Here in our school we have excellent staff who go above and beyond to create a learning culture fit for our students. Our staff truly believe in our vision and values and there is a real sense of community spirit within our school. Meet some of our staff:
Dr L McGowan
I spent my entire childhood absorbed in music and started to learn to play the piano from the age of 6. I completed my education at an all-girls' school in South East London and then went on to study music at Goldsmiths' College, part of the University of London. I knew very quickly that I wanted to be a teacher and stayed on for an extra year after my music degree to complete my postgraduate teaching certificate. I have been teaching ever since, specialising in music, drama and the performing arts. I studied for a Master’s degree in Business Management at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent and a Postgraduate Diploma in Catholic School Leadership at St. Mary's University in Twickenham. Studying and research have been just as much a passion of mine as music and teaching have been, and both are central to my life and my work. I have recently been awarded a doctorate in education for my thesis on Catholic school and academy leadership.
I came to the Convent because I felt a calling to come here. I cannot now imagine leading any other school. This is my vocation in serving our school community, and its wonderful students and inspirational staff. My work brings me the greatest joy and nothing makes me happier than seeing my girls flourish in becoming who they are called to be. Our girls are the next generation of strong, well educated, well-read, confident, articulate, determined and important young women of the future. Our girls will go out and change the world and they will do so with fire in their spirits and kindness in their hearts.
Dr L Bonelli
I was born and studied in Italy, where I obtained my PhD in Linguistics. Over the course of a long career I have had the opportunity to lead on the local implementation of national initiatives, such as the KS3 Dissemination and Development Programme, secured funding to undertake joint projects with schools in Germany and South Africa (I was there for the final of the football World Cup in 2010!) and have been on the editorial board of a government publication. I am passionate about research, which gained me the status of Chartered London Teacher and through which I was awarded the Fellowship of the College of Teachers by Professional Record.
More recently I have led reviews of other schools, especially, but not only, within DOWAT, the Multi Academy Trust to which the Convent belongs.
Ms C Paisley
My childhood was spent in the NW10 area, where I attended Furness Primary School and the Convent of Jesus and Mary. I have some fond memories of my time there, albeit in a very different period.
At school, my love of the humanities was evident and, at university level, I pursued this discipline when studying at City University for a BSc in Sociology/ Psychology. I continue to love these subject areas and my knowledge and research continue to be very much centred there.
After spending some time working in the Civil Service with the DHSS, I decided I wanted to work in the Probation services and so began a role there visiting and working with people who had been sent to prison, with a particular focus on those who had no family or friends. This meant visiting prisons around the country. Although a fulfilling and, at times, eye-opening experience, after a few years I decided not to continue on this career path.
I completed a PGCE at Goldsmiths University, as I felt I could have a role in teaching, working to make a real difference in children’s lives. I have always felt drawn to inclusion and behaviour within education and this is the area I chose to focus on during my teaching career. I love working with the girls at The Convent and the idea that I can make a difference, no matter how small.
Mrs A Sylvester-Charles
Lay Chaplain and Teacher of RE
I am the School’s Lay Chaplain and have been in this role for four years. This seemed a natural position for me, as it fulfilled my wanting to share my faith with others, the pastoral care and the emotional and spiritual well-being of students and staff.
My secondary education paved the way to my love of learning, which began as a student at the Covent, and I am so grateful for the education I received and the friends I made. I studied Sociology and Social Administration at the University of Surrey; Catholic Certificate of Religious Studies (CCRS), PGCE in Social Studies and the Humanities, as well as a MA in Educational Leadership from the Institute of Education. I have 28 years’ teaching experience across different educational settings in London. I have been a Head of Year in a mixed comprehensive school, as well as a member of the SLT in a Pupil Referral Unit. All of these experiences have given me an understanding of young people and behaviour management, allowing me to develop a listening ear and have compassion for others. I joined the Convent (again) in Sept 2004, as I wanted to teach in a Catholic School and to be part of the foundation of this school’s ethos and identity.
I believe that the Convent is a community and I am delighted to be part of this. The staff and student look after one another and our girls are very special. There is a sisterhood amongst the girls and I am proud to be part of the team that encourages them to achieve to their best abilities.
Ms M Di Lullo
Head of English and Director of Pedagogy
I studied English Literature at University College Dublin, where I achieved a BA in English Literature and Language, and an MA in Old and Middle Literature. I have been a teacher for more than 15 years and have taught in three comprehensive schools in London, with most of my teaching career at the Convent.
