Mary Pooley | NCFE

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Mary Pooley
DIRECTOR OF STRATEGY, POLICY AND INSIGHT
Tell us a bit about you

I live in Essex with my husband and two dogs – a retired racing greyhound and a dreamy golden retriever who's never done a day’s work in his life! I love being outdoors in the fresh air, as long as I am going to be able to get warm afterwards. Given the choice, I’d either be walking or cycling along the Blackwater Estuary or on our boat on the Norfolk Broads. I am also a book worm. Currently I’m reading Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed at breakfast and Death in the Sunshine by Steph Broadribb at bedtime.

Tell us a bit about your career

Next up for breakfast reading is No Tradesmen and No Women, a history of the civil service by Michael Coolican. This reflects my continuing fascination with how government works after 3 decades working in Whitehall. I started as a naïve 19-year-old on the bottom rung of the managerial grades and finished as a Senior Civil Servant, thanks to some very supportive line managers. I spent most of my career in the Department for Education, mainly working on education policy issues but also straying into child protection, family policy, childcare, cross-government strategy on children and young people, and No Deal Brexit crisis management. My policy development highlights include writing the first government consultation document on work-life balance, and designing and implementing the educational, legal and funding arrangements for special, alternative provision and 16-19 free schools from scratch.

Why NCFE?

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the civil service and, as my team will tell you, have many stories to tell. In DfE, I came to realise that I love the opportunity and hope which well delivered education and training can bring. It was great to meet motivated educationalists and people who wanted the best for learners. However, I started to feel for people and groups of people who do not find school as helpful as I did or whose learning difficulty means that they need to learn to read in a very different way from other people, for example.

I left the DfE because of caring responsibilities. When I was looking to start work again, the opportunity to do a few months freelancing at NCFE was a no-brainer. But after only a couple of weeks, I found I wanted to stay. My post was advertised, and I’m pleased to say I was successful. The reason I wanted to stay? I found that same unashamed optimistic belief in education and great motivation to support learners. I also found a great team of people who are here to make a difference.

At NCFE, I found that same unashamed optimistic belief in education and great motivation to support learners. I also found a great team of people who are here to make a difference.

Mary Pooley