Key Voices #104 – Reflections on the realities of school leadership with Kate Owbridge

“Nobody has asked me about how I, as an individual person, am feeling about the whole pandemic... because I am the headteacher and that is my job and that is what I do… I am the face of the school and that’s how I have to present. I don’t tend to share my opinion and feelings on a personal level, they tend to be more on a professional level because actually, it is not about me It’s about the children, the families and the staff. 

This week we speak to Kate Owbridge, Executive Headteacher at Ashdown Primary School. She shares with us some of the lessons she has learned across 4 very different headships. Kate also includes some practical tips about engaging with school communities and school improvement. We briefly discuss engaging parents with remote learning, catch up and the challenges of leading a school community as they all return to school. We end with Kate enthusiastically explaining why she absolutely loves the work she does. 

We talk about:
  • The different schools Kate has led during her career and how in each case she got to know the community and how best to serve it
  • The common thread across all types of parent is that they want the best for their children 
  • How to start on a school improvement journey while also taking parents along with you 
  • The realities of Kate’s school improvement experience at her current school, bringing an infant and junior school together 
  • What she has learned about headship during her career including, picking your battles, how to manage staff (such as the SBM) in an informed way so you feel confident all the right things are happening
  • Her brilliant analogies about why supporting your child with remote learning can be approached like getting them to eat their meals and how catch-up is like recovering from a broken bone 
  • Her approach to building a bespoke curriculum based on how much time children have missed and how much longer they have left at the school
  • How as a Head you need to remain neutral sometimes so that you can lead every member of the community, no matter how you are feeling
  • Why she loves her job 


“I’m really quite aware that everyone has a different opinion, different feelings and they are not wrong. One of the joys and one of the curses of being a headteacher is I have to manage all that, regardless of how I feel about it. I have to manage the people who don’t want to come back to work and the families who don’t want to send their children back to school, but they are being expected to, as well as the ones who are running gung ho going “Yes! I’m back at school hooray!”

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