Following the School’s Spring break, UTC Oxfordshire welcomed in (albeit virtually!) their new Principal, Sam Knowlton.
We caught up with Sam and spoke to her about her experience of joining at such a challenging time, and discussed her vision for the school moving forwards.
“I was thrilled when I was told I had been appointed. I was so proud to be the new Principal of UTC Oxfordshire and to be leading it on the next phase of its journey.
“Joining the school during Covid-19 wasn’t really how I expected my start to be. In my head I had imagined the first day, INSET with staff, to be face-to-face with all of the non-verbal cues that we all rely on. Instead, I was in front of a screen, with my slippers on, rattling through a PowerPoint with no clue as to whether the staff were still there!
“There have been advantages; former Principal, Owain Johns and I, were able to have more of a handover than we would have done if life wasn’t virtual and I was able to begin to get to know the staff on a less formal basis.
“I was attracted to the UTC Oxfordshire Principal post as this was an opportunity to combine both education and industry together. I place a high value on education and I think it is one of the greatest gifts we can give our young people. Coupled with the industry focus and links with our business partners, it really enables us to provide industry partners with high-quality youngsters who are determined, excited and well educated in the STEM subjects, where we know there is a deficit in the workforce. In addition to this, UTC Oxfordshire is supported by the Activate Learning Education Trust (ALET) whose values are aligned with my own – transforming lives through learning.
“Throughout my degree studies I had several vacation jobs in manufacturing (plastics, chocolate and pharmaceuticals). All of which raised my curiosity over processes and production. When I graduated university with a post graduate qualification in Applied Oceanography, my intended pathway was within the oil industry. However, I found myself in cellular communications working on algorithms for analogue cell phones and then on the set-up for the digital networks. Again, all process driven, and this satisfied my desire for problem solving but somewhat lacked the social and emotional intelligences which teaching has filled. I came into teaching later than most, specialising in physics.
“My experience of this role so far has been very good. It’s great to have a support mechanism within ALET from an administration perspective but also from the other Principals in the Trust. There is strength in numbers and the group have made me feel very welcome, particularly in this challenging time when the wellbeing of staff, students and their families is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. The Trust has definitely given me a safe and supportive environment to thrive in.
“The next phase for UTC Oxfordshire is to ensure that we become a world-class centre of excellence in science and engineering for students aged 14-19. Our excellent outcomes for the students and the amazing relationships and work we do with, and alongside, our business partners will continue to thrive and become renown throughout the community.
“The next phase of the UTC Oxfordshire story is one of academic and technical excellence, providing our students with the outstanding education, skills, behaviours and attitudes that will ultimately support the work force of the Thames Valley and the world’s leading employers.”