Length of service at Prior's Field (in 2020): 15 years
1. Are you doing what you thought you’d be doing after you left school?
No, I left with the plan to do Physiotherapy or Nursing but chose the wrong university for me. Earning money was more appealing than studying. I don't believe in regretting decisions, but I wish my determined, twenty-something brain had been a little less rushed and that I'd stuck out my nursing degree. I think I would have loved it and the opportunities for further work and study it would have brought.
2. What would you say is your biggest achievement, the thing you’re most proud of professionally or personally?
Can I be cheeky and have one of both?!
Professionally it must be getting my Master’s Degree whilst working and having a family. I learnt so much about how to support young people and the barriers to good outcomes for them, and what I can do as a professional to support them. I wanted to do it not just for me to but show my children you're never too old to learn, and that education isn't just for a finite time until your early 20s. In my 20s I was too busy living my life with friends and felt comfortable but as I got older I realised I could still learn, in fact, I wanted to know more so I could be better at what I do. It was hard though, and there were times I just wanted to give up. I was writing my dissertation whilst Havana did her GCSE revision and I think it helped us both understand a little about what the other was going through. It certainly has made me much more aware of the pressure and stress on young people caused by our current exams system.
Personally, pride definitely has to be for my family. Ian, my husband and our two daughters Havana and Ally. They are so supportive and put up with me rushing off to work, sometimes not being around much in term time and then being around more during holidays, probably annoying them! Ian is the rock of our family; he is a fantastic husband and Dad. The girls are towards the end of their days at Prior's Field, which feels odd, but right.
3. If you could have an inspirational leader to a dinner party, who would it be and why?
Again, never one to conform, I couldn’t possibly have only one person for dinner!
David Attenborough is probably on lots of people's list but I've watched him since childhood, so he is definite. He has tirelessly worked to educate us about our planet and yet doesn't turn around and say, 'I told you so'. He keeps finding different ways to help us learn.
Michelle Obama might well be a cliché choice but I think she would bring some wisdom and humour. Whilst I'm sure there are lots of interesting stories about her role as First Lady, I'd like to hear more about her being a Mum to daughters and how her relationships and family have morphed and changed.
If we can include people from the past I'd invite Anne Frank. I don't suppose she had any idea about the legacy and learning she would leave behind. She's was the same age as our girls at Prior's Field and yet her journey was so cruelly ended. It doesn't sit well. You could call her a leader in the way her diaries have helped millions of child grow up to be better adults, and work to break down inequality and hatred.
As a school we supported The Red Box Project, which provided sanitary items for girls in the UK who might otherwise miss school because they could not afford to buy them. This charity was set up to support the #freeperiods campaign launched by Amika George. She was 17 when she started campaigning for the government to fund sanitary products in schools. Her campaign was successful but that hasn't stopped her and I'd like to know more about what she thinks we should be doing for young people growing up in the UK.
Scarlett Curtis would be another welcome guest. She is an author, activist, and blogger. She speaks openly about feminism, equality and mental health, sharing her personal stories and supporting others. I think it's time we (middle-aged and upwards who grew up in different times) listened more to young people rather than trying to tailor them to how things used to be. I'm sure Scarlett would bring lively discussion with a sense of purpose and compassion.
In the summer of 2020 it was great to watch Marcus Rashford speak out so clearly about funding for school meals and the difference it made for him and his family. It's very easy for lots of us to put our heads in the sand and just get on with our own lives, but the manner and power in his words made it impossible not to support his cause. I'd love to ask him what he would like to see in the future and how that change might come about.
My guests have taken quite a serious turn so I'd probably also add someone to lighten the mood. Bill Bailey is a favourite as is Rhod Gilbert. I'm struggling not to add a whole list of top comics who would make fabulous guests!
I bet you wished you hadn’t asked this question!
4. Do you have a favourite quote, expression or mantra which inspires you to keep going?
My family would say its 'Have you drunk enough water?'. It’s not inspirational but factually a real healer and important daily habit!
I think the word 'breathe' is underestimated. Just reminding myself (and others) to stop and take a breath has been something I've only really understood more recently. We can all seem so busy and time-poor but the energy and calm we regain from 2 minutes of calm breathing can be transforming. I recommend giving it a try.
5. What advice would you give to today’s girls who may be wondering which path to take beyond school?
Do something that interests and excites you, something you have a thirst to know more about but also know it’s OK for those interests and passion to change - you're a human, wired with emotions, not a robot. Don't worry if you don't yet know what you want to do, just use your time wisely to gain new skills, earn money, or make a difference. Know that there will be difficult times, and these are part of the journey.
Enjoy the journey - it’s one of the best things about life.
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