Flexibility was key when Harriet Millar-Mills was searching for a suitable venue to complete her teacher training course, as she needed a timetable that could work around her performances and training as an England rugby player.
Harriet studied Sports Technology at Loughborough University, but her future career ambition was always to become a maths teacher. After talking through some of the issues with Altius staff that she felt may cause problems, they agreed to ensure that the work she needed to do for the course would be woven around her rugby commitments.
The School Centred Initial Teaching Training (SCITT) course offered by the Altius Alliance appeared to be the perfect choice. By June 2016, not only had Harriet passed the course, she was also was named Women's Premiership Players' Player of the Season during a ceremony in London, which placed the Women's Premiership centre stage for the first time.
Enthusiasm for the game began 17 years ago when – aged just eight – Harriet joined brother, Elliot, at Manchester Rugby Club. She continued to play with the boys until she transferred to an all-girls team in Chester aged 12.
Harriet was selected to play for England in 2011 and first hit the headlines in the 2013 Six Nations tournament when lining up against her sister, Bridget, who was then in the Scotland squad.
When asked what she enjoyed most about rugby Harriet told us:
“It’s a really fun team game with the bonus that all my team mates are good friends.
“Of course I take it seriously”, she continued, “but I play rugby just because I enjoy it. It’s all about good training and I’ve certainly had some great coaches.”
Harriet strongly supports the playing of rugby in schools, as long as it’s taught well.
“If you’re coached correctly injuries are not an issue”, she says. “Problems arise when children tackle scared because the techniques are not managed.”
Now in her final term at Altius, Harriet has a job lined up for September at Tudor Hall School in Banbury.
“It’s important that I do both well. I’ve loved the flexibility my training at Altius gave me. My teachers and mentors were excellent, especially in terms of timetabling the course around my training – it was tough but manageable.
“Maths is my main passion; I find teaching so rewarding and it feels good to make a difference. There are lots of challenges in the classroom, especially with an inherent fear of maths for some, but it’s all about problem solving through the various topics and instilling children with the confidence to just do it!
“Cheadle Hulme High is a really good school; maths is presented to pupils in such a positive way and, importantly, there is a consistency year on year with the teaching of the subject.
"I was lucky enough to have great teachers at school. For me that’s what it’s all about, having a good teacher to instil in the next generation a passion for their subject.”
Gill Theobold, Head of Teaching School at CHHS which leads the Altius Alliance, says: “Our aim is to recruit talented individuals to join the initial teacher training programme in order to enable the lives of pupils to be enhanced beyond their academic learning.
“No two teacher trainees are alike and we pride ourselves on building flexibility into their course to accommodate the lifestyle and prior knowledge of each individual as much as possible. We understood from the outset how important Harriet’s rugby training meant to her success as an England player and so adapted the course around her schedule.
Harriet was an excellent student and we were all thrilled when she not only completed the course with an offer of a job starting in September, but was also named Women's Premiership Players' Player – a great reward for all her hard work.”
"I’ve loved the flexibility my training at Altius gave me. My teachers and mentors were excellent, especially in terms of timetabling the course around my training – it was tough but manageable."