We recently spoke with Cathy Prior, who is Social Impact Programme Manager (Education) at Provident, about her own experiences of school, and what Provident have achieved with School-Home Support over the last five years.
What is your background and how did you get to where you are at Provident?
I didn’t do very well at school and I left home to have my daughter when I was still quite young. We lived in a council flat and struggled to make ends meet as we were living on state benefits. I did manage to get a few temporary jobs as a VDU Operator which basically meant keying information into a computer, I had a typing qualification which helped.
My mum had always worked at Provident and when she saw a permanent job advertised on the board for a VDU Operator she suggested I apply. I got the job! That was over 30 years ago now!
In that time I have held various positions before moving across to the Corporate Office in 2009 to help manage our community investment programme.
I’m very lucky to work for an organisation like Provident as they do look to help people develop in their careers and even though I don’t have much in the way of qualifications, I am very passionate, enthusiastic and hard working and I believe that has helped me to progress to where I am today. That and having a loving supportive family to encourage me along the way!
What was school like for you?
I loved being at primary school but after that I struggled with my mental health and anxiety and therefore found it really hard to concentrate at school. In those days such issues were not as easy to talk about as they are now. I also hated maths and would avoid going to those lessons at all.
In the end I just about stopped going to school altogether and had no idea what I wanted to do when I left. I stayed on to retake some of my exams but didn’t do any better the second time around and then enrolled into college but my daughter came along before I finished the course!
Describe your current role at Provident
My role is Social Impact Programme Manager and I manage our education programme. That means working closely with our education partners such as National Literacy Trust, National Numeracy and School-Home Support to support activities that help people to develop skills such as literacy and numeracy as well as providing insights into the world of work to raise aspirations and give them a chance of a brighter financial future that sees them included in society.
I love my role because I get to meet lots of different people from all walks of life and I get to see first-hand how the programmes we support are helping in our communities.
What attracted Provident to select School-Home Support as a charity partner?
The work we do with all our partners is very impactful and we hear some great stories of how the programmes we support are helping to change people’s lives in the hearts of the communities we serve. Through School-Home Support we are able to reach the most vulnerable families and with support from the Practitioners, work with the whole family unit to help them overcome any issues which might be stopping young people from getting to school in the first place and therefore ensure that they also have a chance to be included in these activities.
On a personal level, what is it about working with School-Home Support that resonates with you personally?
For me, it’s lived experience. I remember all the issues I had to deal with as a young mum struggling to get by. These were the days before we had mobile phones and I remember one time in particular when my daughter wasn’t so well and I didn’t even have 10p to use the public phone so I could ring my mum for advice. We were in a lot of debt and sometimes we couldn’t afford food. At the time it felt like there was no way out of it and my mental health went from bad to worse. However, I was lucky to have the support of my parents and I know that my life could have ended up very differently if it hadn’t been for that.
Some of the families School-Home Support work with are not that lucky and have no one else to turn to and that’s where the wonderful Practitioners come in. It’s reassuring to know that these families are able to access that help and support.
How has working with School-Home Support helped Provident to achieve its CSR goals?
We want to help put people on a path to a better everyday life and this partnership shows that we are absolutely doing that. As well as providing funding to support the work of School-Home Support in the communities we serve, we are able to provide volunteers for activities such as helping parents with CV writing and interview skills and also our colleagues take part in the annual Christmas gift giving appeal and World Book Day campaigns.
What are the stand out moments of working with School-Home Support?
I have to say there are many of these and every time I hear or read anything about a young person or a family that School-Home Support has supported, it just makes me feel so proud to be associated with you.
The highlights have to be when I have actually been able to hear from the young people in person about how far they have come and what they have been able to achieve. These young people are very resilient and an inspiration to us all and will hopefully go on to have brilliant futures ahead of them.
What advice would you give to young people that School-Home Support works with about preparing for their first job?
I would say to work hard at school to do your very best. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get the best grades or you don’t know what you want to do yet as long as you try. Employers want to see that you are a hard worker and have a passion and enthusiasm to learn and develop. Also I would say just be yourself and be proud of who you are.