What attracted you to the role at Dame Allan’s?
For me personally, a chance to return to the North East (from exile in Surrey) and the challenge of leading an excellent school and community. For pupils, an opportunity to be part of a community which values them as individuals and which recognises that, important though examination results are, there is more to education than securing a letter on a certificate. Our results are excellent; our pupils achieve them because they are cared for and supported in an environment that challenges and encourages them to do their best.
What did you want to be growing up?
In truth, anything but a teacher. I felt that the job involved regurgitating notes and feared it would be dull and boring. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth! We now know so much more about what makes for effective teaching and are constantly striving to develop and improve our practice. Equally the job is about people – pupils and staff. Their differing needs and varied skills make the work endlessly stimulating and refreshing. When I was growing up I am sure the idea of being a professional rugby player would have appealed had it existed; nowadays my aching body is rather pleased that it didn’t!
What has been your career highlight?
Welcoming Her Majesty the Queen to share in the celebration of our Tercentenary in 2005 was a standout moment, but one of the many positives of my job is that highlights occur throughout: seeing a team win a difficult fixture, attending a memorable concert or helping children to exceed their expectations in examinations provide individual highlights. I am privileged to share in so many.
What role do schools play in building the skills of our young people?
There is a shared responsibility between business and education to ensure that our young people are prepared for the wider world. Dame Allan’s Schools are committed to bridging the gap between school and work; we work together with regional and national businesses to make this happen. We recently opened a £500,000 technology centre, made possible by a generous donation from the Reece Foundation, which we hope, long-term, will help to plug the STEM skills gap in the North East and see more women in STEM careers. We also offer our young people high-quality careers advice to give them the best possible platform from which to make important decisions about their futures.
What are the biggest challenges facing young people today?
It has become something of a cliché to point out the baleful influence of the internet, but there can be little doubt that many social media platforms, with their focus on ‘likes’ and ‘followers’, exert undue pressure on young people. On the wider stage, I hope that the divisiveness which appears to be so much a part of our current political discourse will be a passing phase; one challenge for our young people will be to ensure that the world which they will both lead and inhabit displays the virtues of tolerance, reason, sound judgement and empathy which are essential to a civilised life.