I have known and had great respect for Steyning Grammar school throughout my whole teaching career which, over the course of 26 years, has always been rooted in West Sussex schools. I am very aware of its history, its integrity, and its potential.
My most recent positions since 2004 have all been in neighbouring establishments, Head at Bohunt School Worthing, Deputy Head at The Weald and Assistant Head at St Paul’s Burgess Hill. Whilst this awareness does not mean I know the school deeply, I have, over time, enjoyed many visits and developed close working relationships with the school. Applying to be headteacher of Steyning was therefore very much an informed choice and I was hugely honoured to be offered the role knowing the school holds both an important place at the heart of its community and an enormous potential for excellence.
It has a broad educational offer incorporating academic success from KS3-KS5, outstanding boarding provision and an incredible breadth of co-curricular opportunities covering sports, the arts, character development and much more beyond. Therefore, this post represents both the pinnacle of my professional career and a fantastic opportunity to lead the school into its future.
I strongly believe that when a school changes its headteacher it should not just represent the introduction of a new leader with a new vision but rather provide an opportunity for all involved in the school to inform that vision, to take a breath and reflect on what is done well and where there is room for improvement. I often use the phrase ‘the only constant is change’ about education. Strong and effective leadership involves managing change so that it is built on collaborative motivational goal setting. Those goals should prioritise the areas which will have the greatest impact whilst not removing those that already have proven successful.
As I take over the headship of Steyning I want to act as a catalyst for change in both the school and the community so that SGS can build on its considerable strengths, learn from what is best in the Bohunt Education Trust (BET) and reach new heights of achievement across all aspects of its educational offer.
This process has already started as we seek to establish what parents view as the priorities through a survey they have completed; I have initiated meetings with representatives from a wide range of local community groups and look forward to adding the voice and opinions of both staff and students as I get to know them. The combined energies and talents of all those committed to/invested in the school present a powerful potential that I am keen to unlock for the benefit of Steyning’s young people.
SGS is a unique and exciting school. It combines the credibility of a long history with an ambition to be innovative and a willingness to forge its own way. My vision is to combine our Christian ethos with BET’s values of Enjoy Respect Achieve and SGS’s own character education to create an embedded culture that will inform the decisions and actions of everybody in the community. This will enable us to develop dynamic, high achieving, game-changing and morally driven, confident young people supported by staff who are constantly aspiring to excellence through their passion for education. It means the school has the potential to be the best in the country. I am delighted that this is a goal shared by all those within Steyning that I have had the pleasure to meet so far.
I see the size and scale of the school as a strength, allowing there to be smaller schools within the school, ensuring each student can be known as an individual with their needs understood and met whilst benefiting from the opportunities and collaboration of the greater entity. It is important that this sense of being a part of a greater whole is embedded throughout the seven-year educational journey at SGS; by releasing everyone’s potential we will achieve a collective outcome far greater than we might have first thought possible.
Student happiness and wellbeing must be the highest priority if our young people are to be successful. It is important, particularly in these challenging times, that all adults work together to achieve this; a range of strategies will be required and a good understanding that long term success can sometimes require shorter term honest, robust, respectful conversations and decision making. In order to achieve our potential it is important the school has the highest expectations and standards and is willing to hold us all accountable to them. It is my belief and my experience that through such mutual understanding and respect we can create the environment that both nurtures and challenges young people to become their best selves.
Finally, on a personal level, I come to the Headship understanding fully what it means to raise a child. My partner and I have a blended family of four children currently aged 15-22, each very much their own unique individual. This year our youngest embarks on GCSEs and his sister completes A-levels whilst the next oldest is at university. The eldest works for the NHS and this year brought our first grandchild into the family.
There is a much-used phrase ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, I view the community of Steyning as that village sharing in the responsibility parents have entrusted to the school to develop the future generations of young people who will go on to lead and change the world and of whom we can rightly all be proud.
Find out more about Steyning Grammar School at www.sgs.uk.net