Nicky Whittaker, Head of Pre-prep at Vinehall, talks to us about what inspires her 

What are you most looking forward to in the coming year? 

I am most looking forward to running a school year which is as normal as possible!  We recognise the vital importance that social interaction plays in the development of all our children, and it is our youngest pupils who have missed out the most.  

How have these unsettled times affected the children? 

I believe there has been an increase in anxiety. However, I am greatly encouraged by the resilience I have observed in the children and I am looking forward to working together with my fantastic team of teachers and teaching assistants to mitigate against damage caused by the difficulties of the pandemic.  

What or who inspired you to go into education? 

Every child has the right to a nurturing and holistic start to their school life and the desire to achieve this was my inspiration. At Vinehall this aim is realised by providing all our children with the space to grow and mature in their own time.  

Can you share a favourite memory from your own school days? 

Music provides many of my happiest memories from school and I enjoyed spending my lunchtimes playing various instruments in chamber groups and singing in choirs.  

What do enjoy outside work? 

I love walking with my miniature dachshund, Lola, in the beautiful countryside of the Sussex High Weald. I also enjoy going to the opera at Glyndebourne, a passion which grew from a time working backstage there in my twenties. ‘The Magic Flute’ and ‘Tristan und Isolde’ are still my favourites! 

What do you enjoy most about your role? 

I love the diversity of my role; no two days are ever the same! Alongside managing the everyday running of Pre-prep, I really enjoy teaching music to all the children. I particularly relish playing a nurturing role for those children in need of extra support or guidance.  

What has changed in education since you first went into this career? 

The biggest changes have been around technology, but the most refreshing is that education has become so much more inclusive. There is absolutely no excuse for any child to feel marginalised or ostracised. Additionally, neuroscience has transformed our understanding of the brain and helped us to develop a growth mind-set. 

Did you always want to be a headteacher? 

I have always loved being a teacher but, after winning the Sussex Teacher of the Year Award in 2020, I gained the confidence to aim for a Headship where I could work with more children on a wider scale. I was delighted to find my beliefs aligned so closely with the nurturing ethos of Vinehall.  

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