Head of UK Sales, Emma Cork, discusses how her history with special needs and vulnerable children has shaped her career.

In my years in Educational sales I have always taken a great interest in how special needs and vulnerable children’s care has progressed, and I have always found myself gravitating towards this area of educational support. I have visited many Pupil Referral Units, Emotional Behavioural Disorder schools, The National Foster Care Agency and most recently some wonderful Virtual Heads within Local Authorities who are responsible for Looked After Children (LAC).

My initial foray into this world was when I was first employed as an educational Sales Representative, covering South London and selling the first low level/high interest scheme of work, Wellington Square.

My first school visit was to an EBD school in South Norwood. It was certainly unforgettable. I sold the scheme of work and was invited to come back so I could see it being implemented in the classroom.

I sat down at the back of the class and everything was going swimmingly until a pupil – let’s call her Lola – started to eye me up. Lola, who was a very imposing character stood up and started to announce to her new friend (me) that she had caught the teacher in the broom cupboard with the caretaker and that they were getting up to no good (this is the polite version). An embarrassed silence descended on us and Lola was asked to leave the classroom, which she eventually did shouting “Miss loves the caretaker!” The aftermath was all very British. I was asked what I thought of the lesson but not once was the Lola mentioned. I knew then that I was going to love this job!

The second example was very different and certainly educated me in my views on vulnerable pupils.

I was again at an EBD school selling the trusted Wellington Square.  I was asked by the Head to come into the room where she was interviewing a pupil with his mother. I felt awkward and said that I was perfectly happy to wait somewhere else but she was insistent.

The interview itself was a shock, partly because I had a son at the same age. The pupil was asked to repeat the schools rules; ‘no smoking, no spitting, no swearing, no throwing chairs, no knives’. The mother looked forlorn and started to cry. The meeting was shut down quickly and they both went on their way.

It was later explained to me that the child had received an abusive upbringing, and was being put in to care once more. The school had helped as much as they could but were at the limit to what they could do. I knew that I would like to help where I could.

I have never ceased to be amazed at the brilliant people who do these jobs. They truly care. When I attended the NAVASH conference for Virtual Heads. I happened to hear a conversation between what I could only presume was a father and daughter, such was the level of enthusiasm and joy when he heard that she had got the job that she had so desperately wanted. Shouting “you have made my day!”, with tears of emotion streaming down his face. I congratulated him on his happiness and he explained to me that this was one of his LAC children who had been in seven foster homes and finally landed herself the dream job that she had tried so hard to get.

My experience of working in Educational Sales has taught me that no two children are the same but giving every child the right tools to succeed has been nothing but rewarding.