Zahra grew up in in Richmond, South West London, where she attended Orleans Park Secondary School. Upon completion of her GCSE examinations, she left education to become a fulltime member of cabin crew on long haul flights to America with Monarch Airlines.
Based in Brighton, Zahra then moved into banking administration, working for HSBC before moving to Devon with her young family. Following the birth of her two children, and after moving back to Richmond for a short time, Zahra lived and worked in Brisbane, Australia, for two years as part of Virgin Airlines’ Customer Service ground crew team.
Upon her return to Devon, Zahra was offered a position back in the financial services area of the banking sector. Her decision to turn down this opportunity saw her return to the world of education, where she undertook an Access to Education course that saw her gain A Level equivalent qualifications in both History and English Literature after just one year of study.
The successful return to education resulted in Zahra being offered a place at Exeter University to read English Literature. In both her second and third years of study, Zahra was awarded the Dean’s Commendation for Academic Achievement before graduating with a first class honours degree in 2009. A Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) in English and Media followed the next year as Zahra made the decision to become a teacher in a secondary education setting.
In September 2010, Zahra joined Newton Abbot College as a NQT teacher of English. Extra responsibilities followed two years later as Zahra became responsible for driving standards in literacy and oracy, focusing on the quality of students’ spelling and grammar, as well as their ability to speak publicly with improved confidence.
In 2014, Zahra was appointed Team Leader of English and spent the next three years implementing whole and cross College improvement drives. At the same time, she was studying for her National Professional Qualification for Senior Leaders, which prompted her decision to leave Newton Abbot College to take up the position of Director of Learning at The Spires College in Torquay. In her first leadership role, and as part of the Senior Leadership Team, Zahra shared the responsibility for developing college improvement strategies and leading on teaching staff professional development.
An opportunity to join the College’s Assistant Headteacher Team, responsible for Teaching and Learning, Professional Development and Teaching Appraisals, saw Zahra return to Newton Abbot College in September 2019.
“I love being back. Newton Abbot College has the best sense of community and people pulling together. Everyone is friendly and staff genuinely care about each other and their students. I have always wanted to teach in the state system; it is the absolute right of every child, regardless of background, to have access to a decent education. Having the opportunity to return to education later in life and where it has subsequently taken me, shows how important education is and how it has the power to change lives for the better. Just because things aren’t right first time round, doesn’t mean everything is over. I absolutely believe in second chances and I went into teaching to show people that through English, you can show people how to see the world differently and, as a result, allow them to become more tolerant.”
I absolutely believe in second chances and I went into teaching to show people that through English, you can show people how to see the world differently and, as a result, allow them to become more tolerant.Zahra Bhiwandiwalla, Assistant Headteacher