Paula has been part of the team at the JCB Academy since its earliest days in 2010. Since then she has progressed from House Team Leader to gaining qualified teacher status to becoming a member of the Senior Management Team with responsibility for the oversight and scrutiny of the technical curriculum at Key Stage 5.
Rapid rates of progress are not new to Paula. Behind her there is a successful commercial background as a professional engineer with the major multinational Procter & Gamble which involved assignments in countries as far afield as the UK, Italy, Poland, Germany and the USA. Prior to joining the JCB Academy, she ran her own consultancy and counted Government departments amongst her clients. It was only a chance encounter that would set her on a different path.
"My late father was a long time JCB employee and lived in the area. We were driving one afternoon when I notice the old mill being renovated for this new UTC. When I came back I looked into it more. I found the whole concept of a UTC just amazing. I had been frustrated with the quality of graduates I could hire who came out of University well qualified academically but not much use to me as they didn’t have the value adding skills which would have enabled me immediately to put them to work."
It wasn’t only her experience of graduates which made Paula believe in the UTC concept:
"At school I started A levels but when I said I wanted to be an engineer my Head of Year laughed. But here was going to be the antitheses of what I’d experienced and I thought that is going to be fantastic, I’ll get in touch and see if I can volunteer."
With Paula’s qualifications and commercial background it is no surprise that the JCB Academy saw more than a potential volunteer.
"When I approached them they said why you don’t apply to work here. I then remembered something we used to talk about when I worked for Procter & Gamble; we would call it our ‘stars.’ This means what you love so much about your job that it makes you look heavenwards and you would do it for free and mine was coaching and developing people. In my business career I’d had many hard measures which included not only the expected ones linked to production targets and costs but also the number of people I had trained and developed and had then been promoted."
It was this commitment to developing people that drew Paula to the role as House Team Leader and teacher at Key Stage 4 and 5. It was at the start of her second year, that she decided to gain qualified teacher status. She explained the reasons behind her decision:
"There had not been any pressure from the JCB Academy to do this; in fact they asked if I was taking too much on. But for my own professional pride I thought I can’t do this unless I become qualified as a teacher and be able to represent myself and the academy to parents and students and to be able to say I do know what I am doing here."
Following a Graduate Teacher Programme with the University of Wolverhampton she qualified in 2012. This was followed by a successful year as a newly qualified teacher and at the time of the interview, she had completed her first year as a recently qualified teacher. Paula still finds that her strongest teaching skill is her ability to draw on her commercial background.
"I often survey the students at the end of lessons and ask them what they liked, what they didn’t like, what I should do less of, what I should do more of and every year group say to me what makes it work Miss is that you can give real examples of where that knowledge has helped you to get results. It’s those anecdotes which I think really bring it to life for the students. They find it reassuring that I come from the business world and that I’m genuinely preparing them for the same world."
When asked if she would have still have become a teacher if she had not been at the JCB Academy she had this to say:
"I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have come into teaching if the JCB Academy had not been in existence. It is the whole ethos here – we have standards that we fight to maintain – the student’s experience is not like a mainstream school it is like a stepping stone between school and work – it’s not just the curriculum it is the whole ethos which I think is important. I saw some very good schools on my teaching practice but that is not the environment for me, this is where I want to be."