When Ifsheen Akhtar was a child, becoming a teacher was her dream, but it seemed like an impossible ambition as she was taken out of school at the age of nine.
Now 40, the mother-of-four, is living her dream as deputy headteacher of Carlton Junior and Infant School in Dewsbury.
I was nine years old when I was taken out of school. This was not for religious reasons; I was told it wasn’t good for girls to be there.
I was so passionate about wanting to become a teacher, not going to school made me want to teach even more. It was something I had always wanted to do, more so because of my experience. I wanted to show you can be whatever you want to be if you’ve got the determination for it. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children.
I got married at 18, but it was my husband that gave me the push to study. He said ‘you’ve always wanted to become a teacher. Why don’t you go for it?’ After he said it, I couldn’t sleep that night for thinking about it.
I started my journey at Shipley College, where I studied a two-year BTEC course while gaining GCSEs in English and Maths. Whilst studying I also successfully applied for a teaching assistant position at IQRA Academy in Bradford.
Having completed my BTEC with a double distinction, I decided to apply for a Foundation Degree in Supporting and Managing Learning in Education at Bradford College.
On my first day there my legs were shaking. I was the most under-confident person you could ever meet.
It was a tough task to balance my degree with my position at IQRA and caring for four children, the youngest of whom was just a few months old. I had to stay up late most nights to study.”
Moving on to a BA Degree
Having gained her foundation degree, Ifsheen moved on to study a BA in Teaching and Learning in the Primary Phase at Bradford College.
Ifsheen said: “Debbie Rolls, my tutor, gave me the encouragement I needed.
I began another school placement followed at Mount Pleasant School in Huddersfield. Within a week of me starting there, the headteacher called me to see him. I thought I was in trouble.
But they told me my work had been of a very high standard and asked me to consider applying to become a cover supervisor, which would enable me to cover lessons if a teacher was unable to take a class.
Having been offered the job after interview, I was approached again to apply for an early years teaching position at the school. I didn’t know if I would be able to do this, but Debbie told me: “You’re more than qualified.”
After her graduation
After graduating from Bradford College in 2016, a year at a school in Oldham followed, before the position at Carlton Junior and Infant School became available. The role had the potential to lead to a leadership role, although Ifsheen felt daunted by this given she had graduated relatively recently.
However, soon she was given responsibility for leading key stage one and maths as she continued to impress staff with her passion and natural ability.
As Ifsheen continued to help boost attainment levels among her pupils, she was invited to apply for a more senior role at her school.
Following a challenging assessment and interview for the role, she became the school’s deputy head.
Ifsheen said: “I have now been in my current job for three years. Among the highlights of her time there was when we received a visit from Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, an activist taken to hospital in the UK in 2012 after being shot for publically speaking in her home country about girls’ rights to education. Malala is now studying at Oxford University and continues to fight for every girl’s right to go to school.
Malala’s visit meant a lot to me, especially given my own background. She was so inspirational, especially to the girls.
“It’s not work …. it’s doing what I love”
For me, my job is not work, it’s something I love. The headteacher here, Rizwana Mahmood, is amazing. She has encouraged me and given me responsibility and helped me develop as a leader.
I couldn’t be more different from the person I was before I joined Bradford College, when I couldn’t speak in front of one person. I have gone on to giving talks to rooms of 40-50 delegates about teaching maths.”
I love the way that courses at the college are flexible and you can work alongside studying. The tutors are not just supporting you academically but they take a real interest in you and your life. Debbie told me I could go far, and she really meant it.
There is also the support you receive on a one- to-one basis.
My 19-year-old daughter Amirah is now studying for the same foundation degree as I took at Bradford College. She did consider going to do her degree at a university elsewhere but after speaking to me, she decided on Bradford College. She loves it.”
Ifsheen is about to start some masters-level work as part of her maths leadership role, and is hoping to use this to then complete a full Masters in Education with Bradford College.
Do you want to follow Ifsheen’s footsteps?
If you want to be a teacher, whatever your background, there is a wide variety of routes into the profession. You can see visual profiles of routes into teaching on our website.