A week in the life of … Paul Edwards

Paul Edwards is a teacher at Cowley International College in St Helens. Last year, Paul was crowned the Teacher of the Year at the Educate Awards following a number of glowing nominations from colleagues and students.

Educate recently caught up with Paul to find out more about his busy role as a teacher and how he balances his work and personal life.

Daily Routine

I drive to work. I leave home at 7:20am to arrive at school just before 8:00am. Making a strong cup of tea is the first thing I do on arrival each day. I then check my emails before attending a whole staff briefing at 8:25am (three days per week) or attending the Year 9 Mandarin form time (twice per week). Lessons then begin at 8:55am and end at 3:05pm. I am required to teach Mandarin after school classes from 3:15pm – 4:45pm each day.


I have a very varied and interesting timetable. I teach Mandarin to Years 7, 8, 9 and 12. I also teach A-level history and A-level psychology to Year 13.

Each fortnight I teach 30 hours of Mandarin, 4 hours of history and 4 hours of psychology.

My job is most difficult during the months of May and June. There are four national hurdle tests for the Mandarin students in year groups 7-9, the HSK 1 exam for the Year 12 students and three A-level papers for the history and psychology students.

Monday 9 March – Friday 13 March

Last week was a particularly busy one.

On Monday I needed to plan a 50 minute lesson for the MEP. I was delighted to learn that I have been chosen to demonstrate a model Mandarin lesson at the annual Chinese Conference in June 2020. My audience will be mostly Chinese native speakers so this is quite a challenge for me.

On Tuesday I conducted a joint lesson observation of our Mandarin trainee teacher with the PGCE co-ordinator from MMU. This was followed by a meeting to discuss her general progress. I had to leave school during the day to visit my dad in hospital. The doctor called a family meeting and we were given some bad news.

On Wednesday after school I had corporate hospitality at the Liverpool v Athletico Madrid match courtesy of an old friend of mine, Dr Peter Rankin. We first met at The Hillsborough Centre in Liverpool as fellow survivors of the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989. We have both gone on to have successful careers since then.

On Thursday after school I travelled to London to stay with my friends, Val and Dave. We lived and worked in China together from 1991 to 1993. They are both teachers too, Val is now headteacher at Hornchurch High School.

On Friday I attended the Mandarin Excellence Programme teachers meeting at UCL in London. This meeting provided information about the MEP Year 9 national hurdle tests in May 2020 and the Year 10 HSK 3 tests in May 2021. We were also given the disappointing news that the Year 8 China Trip has been cancelled due the COVID-19 virus. It certainly was Friday 13th!

Monday 16 March – Friday 20 March

This week was simply unlike any other.

On Monday I had to balance my work and home life like never before. My stepdaughter and her three children have temporarily moved in with us and my dad’s condition has worsened. I am forced to spend the day going to and from my school to the hospital. When I eventually arrive home at 8:30pm I am informed that Lucas aged 5 had been sent home from school earlier with a sudden and persistent cough.

On Tuesday I go to work as normal but am told that I should be in self-isolation from tomorrow. When I start to feel tired and out of breath, I am sent home for fourteen days. I realise that my self-isolation will mean that I cannot visit my dad in hospital, who doesn’t have long to live. COVID-19 has obviously arrived in St Helens.

Friday 27 March

My symptoms were mild and both Lucas and I quickly recovered. Following a seven-day isolation, I was able to see my dad in hospital before he was transferred to a residential care home which now has a no visitors policy. Like so many others, I have no idea if I had the virus or not.

Speaking about winning the Teacher of the Year Award, Paul said: “I was surprised to be nominated as a finalist and quite shocked to actually win it. I was absolutely delighted to win the award. Whilst my family and friends were very proud of me, I felt that it was my students at Cowley International College that deserved the praise. The ease at which they have mastered the Chinese characters has been a real eye opener. I have spent many Mandarin lessons open mouthed as they read out long paragraphs of characters in fluent Chinese.

“In my long teaching career, teaching Mandarin has been a real highlight. When our school joined the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) in summer 2017 it was a daunting task for me to deliver the Mandarin programme. Thanks to my excellent students, it has led to me winning this major award and indeed gaining new employment at Hangzhou International School, China.”

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