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Godolphin school


Emma Hattersley, Head gives an overview to Parliamentary Review Magazine

Emma Hatterlsey, Head

Originally founded in the 18th century by Elizabeth Godolphin, Godolphin School is an independent girls’ school for boarding and day pupils. The founding ethos of the school was to combine both academic and practical skills, ensuring a breadth of knowledge and a sense of self-worth and confidence, something that continues to this day. The school offers a wide choice of courses at A level, supplemented with BTECs and other qualifications, and strives to ensure that creativity is an intrinsic part of the curriculum. Headteacher Emma Hattersley joined the school in January 2014 and details the strategic plan that has been central to its development.

We were founded in 1726, making us one of the oldest girls’ boarding schools in the country; Elizabeth Godolphin left money in her will to found a school for orphaned girls. It was her desire that they were afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts and her plan to ensure that they received both academic and practical skills. These key principles continue today and each year we celebrate our foundation with a service of thanksgiving and commemoration in the Henry VII chapel in Westminster Abbey, where Elizabeth is buried.

I joined the school in January 2014 and when I arrived, I set about formulating a strategic plan entitled “Our Vision and Commitments.” This set out our vision for the next ten years, taking us up to our 300th anniversary. Prior to my headship I had worked in other leading boarding schools in pastoral care and also as a musician so my skills were well suited to this creatively-minded and pastorally-focused school.

Ensuring a broad curriculum

The strategic plan covers three main areas: academic achievement, pastoral support and community and infrastructure. We have broadened our curriculum from prep to upper sixth, trained staff in mental health, first aid and pastoral care, and carried out upgrades to our facilities, ahead of a major infrastructure project to be launched once funds permit. We were awarded the Sunday Times Southwest Independent School of the Year in 2019; a welcome recognition of our efforts.

We endeavour to provide a wide range of subjects offering around 25 courses at A level. Seventy per cent of our students choose STEM subjects at this stage and we strive to celebrate and support this. Supplemented by several BTECs in the performing arts and other subjects, we ensure that creativity takes place alongside the core academic curriculum. We have a diverse intake of around 480 pupils and we strive to focus on each individual’s ambitions, be they in music, science, the humanities or art. Our added value measure is exceptionally strong and using benchmarks is an effective internal way to look at an individual child. Our value added at GCSE was a full grade above expected levels. At A level, our students did almost half a grade better than benchmarking would have suggested.

Many of our students go on to take art foundation courses and we organise various activities such as artist-in-residence days or residential courses to support this. We have a 70-minute lunch break and hold after-school sessions in order to offer a wide range of music lessons, academic and sporting opportunities as well as other activities that are aimed at developing wellbeing.

One of our key goals is to create strong women with varied skillsets. CCF is very popular among our students and we have the largest all-girls contingent in the country, around 80 strong. This enables us to compete in the Ten Tors challenge, which our students relish.

Developing soft skills

To honour the intentions of our founder, we have focused the curriculum on improving the skills of our students. In parallel with our A level courses, I have introduced the Sixth Form Elizabeth Godolphin Award, which aims to develop soft skills. We

To honour our founder, we have focused the curriculum on improving our students’ skillsOne of our key goals is to create strong women with varied skillsets have also created a prep school version of the award and are about to roll out another such scheme to address the skills gap that has affected many sectors, for our years 7 to 9. This focuses on digital literacy, cultural capital, mindfulness, critical thinking and discernment. It seeks to establish the overlaps between the humanities and sciences promoting a full range of skills.

We are committed to working in our local community, visiting local primary schools and contributing to conservation projects. Our pupils regularly go into local hospitals and women’s refuges; they bake cakes, sing and dance or dress up. For a small school, we raise a lot of money for local charities and this is very important to us. This year we are appointing someone to oversee this outreach and combine these programmes.

Adapting to budget constraints

With rising costs and the increase in teacher pension contributions, everyone in the independent sector is having to re-evaluate. We have been planning how we can best use our resources, working with other schools to ensure that we are as cost-effective as possible.

The increased pension contributions are likely to cost us an additional quarter of a million pounds but I think this new policy will have a negative impact on the sector. There is no common way forward. The nature of independent schools means that they are all different and therefore require different solutions. We are determined not to pass this cost increase onto the parents – instead, we aim to increase our intake. There is always the temptation to reduce the breadth of the curriculum in order to cut costs but we are committed to finding a better way.

Recruitment issues have not affected us greatly so far, as teachers are naturally attracted to the school and the area. We have a healthy staff turnover and we have always had a strong number of teachers applying for vacancies, which affords us good choice. This may change, however, as many more jobs are being advertised for schools abroad, reducing the potential recruitment pool.

Looking ahead, we are planning to construct a new “Research and Invention Centre”. This focuses on STEM subjects and includes coding facilities, maths suites and design and technology labs. It also includes an auditorium to allow the whole school to gather comfortably as one. The new library is designed to provide far more breakout areas, some without Wi-Fi where collaborative work can take place. My plan is to have this completed by 2026, but we require capital and donations to make this happen. With this new building, we aim to support and contribute to our community involvement and to act as a location for local primary schools to take part in “Saturday Science Sessions”. The new building will enable us to provide a facility that we can extend to our local community.