ASGS Profiles

Violet Walker

I am Headteacher at Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School in Barnet.  Queen Elizabeth 1 granted Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester’s request for a Royal Charter for the establishment of a school in her name for the education of boys and later for another for the education of girls.  The boys’ school was founded in 1573 and ours for girls, some 300 years later in 1888.  Currently national data indicates girls are ahead of boys in many academic statistical measures.  We continue to believe in the value of single gender education and embrace advocacy for female empowerment following the traditions of the pioneering first Headmistress of the school.  The school became fully comprehensive by the 1980s, having been a Grammar School when I attended in the early 70s. Since 2011 it has had Single Academy Converter status.  I took up its headship in September 2015 when the school was judged to be a Requires Improvement school.

I am proud that the school has sustained Progress 8 scores of above +1 for the last two years and that there are no gaps in any identified group. All indicators are significantly positive. We are one of only three schools in London to be recognised by the Mayor of London Success for Schools Award for three consecutive years, for our work with disadvantaged students and those of low prior attainment.  In the top 1% of secondary schools nationally, this year the Progress 8 score for LPAs is +1.73.  Through the Mayor’s Programme and the SSAT Leading Edge Programme, we work with other schools nationally, to share our best practice to support systems improvement.

Previously as an Assistant Headteacher, I worked with the National College as part of the London Leadership Strategy to develop teaching across Greater London and to write and deliver a programme to build capacity in sixth forms in Greater London and Greater Manchester.

In 2012, as a Special Leader of Education and sole Deputy, I joined an Inner London mixed comprehensive school in Special Measures. I supported the school out of Measures in a year and worked with its female Headteacher, Mrs Gloria Lowe, to develop a leadership team that supported the school’s further improvement to a securely Good Ofsted judgement, two years later. Gloria Lowe gave me a broad learning platform in a short space of time, for which I am appreciative.  Having become a mathematics teacher some ten years earlier, my third career since university, begun in my forties, you could say that the experience cemented my fast track to headship.  Women supporting each other on any level is an important dynamic to model to girls.

I have been inspired by many people throughout my education and leadership journey; most recently by Mary Myatt and her work on educational values.  I have been asked to list four words which I believe describe my approach to leadership.  I would say, strategic, ethical, creative and courageous.  Twenty-first century state school leaders certainly need to have courage to lead their schools, given the increasing level of underfunding we experience on an annual basis.

I am delighted to be Joint President of ASGS.  The opportunity to champion the collective work of our schools in advancing the education of girls so that they can be academically, socially and economically independent young women in the future, is a privilege.  Individual schools benefit from the collaboration offered among our members and collectively we benefit the education of girls everywhere, when we speak as one.

 

Sharon Cromie

Wycombe High School was founded in 1901, at a time when the education of women was just becoming a national priority.  Its first Headteacher Miss Mary Christie was herself a graduate, highly unusual for that period. She graduated from St Andrews University, with a Masters Degree, one of the very first woman to do so. As a school Wycombe High School started off, as pioneers, committed to the education and development of girls,  and continues with that ethos today. Sharon Cromie has demonstrated this via the school’s many achievements over the nine years of her headship.  Wycombe High School is designated by Ofsted as ‘outstanding’, is one of only 35 Maths Hub nationally, as well as a Teaching School and National Support School. Wycombe High School has also been accredited as an Exceptional School and its teachers have recently achieved a national Kitemark for excellence in Research and Development. With a proven track record in the arts (visual and performing), the majority of the School’s Sixth Form are involved in Science, Technology, Arts, Engineering and Mathematics, demonstrating that girls’ schools lead the way in promoting the take-up of these subjects.   Prior to joining Wycombe High School, Sharon has experience of a range of selective, non-selective, F.E and H.E institutions and is currently the Joint President of the Association of State Girls’ Schools, an Ofsted inspector, National Leader of Education and Executive Headteacher of Wycombe High School Academies Trust, a multi academy trust with an ethos of  ‘The whole is greater than the sum of the parts:  success through togetherness’, and a motto of ‘Concordia Corroborat – unity strengthens’. Sharon was born in England and educated in Northern Ireland, attending school and university there. She graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with an honours degree in Law and worked as an IT Management Consultant before retraining as a teacher in the early 1990s.

Rae Potter

 Headteacher of Sarah Bonnell School - a successful 11-16 girls school in East London with 1350 students on roll. The school is one of the oldest girls schools in the country with a strong reputation for the opportunities it provides. The school values are Be Proud. Aim High. Work Hard. Be Kind. No Excuses and guide everyone in the school to be ambitious for themselves, their school and their community. We have a great track record for achieving outcomes for students that are significantly above the national average and for enabling students to thrive and develop as confident and kind young women.

Summary biography: 
Teaching career began in Walthamstow School for Girls’ as a subject teacher of Sociology and Humanities. I then moved to another East London girls school in Hackney where I was Head of Humanities, Assistant Headteacher and then Deputy Headteacher leading on the quality of teaching and learning. I became Associate Headteacher of Clapton Girls’ Academy and Director of the Hackney Teaching Schools Alliance before moving on to take up my first headship at Sarah Bonnell School in 2016.
I remain passionate about the important place Sociology has in the curriculum to provide students with the knowledge and skills to understand, evaluate and challenge the social and political structures, processes and behaviours that create social injustice.