I frequently mark for the English Language GCSE paper and have recently completed a two-year temporary role involving support for professional development and internal reviews of our secondary DOWAT member schools.
At present I am the Lead for Teaching and Learning Pedagogy and have been Subject Lead of the English Department for 8 years.
Mr J James
Director of Middle School
Born and raised in Plymouth, Devon, sport was my thing: you name it, I did it. PE teaching was therefore a natural vocation for me and something I was born to do. I moved to London in 2010 and have never looked back. Since being here I have worked for the security team at the London 2012 Olympics and at various pubs and clubs as a doorman, as well as in the more delicate profession of blind making, before finally breaking into education as a teaching assistant at Cardinal Pole in Hackney. I was then recommended for a job at CJM in 2012 and 8 years later I am proud to be the Director of the Middle School here.
My job is a huge part of my life and I am so grateful to be able to do something I love; I work hard, but also play hard, a typical PE teacher some would say! Outside work, over the last few years, I have become a qualified skydiver, run 7 marathons, including 2 ultra-marathons of 35 and 50miles, and completed a full length Ironman, this being my greatest physical achievement.
Away from sport I am currently studying for an MA in Catholic School Leadership and am entering into my final year, and the daunting dissertation. I also love to travel and over the last few years have been all over the world, with my most recent adventure being to Colombia – a stunningly beautiful country. Travelling has made me appreciate the planet a lot more and I am very conscious of my role in helping the environment recover so that our future generation can enjoy its beauty. Because of this, I decided at the start of this year to only eat plant-based foods and feel so much better for it! I feel truly blessed to work at CJM and would encourage anybody who wants a high quality and well-rounded education for their child to send them here where they will excel.
Mrs S Aninakwa
Head of History
I grew up in NW10 and went to school at Wykeham Primary in Neasden. I loved History in school, and was inspired by the lives of ordinary people who did extraordinary things and struggled for change and justice. I graduated from the University of Sussex with BA in History and American Studies. As part of my degree, I studied abroad in at the illustrious Spelman College in Atlanta, USA. I fell in love with History even more and gained a deep appreciation for the importance of history and an understanding of the past, as well as its role in the present and in creating a better future. After graduating from Sussex, I worked as an intern at the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think tank, as a Research assistant. I also had the privilege of being invited to global youth summits in Senegal and Libya, where I worked with young people from around the world exploring and learning about issues like education and international development.
For a few years I worked in the corporate world, but felt very unfulfilled. I knew I loved History and young people, and, after volunteering as a learning mentor, I felt drawn to teaching. I completed my PGCE in History Education from the Institute of Education in 2010.
Becoming a teacher is definitely best career decision I have ever made! I truly love teaching History in our Convent Community. The girls are genuinely incredible and a joy to teach! Our History department was recently awarded a Gold Quality Mark award from the Historical Association. We are proud of our unique curriculum culture which puts diverse histories and social justice at the focal point of learning; our curriculum is empowering and engaging.
I have a MA in History Education from UCL and I hope to start a PhD soon to researching the role of Catholic Education in creating anti-racist cultures in schools.
Ms E Burgess
Head of Performing Arts
Born and raised in a little village on the outskirts of Hull, I was a lover of performing from a young age. From putting on plays and concerts with my brother and sister in the living room for my parents, to banging the chime bars in the primary school concerts, my willingness to have a go with gusto was evident! We were blessed to have a teacher, Mrs Ogilvie, who played the piano and wrote songs for us to sing and play in at concerts. I played the piano myself for some of these concerts and led the other musicians (sadly I gave piano up at the age of 12 – a huge regret!). Landing the lead role in our production of ‘Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ was the next bout of encouragement I had from my teachers. I loved working as part of a team to build something from a script-read through to the final show. It was thrilling and really gave me a taste for this process.
Secondary school allowed me to explore other subjects in more depth and I developed a love for English and History, but the lure of performing and creating was too strong; so I began my post 16 studies of the Performing Arts. I embarked on an Acting degree and, after graduation, I went to work in a school as a Cover Supervisor. This particular school had no Drama Department (a travesty!) and they had never had a school production! I set up a Drama Club and put on the first musical that the school had ever seen. This was my calling. Working with young people and seeing them create and thrive and learn, all with passion and pizzazz…there is nothing quite like it!
