James makes the grade to secure a job at Purnell's

March 2016

James Hood

Inspirational student James Hood is living proof that hard work really does pay off.

The cards seemed to be stacked against him when he embarked on his studies at UCB.

In order to complete his chosen course he had to pass GCSE English – something he’d failed to do four times at school. The 19-year-old faced combining this additional workload with balancing three part-time jobs.

But James’ determination, and the invaluable support of his tutors, saw him through. He is now the proud recipient of Level 1 and 2 in Professional Food and Beverage Service and Level 1, 2 and 3 in Advanced Professional Cookery – and, crucially, a prized ‘A’ grade English GCSE. 

His UCB journey started in 2012. An average week would see him doing shifts at Starbucks in Birmingham’s Victoria Square on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, followed by lectures in the afternoons. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 6pm until midnight he worked at the prestigious Purnell’s and Simpsons restaurants - first as a commis waiter, and later as a chef de rang.

“I needed to work but it meant that I was often late for classes and sometimes missed a session,” said James. 

“I really tried hard to fit in extra work at home. But it got to a point halfway through the course when I started to worry I wasn’t going to finish it. But something clicked. Gavin Cole, my English teacher, wanted me to be successful. He saw that I was willing to learn and recognised that. 

“He allowed students to learn in such a productive way and provided an incredible amount of help, support and resources that students could easily take for granted.”

James, who lives with his parents in Pelsall, is now working full-time as a chef de rang at Purnell’s.

He added: “It is a pressurised environment and the standard is so high. One wrong move could result in a bad review. Glynn Purnell is so down-to-earth and the restaurant really is his life. People say they love Purnell’s, but no one loves it as much as he does.”

Ultimately, James has his sights set on becoming a sommelier and would love to combine work and travel. He said: “When I left school I had a list of ideas in my head of what I wanted to do, and I’ve already achieved everything on that list. I’ve now got to set myself new goals.”

Gavin Cole, lecturer in GCSE English said: “It has been a pleasure to work with James and his colleagues. His success has come as a result of his hard work and dedication. His resilience in managing the demands of GCSE English, alongside his vocational course and work commitments, is to be admired.”