Two professional achievements of which you are most proud?

1. Working alongside colleagues to lead our school successfully through the last 18 months of the global pandemic - the resilience, determination and creativity of students and staff has been inspirational
2. Being part of a school community that provides meaningful opportunities for girls to develop as leaders, learners and individuals.


Four words which best describe your approach to leadership?

1. Ethical
2. Collaborative
3. Ambitious
4. Creative

What have you learned about effective leadership most recently?

The last 18 months has made me understand, even more sharply than before, that professional trust is central to effective leadership of a school. This means cultivating and nurturing an environment where people feel effectively supported, trusted and valued to do their job and do it well. This creates an environment where people want to give ‘above and beyond’ to make a difference to the school and its students and understand how they can work together to do this. Over the last year and more this has resulted in engaging and inspiring on-line learning opportunities for students from virtual Sports Days to virtual Art Galleries and more.

What three pieces of advice would you give to a new headteacher colleague?

1. Have the confidence to trust your instincts - your experience and expertise will help make the right decision, quickly, and with strong principles.
2. Seek out opportunities to see other schools in action - connect, share and learn
3. Listen to students and staff - hear their stories and see the experience of school from their point of view

Who have been your influential mentors/ role models?

Parents - who taught me the importance of kindness
Brother - who taught me to challenge inequality and inspired my passion for Sociology
Friend - whose experience of racism, commitment to social justice and wisdom inspires me to understand and feel my white privilege and continue to do more with my influence as leader to promote diversity and equity of opportunity.
Colleagues - who over the years and in different ways have inspired, supported and challenged my thinking on how to provide quality educational experiences for girls

What do you view as the most pressing issues / challenges for girls and young women in our schools currently?

How to build and maintain mutually respectful and safe relationships
How to maintain their own mental health and well-being in the face of on-line media that does everything it can to cultivate insecurity, self-hate and poor mental health

Do you have any books that have been important to you professionally that you would recommend for our leadership library?

Summerhill - A.S. Neill - Published first in 1926 describing A.S Neill’s radically different and controversial approach to education at that time. A great reminder of the importance and longevity of the debate for real student voice and agency in learning.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race - Reni Eddo-Lodge. Relevant for all school leaders who have experienced White Privilege -especially the essay on Feminism.

Julian Dutnall 

I am currently Executive Headteacher of Frances Bardsley Academy in Romford in the London Borough of Havering.  The school is 8 FE with a strong focus on positive mental health, wellbeing and creativity as well as strong outcomes for all students.  I am also CEO of the LIFE Education Trust which consists of six academies and one independent school in Essex and Havering.

 

Summary biography:

After studying Law, qualifying as a barrister and working as a Crown Prosecutor for two years, I made a major career change into teaching in 1997. Since then I have worked in five schools in three different local authorities.  Three of these were girls’ schools. 

I became Headteacher at FBA in September 2011 and have been on the ASGS Steering Group since then serving as Joint President for three years.  Last year I became a founder committee member of the Global Action Research Collaborative into Girls Education which consists of educators from Australia, America and the UK.  I am a serial student, finally finished my MBA last year and have now started a professional doctorate.   I am married with three children two of whom are currently at University.

 

Two professional achievements of which you are most proud?

 

1.

Helping to build an ethos based multi academy trust

2.

Seeing my staff develop and grow into leadership positions

 

 

Four words which best describe your approach to leadership?

 

1.

Thoughtful

2.

Pragmatic

3.

Visionary

4.

Creative

 

What have you learned about effective leadership most recently?

Most recently I have been studying the importance of values in leadership.  Performance and achievement are obviously very important.  Equally, having a sense of your own self, your strengths and weaknesses but also your values and what motivates you is crucial.  This enables you to be consistent and to work from what you believe to be important even when decisions have to be made quickly and with limited information.

 

 

What three pieces of advice would you give to a new headteacher colleague?

 

1

Don’t give up

2

Find a mentor

3

Learn who you are

 

Who have been your influential mentors/ role models?

 

A number of people have been extremely influential in my life.  In particular I have met regularly with a friend, who is not a teacher, almost every week for nearly twenty years to share life.  My former headteachers such as Nicole Chapman at Chelmsford County High have helped shaped who I am and what I believe.  Currently I follow Arianna Huffington and Lisa Damour and find their work highly thought provoking.

 

What do you view as the most pressing issues / challenges for girls and young women in our schools currently?

I think mental health is clearly a huge issue at the moment.  For me it is about helping to find our identity and learning to succeed in the ways that we want.  The current UK educational obsession with data, results and improvement has some benefits but can also cause serious health issues if not managed intelligently and thoughtfully.  Another important area is identity and I believe we are only beginning to explore this. 