I gained my teaching qualification at a Catholic secondary school in Hull, and from there worked at another school for a further few years. At this point I decided I needed a change, so I took a sabbatical and travelled around South East Asia. It was such fun, so beautiful and exciting, but I lacked purpose. Where was the meaning in my day whilst I was laying on a beach? I missed the creativity and yearned for the chance to work again with young people and see their creative minds grow and develop. So I decided to move to London. And I have been here ever since, at this wonderful school where the students and staff over the years have taught me so much about culture, creativity and life! They continue to do so in their own unique ways, and I consider myself very lucky to be a part of such a special place; after all, I had such fantastic teachers growing up that I have seen how magical a great education can be.
Mr B Duggan
Head of Year 8, Head of Geography, Head of St Katherine House
Having graduated from secondary school in Ireland, I went to study Marketing at the Institute of Technology. This led me into the business world, where I gained valuable experience working for a multinational company; however, all along I had the calling back to education. I had always thought about being a teacher, but never thought of myself doing it. The calling became irresistible and, despite having progressed to a well-paid and responsible position I decided teaching was for me.
Initially, I took two years to travel the world. Many adventures followed, from working on a yacht sailing the Australian coast, selling accidental death insurance(!) and eating strange and wonderful food, to meeting people of every background and lifestyle.
I returned to Ireland, where I studied an undergraduate in Geography and History, followed by a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (Geography and History). I had the great opportunity to return and teach in my own school and it was amazing to see some of my own teachers as colleagues and peers. Following the economic downturn of 2008 I moved to London, where I quickly realized having worked at a Catholic school that they really do offer the best holistic approach to educating young people today.
I was lucky to see that the Convent of Jesus and Mary needed a Head of Geography and I started teaching at the school in 2016. Today I am currently completing a Masters in Catholic School Leadership.
Dr H Patel
Teacher of Science / Eco and Healthy Schools Coordinator
I am a local girl who grew up in Wembley, and I attended Kings College, London to study a BSc (Hons) in Biotechnology. This made me realise that I had a passion for Molecular Biology and later was awarded a PhD in gene cloning from the pioneering Biotechnology Unit at Leeds University.
I continued my research passion by completing my first Research Fellow at University of Texas, USA, which then spring-boarded me to work for the Medical Research Council UK, at the Clinical Research Centre for the Northwick Park Hospital and, later, at University College London as senior Research Fellow. I thoroughly enjoyed my time working on gene regulation in Paediatric Idiopathic Juvenile Chronic Arthritis.
I took a career break to raise my children and then later, in my mid-40s, I was selected on the Gordon Brown initiative of the six-month Accelerated Route to Qualified Teacher Status [ARQTS] at the Institute of Education. I started at the Convent in 2010 and feel that the girls here are very special and have worked very hard with me over the past 10 years, being awarded numerous prizes for the school by collaboration with industry outreach programmes, such as EDF Energy and STEM club Ambassadors running the lights off campaign, Stand-By off Friday both campaigns securing first prizes and allowing the girls to visit Nuclear Power Station Dungeness. The strong ongoing collaboration with Linnean Society has secured many first prizes including, in 2020, first prize of the Partner award. The Stem Industrial Cadets have gained 2019 bronze award for air pollution project. Working with my fabulous Youth Travel Ambassadors (YTA) we have secured the Gold STARS Award - Sustainable Travel: Active, Responsible, Safe - by Transport for London, Brent Council and healthy schools London run by the Mayor of London.
The YTA ran a successful “this girl can” campaign to ride bikes in collaboration with Sutrans Bike IT project. Click here for the video. The YTA and I have showcased how to improve health and wellbeing by campaigning for walking, cycling, reducing air pollution and removing plastic usage in school. All our contribution and hard work over the past 3 years has been recognised and been awarded the 2020 higher award by Brent council. During the hot summer I wrote a Grant proposal approved by DOWAT- to install three water filling stations around the school to keep the girls hydrated. Working closely with the Linnean society – environmental impact on biodiversity and evolution – project Winners of 2016-2020.
Working closely with the sixth formers we have run a successful MEDICAL SOCIETY [MEDSOC] and invited scientists from the Royal Veterinary Society, Linnean Society and various University academic departments to hold lunchtime sessions to inform and educate year 11 -13 outside the classroom. I feel privileged to be working alongside our amazing girls who will be the pioneers of the future and will change the world.
