Equal Education Partners is built on a commitment to improving educational outcomes and delivering high-quality teaching, and we are proud to have a strong team who ensure that Equal continues to deliver transformational opportunities for both learners and staff across Wales. No one knows more about the dedication of the team to providing impactful developmental opportunities than Carolyn Rahman.
Having co-founded Equal in 2011 alongside her son, Liam, and currently serving as Group Executive Director, Carolyn’s determination to build a committed and enthusiastic team has allowed Equal to continuously grow across the education sector both in Wales and beyond.
Continue reading to hear more about Carolyn’s exciting career journey and her current work at Equal!
Hi Carolyn! Tell us a little bit about your career journey so far!
Good morning! After graduating with a BA in European Languages and Institutions at Leeds University, where I focused on Spanish, French, and Politics, I worked as an Executive Officer for the Civil Service, working with a number of clients in an advisory position, placing people into training and employment across a number of sectors. A few years later, I completed my PGCE course in Modern Foreign Languages at the University of Swansea before starting my teaching career at Ysgol Bryngwyn in Llanelli. During my early years of teaching, I had the opportunity to work at a number of different schools in the area, including at Ysgol Bro Dinefwr in Ffairfach and Glan-y-Mor Comprehensive in Burry Port.
I then had three boys, quite close together in age, and came out of teaching for a period before later heading out to Spain to work for a property developer. I had already spent a year in Mallorca during my undergraduate degree, where I taught English at the Oficial School of languages (La Escuela Oficial de Idiomas) in the capital, Palma, where my joy of teaching began!. I loved being back out in Spain working in the real estate industry. Mostly focusing on the sales side of the property market, a lot of my work involved coordinating between British and Spanish buyers and sellers, applying the translating and interpreting skills I had developed during my undergraduate degree. I later returned to Wales, firstly teaching on a supply basis before securing a post teaching French at Ysgol y Strade in Llanelli and later teaching both French and Spanish at Queen Elizabeth High School in Carmarthen. It was at that point that I decided to set up my own teaching agency!
Could you tell us a little more about the rationale behind establishing Equal?
I felt that there was a need for a teaching agency that genuinely understood education and for an agency that appreciated the value of high quality teaching staff. I was, and I still am, genuinely passionate about connecting high-quality teaching staff with educational institutions. I also felt that my previous experience of running a business had given me the invaluable transferable skills necessary to establish Equal in 2011.
Not only had I already run my own property agency company, but I was also heavily involved in the establishment of a family accountancy firm, working extensively on a range of marketing initiatives as well as many of the day-to-day activities of the business. Having an understanding of what schools often required from their teaching staff,along with the drive to ensure that supply teachers were better respected in the profession, I truly believed that establishing Equal was the right path to take.
What did the early days of Equal look like?
Back in 2011, we were of course a small team, focused on expanding our brand whilst continuing to provide staff with teaching opportunities across the region by partnering with schools to meet their staffing needs. This meant that I was heavily involved in the daily business of the organisation, working on tasks ranging from interviewing and compliance to dealing with audits and allocating employment contracts as well as teaching in the classroom.
Over the years, we have worked hard to build a more expansive team which has allowed me to shift my focus to some of Equal’s broader initiatives, whilst still supporting the day-to-day running of the business.
How do you think your past experiences have shaped the work that you do at Equal today?
Above all, I’ve learnt that if you treat people fairly, you will receive that fairness and respect in return tenfold. When it comes to training and professional development initiatives, supply teachers were very rarely invited to attend school training sessions. This is exactly where the idea for the Equal Academy came from: based on my own experiences, I wanted to ensure that supply teachers were given the same training and professional development opportunities as those on long-term and permanent contracts. I felt, and still feel, that supply or cover teaching staff, should be treated equally and fairly, in the same way as permanent school staff members, and for this reason, I had a strong desire to create a ‘team’ at Equal that is a close-knit unit where each individual is supported, valued and respected. My time working at the Spanish property development firm, as well as at the Civil Service, instilled within me the importance of principles, values, and a strong work ethic which I have consistently applied in my leadership position at Equal.
I also learnt a lot whilst completing the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme delivered by Said Business School at the University of Oxford. From the technicalities involved in growing and expanding a business to the broader teaching on the need for leadership to take calculated risks, whilst looking at the bigger picture. This programme really did enable me to move from largely working in the business to working on the business. As I already mentioned, since we were a smaller team during Equal’s early days, we were all working across the entirety of the firm’s work: from finance to compliance to recruitment, I was deeply involved in the day-to-day running of the business. Coupled with a growth in Equal’s team, the Goldman Sachs programme really encouraged me to look at the broader direction of our work.
Do you ever miss being in the classroom?
I still teach A level Spanish in a Welsh medium comprehensive school, so I have not left the classroom totally. Teaching is undoubtedly one of the best careers to pursue – I can count on one hand how many days I could call ‘a bad day’ during my teaching career. Teaching is thoroughly rewarding; by playing a role in learners’ academic and personal development, you get the opportunity to be a part of shaping the lives of young people, their career paths, as well as their social development. I have built relationships which have shaped me as a person too.
Throughout my career, I’ve really focused on honing my skills and applying those competencies to my work here at Equal. To see young people succeed really does make everything worthwhile! It’s the same type of rewarding feeling you have when working in recruitment. It is always hard to let go of our teaching staff, seeing them moving into more permanent positions as they advance their careers after their time with us really is a testament to their hard work and dedication and it is really satisfying and rewarding to be a part of that!
What are some of the most significant changes that you have seen during your time at Equal?
The breadth and depth of our partnerships work has grown significantly in recent years, to almost having a life and mind of its own. From the various connections that we have formed with universities both inside and outside Wales, to the growth we have witnessed in the size of our internal team focusing on partnerships, I really am proud of and inspired by the team’s dedication across a number of impactful projects with a local as well as a global outreach.
The team really is dedicated to supporting and facilitating the best educational opportunities for learners in Wales with enthusiasm, passion and drive. As we have grown as a company, I am pleased that the ‘team Equal’ ethos lives on in our recruitment team, tutoring team, professional learning team, marketing team and partnerships team and I am very proud of our internal as well as our external ‘team’ members and collaborators’ continued dedication.
What’s the best part of your job here at Equal?
The first thing that comes to mind is the relationships that you build and develop with people over the years. It’s wonderful to still be receiving Christmas cards from some of the teachers that joined us back in Equal’s early years! I am still in touch with many of the first instructors from MIT, who generously gave their time to bring the best STEM education to schools in Wales. It’s also truly amazing to see how their careers have developed and prospered over the last few years.
In fact, a key part of both our own growth here at Equal, as well as the professional growth we hope to be delivering for others, depends upon the relationships we have developed with a wide network of partners and collaborators, which enables us to further develop our recruitment and education initiatives. It is a privilege to work with so many excellent people across a range of initiatives from all walks of life, but with one goal, to be the best they can be to positively impact the lives of young people in Wales.
How do you see the future developing at Equal over the next few years?
I think growth across all of our sectors is going to be key for the future. I would like to see an expansion in our tutoring programmes. We are working on creating new initiatives and partnerships, whilst consolidating existing initiatives and partnerships across Wales and beyond, putting Wales firmly on the global map as a leader in the field of education. I am still committed, however, to our core aims of providing excellent staff to schools in Wales and excellent career opportunities to our teaching team.
I would also like to see the Equal Academy grow in strength with more accredited CPD courses and broader training initiatives. All in all, there are a lot of exciting things to come! At Equal we are a team. It takes a team to bring out the best in us all, and I look forward to moving forward with exciting and impactful opportunities becoming reality!