With over 100 staff on its books, a Port Talbot based agency is looking to expand its important role helping the education system cope with the pandemic.

B.E.S.T (Bespoke Education Service Team), set up by former teacher Stephanie Wood-Gilbert has grown rapidly, providing cover for teaching assistants and teachers to local schools, and offering study support and tutoring to individuals and groups.

After being established in 2016, the business received a £500 Business Support Grant from Tata Steel subsidiary UKSE and Neath and Port Talbot County Borough Council; the money was put towards setting up its website. In 2018 it took the Neath and Port Talbot Best New Business Award.

“There is enormous demand for teaching assistants and other education support in the County, and nearby areas, and we are delighted to be able to fulfil this demand. We support education and provide employment for local people at the same time,” she said.

“We emphasise the quality of the people we supply and this is confirmed by the good feedback we receive. Many of our people are taken on full-time by the schools and this shows we are going about things in the right way.”

Run by a team of four from the Sandfields Business Centre, B.E.S.T has doubled in growth and turnover in the last year, and is aiming for further growth as the education world tries to adjust to the changes imposed by Covid 19.

Stephanie, a former Business and Economics teacher, is delighted with the progress made.

Working as a teaching assistant, she says, is very rewarding and stimulating and she encourages more people to come forward for the role. “As teachers within the office ourselves and knowing what we wanted from teaching assistants in our classes, we believe the position is very much about having the right personality and the right attitude to work with children.

“We are good at making people relaxed when they come to see us to be assessed as candidates. We have a very good record in terms of picking the right people for the right role, and supporting them as they develop, and we are very proud of this.”

An important part of B.E.S.T’s success has been taking on board feedback from its customers. “We believe this is vital and approach this in a positive and constructive manner,” she added.

Glyn Thomas, UKSE Manager in Wales said he was very pleased that BEST was thriving and had become an important part of education in the area. “As in all parts of our daily lives, education is trying to come to terms with the changes created by the pandemic.

“Young people’s education has been hugely affected, but it is comforting to know that B.E.S.T is supporting the schools as they restart after months of disruption, providing skilled and motivated staff. We are proud to have helped, working through our Community Support Programme with Neath and Port Talbot County Borough Council, and wish the business every success in the future.”

Sian Wyndham, New Business Support Mentor at Neath and Port Talbot Council, added:” “The Council’s Economic Development team has supported BEST since its inception in April 2016 and is extremely proud to see the business go from strength to strength. We hope that the UKSE grant will help the business to continue to thrive and we wish Steph and her team all the very best for the future.

“We are pleased that we can continue to work in partnership with UKSE by helping new and existing businesses grow in this challenging economic climate and urge any business needing support to get in touch”

@Work Communications