Last updated: 01.03.22

Celebrating Women's Success on International Women's Day

Debbie Crawford, HOS Learning Central, Central Bedfordshire Council

How did you start your career?

My career originated in a support role in personnel. My brother had a difficult childhood because he had a learning disability so when I had my son, I took the opportunity to study at University - Child Development and inclusion. This led me to work in a behaviour unit in a school to develop my skills and at this point I achieved a job working in the local authority.

My role was to develop others to be able to provide good support and inclusion for young people. This led to me qualifying as an adult teacher and then progressing into a role that led me to developing whole children's workforce.

Initial funding from Children's Workforce Development Council enabled me to provide lots of projects in support of staff development. I then progressed into management of teams of workforce development staff and formed an assessment centre within the council, delivering qualifications and then apprenticeships when they were launched.

Who is your role model?

I guess I have many role models but those that have inspired me the most are those who were there in my early career, teachers that I worked with who really went the extra mile for young people. I always aspired to give everyone a chance as an outcome of their commitment

What would you say your biggest achievements are within your career to date?

In a career that has spanned over 40 years, it is often the little wins that have driven me to keep going. The young deaf boy who was excluded from school because nobody appreciated he couldn't hear and as a result, responded badly to his peers when they bullied and challenged him. The young girl who was a looked after child and did a traineeship with us. She had blue hair and more piercings than I could count and every other word was an expletive, who went on to achieve at all levels and trained as a teacher. The blue hair and piercings all naturally seemed to disappear as she engaged in her learning though they were never an issue or a barrier to us, they were definitely a barrier to how she was perceived by others.

Developing a qualification that supported the workforce to understand early help that ended up being CACHE accredited. The setting up of an excellent Assessment Centre delivering qualifications and apprenticeships but most of all, seeing the changes in people when they have learned and put into practice the learning, and it has had a really positive impact on them and their area of work. Not all down to me but an outcome of a great team of people who support me to deliver on great outcomes.

Working across partners to achieve great collective outcomes, such as the SEND eLearning produced with Virtual College which was a great outcome and has transformed the way people interpret and understand SEND in Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes. So lots to be proud but always with a great support from my team and the networks around me.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

The biggest challenge for me was that as a single mum, on my own with my son from the age of 8, and not willing to be dependant upon others, I was driven to achieve, work hard and climb the career ladder so that I could give him the best possible opportunities and experiences in his childhood. It required lots of sacrifices but was really worth all my efforts to see him doing so well and I am proud of him but also of my achievements as they have also had a really positive on him and his career.

What advice would you give to women starting their career in 2022?

Work through your ideas about future. Do a job because it is something that you are interested in and will enjoy - not because it pays well - money is important but you are working a number of years in your life so make sure you enjoy it. Remember that work and life are both important - make sure you get the best of both.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don't be driven, be the driver..... You are your today, tomorrow and future so be the best you can be every day and make choices that fit with you and your life.


Fun fact about yourself?


I recently got a puppy, she is adorable but I had forgotten just how hard the teenage years are for a child and it’s just the same with a puppy.....Hard work. She does reward me every day with her love and company and in this more hybrid flexible world it is great to have her around.