Career story: Leanne Sunter

Leanne Sunter from the Department for Education (DfE)

Leanne Sunter is the Strategic Financial Analysis Team Lead at the Department for Education. Leanne is a Grade 7 and a member of the Government Operational Research Service (GORS)

When did you join the Civil Service and what was your job?

I joined the Civil Service in 2008 as a Scientific Officer, working for Jobcentre Plus (JCP) within DWP. My first role involved producing a weekly dashboard for the Chief Operating Officer on various metrics of JCP performance during the recession. I quickly developed a wide range of contacts from across the Department and enjoyed the fast-paced nature of the work and the regular shifts in focus to ensure that JCP was operating as efficiently as possible.

Whilst at DWP I led on a number of other projects and using the coding skills I developed there saved around £50m a year by deploying operational staff more efficiently as well as working as part of a team of ORs to implement a room booking system that was so popular it was launched across a number of buildings.

What do you do in your current role and when did you move into this? What inspired you to move into the role?

I moved to my current role in DfE in January 2019, after almost 8 years in forecasting and modelling funding formulae for schools and high needs pupils. I was ready for a new challenge and relished the opportunity to gain some experience in a new area. In my new role, I take a much wider view of funding across the whole of DfE and support Strategic Finance with Spending Review work, looking at the bigger picture and being involved in the (sometimes difficult) trade-offs between areas within the Department.

This is a big contrast from my previous role where I knew lots of detail about a few policy areas but I really enjoy being able to use my existing knowledge and learn new things in my new post.

What do you enjoy about your role?

At the moment I’m really enjoying being able to support, nurture and develop my team members. Seeing them gaining confidence and skills and autonomy is really rewarding and when we deliver as a team and help to ensure evidence is at the heart of our decision making process I feel like we’ve done a great job.

What are you proud of about yourself or your role or department?

I am really proud of managing and leading a team of different professions across 3 different sites on a part-time basis and that I led on one of the biggest reforms to school funding in recent years as a part-time worker. DfE is really flexible and supportive of different working patterns which enables me to work from home and maintain a good work-life balance.

If someone was looking to work in your area, what advice would you give them? What skills do you think they need?

You will need:

  • a willingness to learn and develop your knowledge and skills
  • to be able to communicate difficult concepts in simple ways
  • to be able to break down complex problems into achievable tasks
  • to be able to provide the answer to someone’s question – even if they don’t know what that question is, or it’s not the question they asked