How did your career in independent education begin?
I knew very little about the sector when I began my teaching career. I started my career working in a state school in Fife, but it involved a long commute and I just decided one day that I’d had enough.
A friend told me about a job at Dollar Academy which she thought would interest me. I no longer wanted to be reliant on anyone else to place me in a school within a specific region, I wanted to be the master of my own fate and choose this for myself.
The independent sector allows for this and I’ve worked in the sector in various roles ever since.
There’s a quote from Robert Frost that I feel sums up my experiences in my career – I’ve always taken “the road less travelled”. While it is completely unusual and maybe not everyone else’s style, I have never planned anything in my career.
How do you go about choosing a school to work in?
In my 35 years of teaching I have been very focused on pastoral care and child protection, so schools that have that at the core of their values are the ones that catch my eye. I think every school’s values should focus first and foremost on developing and nurturing each individual pupil so that they become the best they can be.
It’s also very important to me to be able to train in my areas of interest and I’ve been fortunate to work for heads who have allowed me to do that.
What benefits are there to the independent sector?
When parents are paying towards their child’s education, or have sacrificed a lot for it, it makes it a bit more real and ensures the child is more focused. Children in independent schools are extremely motivated and have a real love of learning so put in the effort to ensure they are successful at whatever they choose to do.
What challenges do you face?
Being a head brings with it a lot of responsibility, not just for the pupils but for parents, staff and anyone who has an interest in the school. I am 100% child centred and sometimes policy-makers seem to forget that children should always be at the forefront of every decision made regarding a school.
What do you enjoy most about working in an independent school?
As a head in a boarding school it is the ultimate job in terms of looking after young people 24 hours a day. I think there’s nothing more rewarding than being able to develop the lives of children in your care.
Do you still play a role at Glenalmond College?
I stepped down as warden in order to spend time with my husband, Richard, who has reached the final stages of Motor Neurone Disease. This was a tough decision to make but the right one for my family and for the college. I am an honorary Old Glenalmond and will continue to do all I can to support the college.
What are your plans for the future?
Currently I have no plans for the future. My main priority is caring for Richard and being available for my family. I am a governor at a prep school and also on the board of SCIS and will continue in these roles. I have never planned anything in my career. I find opportunities do come up even when they are least expected. I would hope to be able at some point to use the skills I have built up over 35 years.
Is there anything you think the independent education sector should improve?
It is vital that the independent sector continues to be as accessible as possible. Bursary provision and a clear commitment to the local communities they operate within is something I tried hard to achieve at Glenalmond. Breaking down prejudices and ensuring that our young people understand every echelon in society can only be positive for the future.
For advice on becoming part of the Scottish independent school sector, visit www.scis.org.uk