 

Do you have any books that have been important to you professionally that you would recommend for our leadership library? 

 

Lisa Damour’s books: Untangled and Under Pressure

Leadership on the Line by Ron Heifetz

A Survival Guide To Life by Bear Grylls

 

Stephen Lawlor

 

I was appointed as Headteacher of Chelmsford County High School for Girls (CCHS) in 2019, having served as Deputy Headteacher for eight years at the school. CCHS is a proud grammar school community and has been delivering outstanding educational opportunities to girls since 1907. We, as the twenty-first century guardians of this significant inheritance, have chosen to honour this legacy by defining and pursuing an ambition for CCHS to be progressive grammar school, committed to excellence in girls’ education and empowerment.

 

We are pioneering – increasing to six forms of entry from September 2020, we hold to a determination to achieve greater social diversity as our community grows and evolves. Working with our increasing number of partner primary schools, we share our expertise regarding teaching able students from all backgrounds to ensure that talent and aspiration are served.

 

We are engaged – teaching & learning practice is strengthened by working with the National Association for Able Children in Education (NACE), with leadership & management practice being developed through our work with the Prince’s Teaching Institute (PTI). 

We are dynamic – students are provided with a wealth of opportunities, as we work with the Association of State Girls’ Schools (ASGS) in Britain and the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS) internationally, to instil confidence, fire ambition and promote advancement.

Summary biography:

 

I was born in London, and lived for several years in the Republic of Ireland before relocating to Essex. I read History at the University of Essex. I considered training to be a solicitor, having worked in two law firms in London, but realising that they earned far too much money, I decided to pursue my passion. I secured my PGCE at the Institute of Education and went on to teach History at Robert Clack School, Dagenham. I undertook Head of Sixth Form work there, before moving to be Head of History at The Coopers’ Company and Coborn School, Upminster. I moved in to senior leadership there and then secured my Deputy Headship at CCHS. Additional qualifications gained during my teaching career include PGCPSE (Open) and NPQH (UCL IoE). I am married with two daughters and enjoy spending quality time with my family, listening to an eclectic mix of music, film, reading and long walks.

 

 

Two professional achievements of which you are most proud?

 

1.

Becoming (and staying) a teacher. My work with every student that I have taught and supported is a great source of pride. The joy and privilege that teaching brings is immeasurable. Being able to share your subject passion and exercise your leadership acumen is so professionally rewarding.

2.

Being appointed Headteacher of CCHS. Knowing the history of the school, its standing in the local community and country, and being immersed in the CCHS community for several years already – this is a very special professional moment.

 

 

Four words which best describe your approach to leadership?

 

1.

Ethical

2.

Listener

3.

Creative

4.

Determined

 

What have you learned about effective leadership most recently?

For all the issues that one faces, whether they be big or small, relating to students, staff, finances or buildings, you must always remain focused on making principled decisions. And at the heart of this is people – what will be the human cost? Leadership is one thing. Educational leadership is quite another.

 

What three pieces of advice would you give to a new headteacher colleague?

 

1

Enjoy the responsibility and opportunities you will have – shaping lives and making a significant difference in your community.

2

Listen to advice from your colleagues – and remember to seek this advice, even when it is not forthcoming.

3

Stay true to yourself and make time for you, your family and friends.

 

Who have been your influential mentors/ role models?

My first Headteacher at Robert Clack, Sir Paul Grant, was a font of determined energy and impassioned to transform the school – which he did. David Mansfield, Headteacher of The Coopers’ Company and Coborn School when I was there, was a creative free-thinker – a real inspiration. The most significant role model for me is Nicole Chapman, former Headteacher of CCHS. The way she blends standards, passion, wisdom and compassion is just wonderful. And finally, daily interactions with students and colleagues – you learn so much every day.

 

 

What do you view as the most pressing issues / challenges for girls and young women in our schools currently? 

 

Our schools provide safe, caring and stimulating environments for our students. The pernicious side of the internet age, with the misuse of social media, cyber-bullying, etc. have generated a range of issues that are harmful to girls and young women in particular. Our job is to work hard to provide the very best education to these wonderful girls, to empower them meet the challenges and seize the opportunities when they move on. We, as leaders of girls’ schools, have a duty to be guided by the example and courage of the Suffragists and the Suffragettes to recognise that much has been achieved, but so much more needs to be done to ensure equality and justice for young women as they make their way their professional lives.

 

 

Do you have any books that have been important to you professionally that you would recommend for our leadership library? 

 

Rather than straightforward leadership and management texts, I would recommend:

 

  • Mary Wollstonecraft’s ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’ – a seminal work, providing an intellectual framework for female empowerment and leadership.
  • Diane Atkinson’s ‘Rise Up, Women! – an insightful exploration of the lives of the Suffragettes, with lessons in moral courage and determined campaigning.
  • Mary Beard’s ‘Women and Power: A Manifesto’ – both a historical and a personal story about identifying and challenging stereotypes, realising ambition and taking on the responsibility to be a leading voice calling for change.

 

Please provide details of your present role & outline information about school: