Paul Killen

Paul celebrated his 25th anniversary of working at LJMU in 2023, our Bicentenary year, and in 2024 will reach a marvellous milestone of 40 years working in education and will retire from the profession.

Born and raised in Bootle, Paul failed the 11-plus exam and attended his local secondary modern school before completing his A-Levels at Bootle High School. He quickly found a job in the Tax Office and soon came to realise that his calling might in fact be elsewhere.

“After my A-Levels I joined the Inland Revenue for three years as a Tax Officer. I learned in that time exactly what I didn’t want to do. So, in 1980, after seeing an advert in the New Musical Express, I applied to university and did a four-year degree in maths and education with Qualified Teacher Status.

“In 1984 I then got a job teaching maths at my old school, Bootle High, teaching with some of my old teachers. I stayed there for three years before becoming Assistant Head of Maths at Breckfield High school in Anfield. Then in 1990 I became Head of Mathematics at Halton College in Widnes, teaching not just GCSE and A-Level but mathematics on a whole variety of vocational courses. These included HND, OND and BTEC qualifications in science, social science and even beauty therapy. It was great to learn how mathematics is used by other professions.”

It was around this time that Paul began working with LJMU on Access to Higher Education courses, including access to teaching.

“At Widnes College we were working on many different Access to HE courses, these were for adults who were returning to education. We worked with universities across the North West running programmes equivalent to A-Level that provided students with a second chance at education. We also ran what were known as 2 + 2 degrees, these were for students who maybe didn’t get the grades they needed first time to get into university, so they studied with us for a HND in chemistry or biology, for instance, and on successful completion were able to transfer directly into the second year of an undergraduate course here at LJMU.

“A significant number of the students I was working with were parents who had been perhaps helping in their child’s school and had decided they would like to be teachers. Inevitably they would need to start off with GCSEs in maths and English so we had special classes for intending teachers. It was a natural progression to working at the other end of that journey at LJMU.”

So, in April 1998, Paul officially joined LJMU and has been here ever since.

“In that time, I have taught students on a wide variety of both primary and secondary undergraduate and postgraduate teaching courses, as well as on professional development courses for teachers and teaching assistants.”

“I am fortunate to have worked with some amazing lecturers who have given our students an outstanding and memorable experience. However, the abiding thought I have about working here at LJMU are the many talented student teachers I have helped train over the years, many of whom are now senior teachers and even headteachers across the country.”

– Paul Killen

Paul has also held several managerial roles, including leading on the Teach First programme, an employment-based teacher training programme that brings teachers into disadvantaged schools.

“I became Primary Programme Leader very early in my career here, although at that time our provision was mostly undergraduate. We got a grade 1 from Ofsted in 2003. Between 2008 and 2012 I led the LJMU Teach First programme and then moved back to again become Primary Programme Leader. We had an amazing team of talented staff and that was officially confirmed when in 2018, LJMU primary provision was graded 1 by Ofsted. Unless you have been involved in an Ofsted inspection you will have no idea how much work is involved - this was a real team achievement.”

Aside from his main teaching and managerial responsibilities, Paul has also found the time during breaks in the academic year to teach abroad and to fundraise. “In 2007 my wife Sue and I spent the summer teaching in a very rural primary school in Arusha, Tanzania. We decided to raise some money to buy books and resources for the school, so I did a sponsored cycle from Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh to where I live in Crosby which is also called Holyrood.

“My ‘Holyrood to Holyrood’ bike ride took three days, covered 250 miles, and raised over £3,000, every penny of which went to the school. It was a wonderful and humbling experience for both of us, working with the local children and seeing just how much going to school meant to the community we were in. Later that year I was presented with the LJMU Citizen of The Year Award by the Rt Hon Lord David Alton.”

Paul has even found the time to write a book to aid the teaching of mathematics to primary age children.

“In 2018, myself and my colleague and friend Sarah Hindhaugh wrote a book ‘How Big is a Big Number?’ about learning to teach maths in primary school. It has proved to be really popular with students and we are both really proud of it.”

As Paul looks to celebrate four decades in education and to bring his career to a jubilant end, he is ready to play a much larger role in the lives of his three grandchildren and to spend more time in the city that he loves.

“I was born in Liverpool, brought up in Liverpool, educated in Liverpool, have always worked in Liverpool and if I didn’t live in Liverpool I’d come to Liverpool for my holidays. I love Liverpool! Outside of my work at LJMU I have become a Liverpool tour guide and after finishing at LJMU I will be able to do much more of this. Being a tour guide has enabled me to combine my love of Liverpool with teaching. There is so much to tell about this wonderful city, and I now meet people from all over the world and can educate them about the greatest city in the world.

“I am fortunate to have worked with some amazing lecturers who have given our students an outstanding and memorable experience. However, the abiding thought I have about working here at LJMU are the many talented student teachers I have helped train over the years, many of whom are now senior teachers and even headteachers across the country.”