Sue Powell, Farlington School’s new Head of Boarding, joined the school at the end of the Easter break. With her wealth of experience and energy, she promises to build on the foundations laid by her predecessor and make boarding at Farlington as vibrant and welcoming as possible.
Her previous role was at Worksop College, a co-educational independent school in Nottinghamshire, where she was Housemistress for nine years. She ran a large house for Year 9 to Upper Sixth and she also had a Head of Year role, where she had academic responsibility in addition to a pastoral remit. She ran a very successful House, with the students winning many of the Inter-House competitions.
Before working as a Housemistress, she spent 24 years in the Army, reaching the highest level of a Non-Commissioned Officer, Warrant Officer Class 1. She was responsible for looking after the families of soldiers. She worked in England and was stationed for two years in Cyprus. Her role was to keep soldiers operational in the field, by ensuring their focus was not on problems at home. Sue worked in a senior management role for four years as a Station Welfare Officer dealing with a variety of issues from housing to problems with extended families, as well as running a community centre. This practical experience is backed up by her BSc (Hons) in Health and Social Care, Certificate in Boarding Management (Boarding School Association) and a Diploma in Counselling.
The pastoral care experience she gained in the military can now be applied to Farlington: her aim is to keep girls operational; to allow them to function effectively at school by ensuring their home boarding life is as stable and happy as possible.
To do this, she runs a homely community; the whole team are the girls’ family away from home – boarding staff, cleaners and matrons. Her aim is to treat the girls as she would treat her own daughter. Care and discipline are key; as is teaching independence, patience and tolerance. Learning life skills, such as doing their own washing and cleaning their rooms, is essential as it prepares them for life after Farlington. Sue firmly believes in leading by example in terms of maintaining an orderly working space and by being organised.
Sue oversees two boarding houses – Fishponds for girls from Year 4 to Year 8, which is a separate house where girls share smaller bedrooms and have a small homely environment with a garden, and the Mansion House – for boarders from Year 9 to Sixth Form. There, they are afforded more freedom to use their time as they see fit – although there are still games and activities on offer. Sue plans to develop the role of Head Boarders, so the younger girls can aspire to be like them. She also wants to ensure the girls are fully equipped and ready to deal with university life when they leave Farlington.
Sue wants to build on the foundations already here and enhance the provision. She plans to do this by improving the communication within the Boarding Houses and integration with the rest of the school. She also wants to encourage the overseas students to integrate more by encouraging the girls to speak English as much as possible, especially in the Dining Room, but she is also sensitive to the fact that it can be a strain to talk in a second language all the time.
On Sue’s first weekend, all the boarders were taken out into the grounds for team-building exercises. They played games so Sue could get to know the girls and the dynamics of the group. She is also ensuring that she gets to know the girls quickly, by having them to register in her office rather than at supper.
Sue has instigated House Meetings on Wednesday evenings after supper. The girls’ suggestions for trips and activities are taken on board. They were asked if they wanted a Boarders’ hoodie, which received an overwhelming ‘yes’, so she got them to design it… watch this space!
One of the key things that attracted me to the role is that I still have direct contact with the girls. I really enjoy seeing the students grow and flourish – Sue Powell, new Head of Boarding at Farlington School
“I’m very excited by the challenge of being Head of Boarding at Farlington. One of the key things that attracted me to the role is that I still have direct contact with the girls. I really enjoy seeing the students grow and flourish. I’m very lucky to be supported by my family, as this is their job, too. Working in a Boarding House is all encompassing during term time, so they are fully involved and I couldn’t do it without their support.
“Farlington is a lovely school in a beautiful location. I’m looking forward to growing and improving the boarding facility here and helping the girls thrive. When I hear a Sixth Former say ‘I can’t wait to leave’, I offer a wry smile, knowing we have done our job in helping to prepare them for the next chapter in their lives. I feel privileged to have such a rewarding job!”