Dame Joan began teaching in Manchester in 1974. Following a career gap where she raised two daughters both of whom are now teaching, she returned to teaching in London. She took on her first Headship in 2000 then her second headship in Woodside High, Haringey, in 2006. The school was rated outstanding by Ofsted in two successive inspections.
Dame Joan was a School Improvement Partner for two London local authorities. She was a member of the Governing Council for the National College for 6 years. In 2011 – 2012, Dame Joan was the President of ASCL, the professional association for Secondary Headteachers in both the state and independent sector. In 2012, she was invited to become a Trustee of the Youth Sports Trust. In July 2011, Woodside High was designated as a National Support School and Dame Joan as a National Leader in Education. She is also a member of the Heart and Lung Transplant board for NHS Blood and Transplant.
In December 2012, Joan was awarded a Damehood in honour of her contribution to education at both local and national level.