
What do you most love about teaching at Sompting Abbotts?
There is a TED talk where a young boy talks about (hack) schooling and says adults ask 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' They expect answers like astronaut says the boy, but he says that most kids just want to answer 'happy'. I think Sompting Abbotts provides the template for a happy childhood at school.
My reason for returning to Sompting Abbotts was because it is especially unique and a very kind place to be. The teachers care deeply about the well-being of all the children. It's like a family where a rounded view of the child is able to be considered rather than just meeting targets.
At Sompting Abbotts, you really get to know the children. Although it's not private tuition, at times it comes close. The weaker children stretch my teaching ability to use all my knowledge from my masters degree; the scholars mean that I am still teaching a lot of the time at the GCSE standard of maths which keeps me intellectually stimulated.
What I also like about teaching at prep school is that the children have the time to mature into their teens in a supportive environment. For many children, the transition to secondary school at year 7 is hard. They won't eat their healthy packed lunch, for example, because it's not 'cool' and the pressure of being around a lot of much older teenagers at 11 starts changing their personalities. At prep school, children have until 13 to be able to develop a little more of 'who they are' and are more able to withstand some of these difficult external pressures that are commonly present in secondary school. At Sompting Abbotts, I always say: "Here it's like Harry Potter ... sometimes crazy, but it's where magic happens."