Taking The Lead

A new head can make a big impact on a school. Gillian Upton profiles the newcomers planning to make their mark on a clutch of schools in Nappy Valley

Robert Milne – Emanuel School

What do you love about your new school?
The fact that it’s truly co-ed and that many of the pupils live close enough to cycle or walk to school. There’s a real sense of community and support among the boys and girls, as well as an evident sense of mutual respect.

What is your vision for the school?
To be a school in which pupils are excited to learn, thrive academically and purposefully seek to fulfill their ambitions. Beyond lessons, I hope that girls and boys enjoy their sports, music, drama and creative subjects – these are all great for their sense of wellbeing and long-term enjoyment of life. For many too, these are areas of great skill and talent, ones that may form the core
of a young person’s life as they grow up.  Our growing outreach programme featuring opportunities for pupils to teach in primary schools and support local charities is part of our commitment to help Emanuel pupil look outwards more than inwards; to be aware of their own feelings, but increasingly empathetic and mindful of others.

What changes are you hoping to make?
In addition to the above, we are now in the process of drafting a site and facilities masterplan for the school. This will be drawn up by architects to show how the school and its site might look over the coming decade. The designs will be in response to our desire for smarter, lighter and brighter classrooms, more meeting spaces and an aspiration to sustain the sense of open green areas at
the school. We hope to be sympathetic to the Henry Saxon Snell designs for the main building, yet modernise as we move cogently along, subject to funding and logistics.

Sport matters a great deal to our pupils and we are pleased to be offering football, initially to the lower school pupils, from spring 2019. We are in the midst of a curriculum review for Key Stage 3; this has altered the foreign languages offered and will bring about more changes in the future. In the middle school, more time is now available for the sciences and we have plans to slightly broaden our A level offer from 2019. As ever, we will seek to maintain our support for the arts.

What challenges do you face?
As with a number of independent schools, we wish to sustain our levels of accessibility. We have around 50% primary school intake to Year 7 and wish to maintain this. More ambitiously we have two fundraising projects underway. The first is to ensure we have 20 pupils fully funded in the school by 2020 – we currently have 17. The second is to more than double the amount of funds we
have set aside to support prospective and current pupils in need of bursaries.


Chris Ramsey – Whitgift School

What do you love about your new school?
The quality of the boys, their diversity and their energy! Whitgift is probably London’s most generous school in terms of bursary funding, and the boys here enjoy a really rich heritage. They also learn immeasurably from each other, from the variety of things they do, and from our engagement with the local community.

What is your vision for the school?
To educate the leaders of tomorrow, and to help our boys to be good men. There are big challenges in today’s society, and we aim to help the boys develop as independent and creative thinkers, as well as to know what it is to be a genuinely good and successful young man.

What changes are you hoping to make?
The value of a range of activities, the close links with a range of partner schools … and the wildlife! On the other hand, we do want to continue to help the boys to be more independent in their learning, and we’re looking at what facilities we will need in the next 20 years.

What challenges do you face?
Plenty, but mostly the social challenges we all face: social media, the rise of artifcial intelligence, and society’s attitudes to independent education. My role is to help our pupils shape and lead in these areas, rather than be catching up.


Derek Kitchin – Oak Lodge School

What do you love about your new school?
Its highly therapeutic, welcoming and inclusive approach and practice, which has a real impact on the students and families we serve, its strong links with and use of the local community, but mostly the students, who make me smile every day.

What is your vision for the school?
To maintain our caring and nurturing environment where all students feel valued, safe and are encouraged to achieve to the maximum of their ability, along with our mutually respectful relationships between staff, students and families.

We hope the school will embed further its sustainability, and adapt and grow to become even more inclusive, whilst frmly preserving the unique and aluable place it is for the deaf community.

What changes are you hoping to make?
I never ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ when I start a new role, and after just four months I am still identifying fully our strengths and hallenges. Our sixth form and on-site vocational education, our associated residential unit ‘Phoenix House’, and our traded service ‘Deaf First’ are all high on the priority list for growth, development and diversifying to meet changing needs.

What challenges do you face?
Firstly, we are looking for governors and trustees, particularly those from the deaf community. Secondly, fnding additional funding for expanding our family and community sign language lessons and thirdly, funding the crucial holistic school and residential curriculum to further enhance and develop wellbeing, self-esteem, communication, independence and life skills in extra-curricular time.


Paul Dunne – St John Bosco College

What do you love about your new school?
I love working every day with staff who care deeply for their pupils’ wellbeing and academic progress. Ofsted recognised this recently when they commented, “The school’s vision that ‘it is not enough for young people to be loved, they must know that they are loved’ permeates the school’s culture.”

What is your vision for the school?
I want every young person who comes to our school to flourish academically, socially and spiritually. To do that we are continuing to build a vibrant learning community where we set high expectations and pupils are challenged to do their best every day. I want each child at the school to understand and share the values that shape our Catholic, Salesian community. These values of respect, understanding, affection and humour (RUAH) underpin everything that we do.

What changes are you hoping to make?
To develop and grow the school further by adding even more expertise to our already excellent teaching and support staff, and to widen the extra-curricular opportunities for our pupils

What challenges do you face?
With high property prices in London, recruiting and retaining teachers is a challenge facing all local schools.


Sara Williams-Ryan – Peregrines Pre-Prep

What do you love about your new school?
The children are confident, cheerful and motivated, the staff knowledgeable, positive, kind and creative, with high expectations, and the facilities are superb, especially in London where space is at a premium.  Additionally, being part of the Alpha Plus group of schools enables us to share best practice and for me, as a new head, this is invaluable. I also love the way the school size enables all staff – not just teachers – to know each child really well.

What is your vision for the school?
Two of my priorities will be our pupils’ academic buoyancy and emotional literacy, both of which will serve the children for the  rest of their lives. Knowing how to overcome the challenges and frustrations that are often part of everyday learning is key to all academic success, as is developing the necessary perseverance in order to master a skill or acquire knowledge. Moreover, we must build on pupils’ emotional intelligence at every opportunity, as good relationships make for a happy school and ensure that cooperative work is rewarding.

What changes are you hoping to make?
From September 2018, our pre-prep department, Peregrines, will be welcoming boys and this exciting move to co-education will entail a series of changes, as boys and girls enjoy learning in different ways. Additionally, we will continue to improve our sporting facilities, in particular our netball courts, and finally, I am hoping to build on our current links with the Falcons Pre-Preparatory School for Boys and the Falcons School for Boys.

What challenges do you face?
Brexit could have an impact on the number of European businesses in London, but let’s wait and see. And despite having moved to Putney from Ealing in 2014, we are still seen as the ‘new kid on the block’ by some. As we continue to make ourselves known by getting involved in the local community, this should change .

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