What’s your earliest memory from the classroom?
Our earliest memories are intricately linked with our emotional experiences: many of mine are grounded in the great stories that my teachers brought to life for me. I am certain that my lifelong love of reading and story-telling grew from these memories of Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. One of the greatest privileges as an educator is awakening children’s minds with wonderful stories and the breadth of children’s literature at our disposal has never been better! The culture of story-telling and a love of literature is clear to see at Skippers Hill.
Which aspects of school life do you look back upon fondly?
Holidays, of course! On a serious note, my fondest classroom memories are of the personal projects that I was able to carry out. I still recall my work on birds of prey and the Norman invasion of 1066 with crystal clarity. That sense of independence in learning was invaluable to me; its importance in modern education is paramount and something that I aim to provide for the children in my care.
Did you have a favourite teacher?
Absolutely – many! And not surprisingly those were the subjects that I went on to study at the highest level. I have always been drawn to teachers that think outside the box, that show energy and passion and who inspire a love of learning in children.
What was your favourite lesson?
I have two – one farcical and the other cerebral. My Latin teacher managed to bring to life a particularly dull lesson on the ablative absolute by dancing upon the desks in the classroom playing air guitar on a hockey stick! My English teacher blew my mind with her insight into Milton’s poetic genius in ‘Paradise Lost’ and both inspired me to read English and Classics at university.
Is there anything you wish you’d studied at secondary school?
Musical instruments and singing! Wherever possible I would encourage young children to find an instrument that they can get on with and stick at it for as long as possible. Not only is it fantastic for fusing new neural pathways in the brain, it brings breadth to an individual and is a lifelong gift – very difficult to achieve for those of us that don’t pick up a guitar until 40!
How has your own experience of school sculpted you into the head teacher you are today?
I have either attended or worked in over twenty schools and educational establishments across seven countries and it never fails to amaze me how organisations that are essentially set up to achieve the same purpose can vary so wildly. Ultimately the purpose of schools is quite simple and my philosophy as a head teacher is to pass on the gift that the best teachers and schools gave me: an independent mind, a ‘can do’ attitude, resilience and a desire to take every opportunity that presents itself. Enabling each child to discover what makes them unique, nurturing their talents and developing well-rounded, happy individuals is the best job in the world and Skippers Hill is a wonderful place to do it.
Set in 22 acres, Skippers Hill Manor Preparatory School is a non-selective co-educational independent school in Mayfield, East Sussex, for children aged two to thirteen. 01825 830234 www.skippershill.com.
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