We turn the spotlight on the Head of South Hampstead High School – one of the UK’s leading schools for girls aged 4 to 18, established in 1876.

What was your path to becoming a head teacher?

It all began during my own education - at a girls’ school not far from South Hampstead - which I loved. For me, school was an incredibly happy and stimulating experience. As an adult, I was drawn to teaching English by my profound love of literature and a wish to share this passion with others. Teaching opened the door to a career which I have found exhilarating from day one. Since that first day I have held a variety of leadership positions; my most recent role, prior to headship, was as Senior Deputy Head at Godolphin & Latymer.

I am certain that it is the joyful nature of my own school days which initially set me on an incredible journey to becoming South Hampstead’s Head last September – I have my own teachers to thank for setting me on this path.

Why did you want to become a head teacher?

I believe that education transforms people’s lives; it is this principle which motivates me every day as a Head to do the very best for my students. I am also dedicated to being a role model for my students. As a Head, and as the mother to two little girls, I have a deep interest in the intersectionality in women’s lives between their personal and professional contexts. I want to stimulate powerful dialogue about female leadership and what this looks like in society.

Headship enables me to work with future generations of women who are finding their voice and exploring how to use their influence as a force for good in the world. These principles are the ethical cornerstones of my headship and give huge meaning to what I do.

What’s the most surprising thing about you that people may not know?

I spent several years learning ballet as an adult at evening classes at the Central School of Ballet. It was an amazing experience: enriching, empowering and humbling at the same time… the pirouette continues to elude me!

What were your favourite and least favourite school dinners?

My favourite school dinner was anything that featured roast potatoes followed by an iced bun. My least favourite was anything that was accompanied by stringy, rather pale-looking runner beans, which seemed to be a frequent feature. Thankfully the food at South Hampstead is amazing – I particularly like the homemade soups, fruit crumble, and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.  

How do you relax outside of school?

No ballet for now, as life is very busy, but I love any exercise which involves being outdoors. I can often be found running on Hampstead Heath, reading a host of books at any one time, and enjoying days out in London with my daughters. London is a wonderful place to bring up children. Our most recent trips have been to the V&A and the Royal Opera House.

What are you most proud of at your school?

The palpable sense of joy, warmth, and unity in our community. A recent pupil-led Wellness Week featured impromptu performances from our student rock and pop bands in the atrium. Girls gathered to watch on every level of our building, and I had a lump in my throat when I looked up to see so many of my students cheering their peers on, sharing a wonderfully happy experience together. It is moments like these which make South Hampstead such a special place to be.

Head Name:  Mrs Anna Paul

School Name: South Hampstead High School GDST

Address: 3 Maresfield Gardens, NW3 5SS

Telephone Number: 020 7435 2899

Email address: senior@shhs.gdst.net

Website: www.shhs.gdst.net