From dinner lady to headteacher - a journey up the ladder at St Albans school

Bernadette Dempsey who started life as a dinner lady at SS Alban and Stephen Catholic Junior School is set to become the permanent headteacher in September

Bernadette Dempsey who started life as a dinner lady at SS Alban and Stephen Catholic Junior School is set to become the permanent headteacher in September

Archant

When new headteacher Bernadette Dempsey says she has done every job in her infants school, she is not kidding.

Bernadette Dempsey who started life as a dinner lady at SS Alban and Stephen Catholic Junior School is set to become the permanent headteacher in September with a message from one of her former pupilsBernadette Dempsey who started life as a dinner lady at SS Alban and Stephen Catholic Junior School is set to become the permanent headteacher in September with a message from one of her former pupils

The new head teacher of SS Alban and Stephen Infants explained: “I’ve answered the phones, I’ve dished up dinners, I’ve cleaned the toilets, I’ve been the lollipop lady – I’ve done it all.”

After 20 years and countless job titles at the Catholic school in St Albans, Mrs Dempsey has one outstanding ambition: “Now I want to be the best head teacher I can be”.

The 52-year-old mum-of-two quit her job as a city banker two decades ago and began working as an unpaid parent helper when her daughters were starting school.

She said: “I did that for a year or so before I took on responsibilities in a paid capacity as a midday supervisor.

Bernadette Dempsey who started life as a dinner lady at SS Alban and Stephen Catholic Junior School is set to become the permanent headteacher in SeptemberBernadette Dempsey who started life as a dinner lady at SS Alban and Stephen Catholic Junior School is set to become the permanent headteacher in September

“I came in every lunchtime, helped the children at playtime and cut their food up for them and realised that I really enjoyed it so I did some studying.”

Bernadette then spent eight years working as a nursery nurse for eight years while she completed an Open University degree. She said: “I was then accepted onto a graduate teaching programme at the University of Herts, I actually trained as a teacher in this school and have been a teacher here ever since.”

Bernadette said her daughters, now 25 and 27, are “thrilled” at her appointment as head teacher.

“They’ve been really supportive. It was great for them to have a mum doing homework when they had their own homework.”

Despite looking forward to her new role, Bernadette said there are some things she will miss.

She said: “[I will miss] being with the children, being in classrooms and teaching.

“One of the things I’m adamant about doing from September is that I will get more time in the classrooms.

“If you’re going to speak with confidence about what happens in the school, you need to know what goes on. The children need to see you.”

As living proof that a career change can not only work but be fruitful, Bernadette is keen to encourage other to do the same.

“People coming into teaching now have done other things.

“They recognise that if people come to teaching as a career having done other things, then they’re making and informed choice; they’re making a mature choice and they realise that it’s something they’ve got a real passion for.”

Bernadette begins work as permanent head teacher in September. She is, for now, acting head teacher.

She added: “I have ambitions for the children to make the best progress they can and for us to continue for us to be a happy, inclusive and welcoming school - and that’s our mission statement. Like a stick of rock, it’s runs through everything we do.”

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