Meet Claire Young

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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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Do you know an educator that does remarkable things in education?

Meet Claire Young who was interviewed recently by Teacher Toolkit.

Claire is the founder and Director of the UK’s No.1 speaking agency for the education sector School Speakers, who provide talks, workshops and full day activities for schools (primary and secondary), colleges and universities. Claire is also ambassador of Girls Out Loud and she is passionate about young people and enterprise! Claire was a finalist on The Apprentice in 2008. Claire is also a school governor, government advisor, enterprise consultant, speaker, writer and mentor.

Question 1: Who/what inspired you to work with schools / students?

After taking part in The Apprentice I was inundated by schools asking me to go in and speak to their students – particularly the girls. I still remember my first school talk, at Unity College in Blackpool, to year 10 and 11 girls.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and left the school buzzing. To see the impact of such a short session on the students was very rewarding. I vowed to do more and as much as I could around my business commitments.

Claire with Baron Sugar

It grew to such an extent that I started School Speakers, we are the UK’s No.1 speaking agency working with schools, colleges and universities, with over 300 different speakers visiting schools.

I am who I am today due to my home and school role models growing up. I was brought up with the approach that anything was possible with hard work and determination. There were certainly no barriers to success!

My parents both worked and encouraged us from an early age that life was very basic, what you put in is what you get out. To receive any pocket-money I had to do my home jobs, I learnt the value of money and a strong work ethic. I was ironing for money at the age of 9!

I went to fantastic schools. I was taught by nuns at Junior school – they were amazing – and my senior school was  Wakefield Girls’ High School. Our headmistress was an outstanding role model for so many reasons.


Every morning in assembly she told us that we were the best, the brightest and to go out there and succeed. She was a brilliant public speaker and never read from paper. The school believed in us and in turn we believed in ourselves. They installed a sense of self-confidence and courageousness to go out there and grab opportunities. So that’s what I did!

Question 2: When the going gets tough, how do you motivate yourself?

I started speaking in schools in 2008 and started School Speakers in 2010. I’m proud that we have went on to win several awards and receive emails and messages from students years down the line saying thank you. How a speaker visit changed their future pathway.

I’m lucky that I really enjoy what I do, however, when I’m getting tired and frazzled I ‘red card myself’ and take myself away – whether it’s for half an hour peace and quiet with no phone or people, watch a movie, ride my horse, go for a walk. I switch off all electronic devices at 9pm and get a good night’s sleep.

Question 3: What is your no.1 classroom secret (to your success)?

To engage the students from the moment I walk into the door. I make it inclusive (so that everyone is involved), fun, interesting and interactive. I think that learning should be enjoyable, if the students like it they’ll want to do more.

Question 4: What advice would you give to a new teacher?

Plenty of patience, tolerance and a sense of humour! Focus on the bits which you enjoy, strive to continually be the best in your profession and don’t burn out. Achieving a good work life balance is key. Practise good time management and learn to say no – if you can’t do it, you can’t do it.

Claire speaking at a ‘Forward Ladies’ event

Question 5: How do you look after your well-being?

I was a workaholic in my 20s and never switched off. I’ve realised that you need Yin to balance the Yang to make sure your brain and energy levels are up to speed. I have quite strict rules about working at home –

I give 100% focus at work and when home 100% focus to my family. My daughter once asked me if I slept at work and I realised that things needed to change.

I do things which I enjoy and say no to the things which I don’t. I know this sounds simple but so many times people say yes to everything, become stressed and frazzled by doing so. A happy person is a more productive person.

Small things which I do which make me feel better:

I always start my day with a big mug of Yorkshire Tea and try to avoid drinking too much coffee throughout the day. I have a bath and go to bed early. I need at least 6 hours sleep ideally. Try to avoid eating junk and be organised taking snacks to work. I only travel once a week from home. I don’t particularly like commuting and staying in hotels (but as a parent with a small child an early night can be appreciated!)

Contact Claire?

You can contact and follow Claire via her website: and Follow on Twitter: @clairelyoung and @schoolspeakers / Facebook: SchoolSpeakers / Email / Office: 01924 277343

Nominate Someone?

This is a new feature on the Teacher Toolkit blog and we hope to publish one or two teacher profiles every month. We aim to interview educators with 5 simple questions and this gives us an insight into who they are, what they do and what makes them tick!

Do you have a colleague who you would like to nominate to appear in this feature? If so then use this template and then send your response via

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