Learning manager

Bekky Moran Jennings

Bekky is the learning manager (operations) at Historic Royal Palaces and ensures the operational side of learning and engagement runs smoothly across their six sites.

What are your main work activities?

Ensuring the operational side of learning and engagement (school visits, adult learning, under-fives sessions etc.) runs smoothly across all of our palaces. I manage a team of approximately ten staff, plus oversee casual staff and volunteers. Our role includes managing schools’ meet & greet, schools’ bookings and finance, events set-up and duty management, and health, safety and security for all of our learning and engagement visitors.

Tell us about your typical working day.

It’s never typical, which I enjoy. Sometimes it’s “operations whack a mole”(!) as new situations occur, which means it’s never dull. I also spend time managing my team and on forward planning. I work across different sites, both physically and remotely, managing a team of skilled site facilitators and learning assistants.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I work with some lovely colleagues, in some amazing palaces, and of course, I enjoy meeting our visitors. My office is next to some of our teaching and learning spaces and I always leave my office door open, so I get to see and greet the children going past for their sessions. I also get to vicariously take part as I listen in and hear how much fun they’re having! My favourite school session is “playing the king”, which involves a balloon baby Edward VI. The gales of laughter as he’s introduced always make me smile. I think if they’re having fun, the learning comes naturally.

What are the challenges?

Our palaces are amazing, but like any historic site they come with their own challenges when you welcome over a quarter of a million school children a year. Additionally as a charity, all of our funding comes from ticket income and fund raising; it can be tricky for schools to understand why we’re not ‘free’, especially in this time of squeezed budgets for everyone, so the implementation of an access fund has been key to helping with this.

For me personally, it’s managing and supporting a team remotely, we’re not always at the same site, and team meetings are difficult to organise as we’re supporting formal and informal learning programmes all year round so no obvious gaps when we can meet and aren’t busy! We make best use of the technologies offered (conference calls and video conferencing) but there’s nothing like meeting in person.

Briefly describe your career leading up to today. For example did you do a course in this area? Did you switch career?

I have a PGCE, an MA, and the Museums Diploma (AMA), all in the pursuit of a career in learning in museums and galleries, plus countless hours of volunteering. Although I’m a trained teacher, I’ve worked with every audience from under-fives to older people, and everyone in between!
I’ve also done lots of contract work and worked in variety of museums (local authority, independent, university and national), as well as with different collections: classical, rural life, natural history, art history, archaeology, social history and living collections (i.e. zoos), and in different contexts: country houses, palaces, safari parks and ships.

What key skills do you need to do your job?

Knowledge of formal and informal learning; understanding of the National Curriculum; marketing knowledge; commercial and financial knowledge; experiencing of developing and delivering programmes for different audiences; customer service knowledge.

What’s your advice for someone wanting to work in this area?

Persevere! Always look for the next opportunity, where will it take you and what additional experience can you gain – short term contracts, casual work, temp work, and volunteering all give valuable experience. Always “throw your hat in the ring” – you never know where it may lead. Lastly build up your networks; always be professional; keep your LinkedIn profile up to date. Check sector specific job sites/agencies. Don’ be afraid to take a leap of faith into a different sector e.g. theme parks, visitor attractions – you’ll pick up lots of valuable operations experience.

Read more about the Historic Royal Palaces learning programme on their website.

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