Interview with the Headmistress
'An interview with the Headmistress'
What do you think of St George's so far?
I have thoroughly enjoyed it and have really enjoyed meeting both students and staff. It is a really happy place and a friendly place as there is a real sense of community. The thing I have found most difficult though, is that it is a very big place, it is a lot larger than my previous school and so getting to know people is the most challenging aspect, just because there are so many people to meet.
Would you say that the number of students at the college is the most challenging aspect so far or are there other things which are just as or more difficult?
I think that when you go into any new role there are lots of things that are challenging; getting to know new people and getting to know new routines is tough as at my last school I knew everyone, I knew what was going on and as a control freak that is quite difficult to get used to!
Despite these challenging aspects, what do you think has been your best experience so far?
Gosh, that is hard! 'Georgians of the Week' has been excellent, meeting lots of different people, achieving lots of different things in lots of different areas has been exciting! I’ve really enjoyed meeting the girls who came to see me to complain about the lunch queue, it was exciting to meet the students and try to solve their problems, and I’ve enjoyed going into lessons as well, meeting new students. And I’ve enjoyed watching the sport! I’m delighted the 1st XV boys are unbeaten this season.
You came from another St George’s, St George’s Ascot – was there any key thing that persuaded you to come here or did you just want a change of scenery?
No, actually, it sounds big-headed to say that I was headhunted but I was! I didn’t particularly go looking for this job, the reason I think they went looking for me is because I’m a practising Catholic and there aren’t many Heads who are practising Catholics. That was also one of the reasons I decided to come here! I’ve always wanted to lead a Catholic school, and St George’s Ascot is an Anglican school, and to me, the Catholic ‘World’ has a very special community spirit, and I guess that’s why, ultimately, I came.
So do you think that the Catholic ethos that the school teaches is one of the core values for students then?
Yes, I do, and in a not heavy way; that’s why I like the Josephite tradition – it’s not like when I went to school where it was ‘you must do this’ and ‘you must do that’, and it was really hard. For me, it’s very gentle here – its Politesse and Douceur, be kind to people and no one can argue with that.
Leaving St George’s Ascot, do you think you have any regrets?
Gosh, no one’s asked me that before! Oh, no I can’t say that! No, I don’t, I don’t have any regrets, but I do miss the girls there as I knew everything about every girl there and I miss that, but I’m working on it here.
And do you think that’s something you’ll bring across to St George’s, being closer to students?
The reason I became a teacher is that I like teenagers and I like talking to human people, and the sadness of being a Head is that you can quite often get removed from that. You also become a Head because once upon a time, you were a good teacher and yet the skills you have that made you a good teacher you don’t necessarily use, you use different skills which I hope I have! The First Years are my key target, but also I want to meet the Sixth Form, and the Captains have invited me over at break times.
Do you think you may ever take that step back into teaching whilst at St George’s?
I don’t think so, because I think the problem with being a Head is that you never know when something can happen, for example, when our meeting got cancelled [the day before]. Therefore, it’s not fair for the people you teach – especially with A Level, but at any level, you have to be there for the students. I’ve seen Heads who tried to teach but have to miss a lesson for a very good reason, but it’s not fair for the students. When I was Deputy Head, I taught, and I was really proud that I only missed one half of one lesson in the four years I was teaching, but that was only because I had to really prioritise my lessons.
Other than leaving with that Catholic ethos, are there any other key values you believe students should take away from St George’s?
As I’ve said in assembly, it’s about being the best version of you and the best version of yourself. If you’re really good at sport or you’re really good at music, that’s great but also if you’re just a really good person that’s also great! Just being able to develop yourself to the best of your ability – my job and the school’s is to enable that but I also want students to push themselves in whatever area they really enjoy.
And is there anything you can bring from Ascot to help here?
I think there are lots of things I can bring, lots of experience because we learn from our mistakes and I’m sure I’ve made lots of those! There are things like the Parent Forums, where parents tell me what they think of St George’s. I did that in Ascot and I did that in Essex before that. I always find that really helpful as you get to know what parents think and they’re not having to write a letter or call me, they can just talk and we can hear what they think. That’s a really obvious example, but I think there are also lots of smaller things I can bring, but at the moment I’m just trying to do what is best for St George’s Weybridge.
The previous Headmaster at St George's College, Mr Peake, left with his goal of 'The Dream' in 2019, an activity centre – is that something you would like to carry on?
I think it is important, but what is vital is that it is accessible for everybody and that it doesn’t become an elite centre for an elite sportsman, but it is an activity centre for everyone, not just the major school sports. It is also about things like fitness, Pilates or gym. The name is critical to me that it is an activity centre, not a sports centre.
Do you have any particular goal for the end of this academic year?
To keep smiling! I do, but I guess I can’t share them right now – I suppose I have goals, but the proof of that will be in the happening rather than the talking about it!
So finally, where do you see St George’s in 5 years’ time!
I want St George’s to be the first choice for people in Surrey and Weybridge to educate their children; for Catholics and non-Catholics. I want the school to be seen as a beacon of excellence for boys and girls.
The Headmistress, Mrs Owens, was speaking with Upper Sixth student Patrick Hare.