Talking Heads

25 Mar 19

Clemmie Stewart (BA Education Studies and English 2004-2007, PGCE 2007-2008)

Head Teacher, Surbiton High Girls’ Prep (300 girls in the Academy and Independent sector) and Vice-Chair of Governors at Langford Primary, London (Academy)

Patrick Sullivan (B.Ed. 1988-1990, MA Professional Enquiry 2002-2006)

Head Teacher, Eggar’s Secondary Academy, Alton (a State school with 1,000 students)

What impact did Winchester have on you?

Clemmie: The reputation for quality teacher training was very appealing to me. At my interview, I was inspired by the tutors (especially Dr Janice de Sousa!) and knew straightaway that I would be lucky to study here. The course looked fantastic and I loved every minute.

The University’s values radiated throughout the course and I really felt I was part of something big and important, something that really mattered.

My child-centred, passionate and positive outlook was honed during my time at Winchester. We were learning to educate minds, spirits and hearts.

Patrick: I loved my time at Winchester. On my first visit, I had time to spare and walked into the city centre. I remember the moment I first saw the Cathedral and I was struck by its beauty. That feeling never left me in all my time at the University.

I particularly remember a wonderfully inspiring lecturer called John Poxon. He taught in the Education Studies department but also oversaw our wellbeing. He was a brilliant lecturer and taught me to always understand your audience, and not talk too much!

What advice would you give to teacher graduates to help them make a difference?

Clemmie: Build networks and support each other. Teaching is the best job in the world but when meeting challenges, you need your team around you to build you up, laugh with you when things go wrong, share ideas and talk to when things are tough.

Embrace every opportunity. Show leadership and excellence at every level because Heads seek those with the right values and a hard-working attitude. Finally, ask for help and make the most of it! Your school will want to nurture and help you to be the best you can be for your children.

Patrick: Teaching is a fantastic opportunity so go and make the most of it. You often don’t know what a difference you have actually made to someone else. Teaching is a wonderful profession and I would recommend it to anyone.

You have a chance to improve people’s lives and aspirations – not an opportunity many careers can offer.

What are the biggest challenges in teaching and in being a head teacher today?

Clemmie: Balancing the need for pupils to secure best outcomes, whilst protecting and supporting their mental health and wellbeing. However, if we always place children and their needs at the heart of what we do, we cannot go far wrong.

Recruiting and retaining the best staff is a big challenge for any head teacher. Schools are essentially massive families and it’s my role to ensure that everyone in the family counts, and feels heard, loved and supported. It may be a slightly dysfunctional family at times but everyone wants to be a part of it!

Patrick: My biggest challenge, and one facing all teachers, is to give the very best experience we possibly can to every individual, every single day. Also, funding and resources have not been as difficult as they are currently.

How have you made a difference in your teaching career?

Clemmie: My previous school was a State school in Special Measures with children from a range of backgrounds, facing real challenges. It was incredible to be part of the team seeking rapid improvement and securing far better outcomes for the pupils we were privileged to teach. We secured amazing SATs results, but more than that we had a cohort of happy, balanced children who loved learning and were ready for all that Year 7 had to offer them.

Patrick: This is central to my daily working life, trying to have a positive effect on the students, their families and all the staff, to enjoy their work together and to achieve. As a head teacher, every single day is different and I love it. 



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This article originally appeared in the spring 2019 issue of Venta, our alumni magazine.

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