Ms C Juerakhan
Head of Sociology
I have been a teacher for 22 years, 18 of which have been at the Convent. As a late ‘bloomer’, I came into teaching from a career in the fashion and beauty industry, working with well-known brands. Even though I enjoyed my career, I did not find it fulfilling and felt I was always looking for my ‘niche’. Both my mum and elder sister were teachers and, at the end of their working days, they always had so much to discuss and share; my contribution was minimal and, as time went on, I realised I too wanted to share my day having fought the family ‘calling’! I am now in the privileged position of not only gaining so much, but also had giving back, and, to me, this is what teaching encapsulates.
I went to university and completed a degree in Psychology. In the same year, I became a mum, and this really focussed me. I decided to study for a PGCE in Humanities, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Since becoming a teacher I can honestly say I have found my calling. I have endeavoured to grow in field by being part of outside mentoring organisations, and was a governor of a primary school. The Convent girls are so special. I have taught in other schools, but they really do not compare. Our students keep us going with their energy, determination and humour. Teaching is a vocation and I am so glad I did not ignore the ‘calling’. When I experience those ‘light bulb’ moments with our girls, it is indeed everything.
Mrs P Mahajani
Head of Psychology
I was born and educated in India, where gained a M.Phil. and Masters in Sociology. My first degree was in Psychology, Sociology, and Political Science. I came to UK in 2003 to study business and obtained Masters of Business Administration degree from Hertfordshire University and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) Greenwich University.
I have been a teacher for more than 14 years and I have an extensive experience in delivering and managing a diverse range of courses in multicultural environment(s) to a range of academic and diverse student groups and organisations; for example, A level Psychology and Sociology, and vocational courses such as BTEC Introductory or National Diploma and Fist Diploma/Certificate/ Tech Awards in Health and Social Care or Access to Nursing. I have also been involved in teaching 19 plus courses, such Mental Health and Foundation Degree at New Buckinghamshire university.
Research is my favourite subject and I have completed three academic dissertations as a student. As a student of Psychology and Sociology I was always keen explore human behaviours and social relationships and hence resulting in her first study on “dual roles” of women in society. It was interesting to know how women maintained their two identities: as mothers and as teachers. This investigation inspired me to conduct a study on identity and social mobility. I was keen to understand the relationship between social mobility in class and caste and how it could lead to identity crisis in the upper or ruling class. My dissertation was subsequently published as book, one that has thought-provoking insight into the journey of self-discovery and identity of migrants in the modern world.
Ms C Malsher
Research School Administrator and Librarian
After enjoying theology in Sixth Form, I followed it up with a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Heythrop College, University of London. Many of the academics and my fellow students were Jesuits, very scholarly, and the reading lists we were expected to consume for each assignment were frequently as long as my finished essays. As a result, libraries became my second home and, after 3 years as an undergraduate, I realised that was where I wanted to stay. I immediately found an entry-level library job at Senate House Library and studied for a Masters in Information Studies while I worked.
Eventually I moved on to the library at Lincoln’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court. I enjoyed the challenge of learning all about case law, statutes and Government publications and it was satisfying to see cases I had worked on reported in law reports or newspapers. I was mentioned in the acknowledgements of a colleague’s book on legal information and that was a proud moment.
I returned to Senate House Library as the Law Librarian for the external programme of the University of London. It was a very different way of working, as the students were scattered all over the globe studying remotely. I had to learn more about online resources very quickly.
After a 5-year career break to bring up my children I wasn’t sure I would be able to return to libraries so I became Administrative Officer at Notting Hill Methodist Church. While I was there my eldest daughter decided she wanted to come to the Convent of Jesus & Mary in year seven. I was thrilled to be offered the job of school librarian here (although I’m not sure how thrilled my daughter was about us joining the school together!). Being a school librarian is enormously satisfying, especially when students are as engaged, enthusiastic and energetic as ours are, here at the Convent.
Ms C McCombe
Head of Politics and History teacher
I am very much a local, having grown up in Harlesden, attended St Joseph’s RC Primary school and then the Convent of Jesus and Mary for secondary school and 6th form. At 6th form I studied History, Politics, English Literature and Drama, and fell in love with learning. The more I learned, the hungrier I was for knowledge, so I studied History and Politics at the University of Essex where I established a Feminist Society to provide a voice for women on campus.
After graduating from university, I felt the call to teach and gained two years’ experience as a Learning Support Assistant at the Convent. My experience working with the fantastic girls at the Convent inspired me to pursue my Post Graduate Certificate in Education at UCL’s Institute of Education, where, upon completion, I began my first full-time teaching post in a North London school. I returned to the Convent to be a member of a fantastic collaborative department and have really developed as a teacher. I am proud to give back to the Convent community, not only teaching History and Politics, but also by running the School Parliament, which gives our students the opportunity to harness the power of their voice.
Alongside teaching I completed a Master’s degree in History and Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London, with a dissertation focusing on the work of Claudia Jones and her role in being a Civil Rights activists in London. Since then I have been an active member in both the History and Politics teaching communities, providing teacher-training and lectures at UCL and the British Library. I have also been recognised by the Fulbright Commission as a distinguished teacher and will be given the opportunity to have further teacher training in America under a full scholarship.
Ms L Pearce
Teacher of MFL and Head of Angela House
I grew up in London and attended North Westminster Community School, which served the areas of Marylebone and Paddington and where inspirational teachers awoke in me a love of languages and a commitment to high-quality education for all. With the support of my teachers I achieved a place at Oxford University, where I studied Spanish with Linguistics at Trinity College. After graduating I lived in Spain and Portugal, where I taught English with the British Council. I hold a Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, as well as a PGCE in Modern Foreign Languages teaching from the University of Cumbria. Since 2008 I have taught Spanish, French and Portuguese in Brent secondary schools and I am an experienced examiner for the AQA exam board. I joined the Convent family in 2011 and am proud to have had the privilege of serving the community and contributing to the outcomes of so many wonderful young women since then, and I look forward to seeing the great things our students will continue to achieve in the coming years.
Mrs S Jaafary
Teacher of MFL and Head of Florentina House
I was born and studied in Paris most of my life. Since I was young I always had this passion for languages and started teaching myself English in primary school, when languages at the time were not yet taught. I was already determined at that age that I would live my life abroad and that languages would be the passport to take me there. Then, my first year in the UK to complete my BA, thanks to the Erasmus Exchange Programme, confirmed that England would be an ideal place for me to satisfy my ambitions.
I studied English, Spanish and Italian as foreign languages in secondary school and at University level and qualified as an MFL teacher almost seventeen years ago. I hold a PGCE in Modern Foreign Languages and a Bachelor of Arts with option FLE (French as a Foreign Language).
I had another passion - Cinema and Literature; therefore, I consider myself to have been very fortunate to have achieved a Master of Arts in American Literature and Cinema. I went on to work at the BBC in London for a few years in order to fulfil this passion and worked on a variety of roles while I was there but decided not to continue as I was missing teaching and the passion that I had for languages.
Before the Convent of Jesus and Mary, I taught in several schools, mixed schools, boys’ schools and girls’ schools too, all over London but never found this strong sense of community and warmth that you find not only with our girls here, but also with our staff.
I am currently fulfilling my passion teaching French, Spanish and Italian at the Convent.
Two years ago, I also started an additional role as Head of House Florentina, which I love because it enables me to get to know our students in a different context than the classroom,
and working with them on fun and creative projects and activities.
Ms S Ziff
Mentor and Student Wellbeing Co-ordinator
I am a Wellbeing Practitioner and work within the school as Mentor and School Wellbeing Coordinator. In 2009, I enrolled in The Courtauld Institute of Art in London and read History of Art, whilst completing her 1-year Language Course in Italian at The London School of Economics.
I began my journey into secondary education in 2013 when I completed the Teach First Leadership Development Programme and obtained my English PGCE with Distinction from Canterbury Christ Church University. I taught Key Stages 3 and 4 English Language and Literature and became Head of Year 8 in 2014.
Wanting to pursue my love of pastoral care, I joined the Student Support Services department at the Convent in 2016. I contributed to the creation of the 1-1 Mentoring Programme, the Wellbeing Ambassadors, Challenge Day and numerous Group Programmes including Social Media and Self-Esteem, Anger Management, Behaviour Support, Self-Worth and Friendship and Trust, and successfully supporting hundreds of CJMLC students with their emotional wellbeing.