As Sandrine Paillasse, Head of St Christopher’s School, prepares to take up a new post at the International School of Paris from September 2024, she hands over to Mark Maddocks, Deputy Head Academic, who steps up as Interim Head.

MM to SP: It has been an extraordinary four years, and you must be excited about the next step in your career, and returning to France, but what will you miss most about St Christopher’s?

SP: Undoubtedly, what I will miss most about St Christopher’s are the people. From the wonderful pupils to my outstanding colleagues and supportive parents, they have made this institution feel like a home. A happy home, full of girls and colleagues having lively discussions or sharing light-hearted moments - on the landing, on the stairs, everywhere around our Victorian house. St Christopher’s is simply brimming with ideas, and I see them brought to life daily. Such is the energy at St Christopher’s. I will miss this tremendously.

SP to MM: You’ve been a Head before of course, at Northwood College, as well as Deputy Head at Notting Hill Prep and Director of Studies at Arnold House. What made you become a teacher in the first place?

MM: I had done some tutoring when at university, and having flirted with other careers, came back to the true path! We become teachers for the joy of working with children, and I missed it. However, I do remember my first day in the classroom vividly, with some rambunctious Year 9s with the scent of new teacher in their nostrils - I vowed never to return! But quickly discovered the love.

SP to MM: That love, the teaching bug, is highly contagious! And teaching is the most rewarding job in the world, but it can feel all-consuming at times. What do you do to relax in your spare time?

MM: Gardening, watching sport, playing the piano, my model railway, reading and crosswords, and particularly, learning languages.

SP to MM: What are the next steps for St Christopher’s?

With my academic hat on, consolidating and maximizing recent changes, such as the introduction of Philosophy across the school; building our collective teacher craft with a thirst to understand the science of teaching and learning, and implementing those lessons for the benefits of the girls. Structurally, the Reception expansion (from this September) is a visionary moment for the school.

Philosophically, ensuring we combine the best that has been said and thought with a critical appreciation of the tools and knowledge our girls will require as they embark on their future lives. In our guise as a prep school, we give our pupils the best chance to move to the right school, without compromising a Jot of their childhood along the way. Simply, maintaining a happy and innovative school where everyone wants to be and learn, children and adults.

SP:  Exciting times ahead, I look forward to reading your Head’s newsletters.

MM: You can subscribe to them on our website.

SP: I certainly will!

MM to SP: As you look back on your time at St Christopher’s what is the single thing about the school that makes you proudest?

SP: One of my greatest sources of pride lies in our commitment to inspiring not only our pupils, parents, and staff but also the broader community to have a voice – including our Planet, which has a seat at every table at St Christopher’s! We've cultivated an environment where everyone understands the value of their voice and feels empowered to use it effectively.

This has meant questioning our approach to education. I am proud that we are leading the way in digital innovations, whilst fostering a culture of thinking and intellectual curiosity. I am excited to have appointed a Head of Constructive Thinking, to deepen our teaching of thinking skills and philosophy, giving pride of place to creativity and curiosity in our curriculum. Our girls leave us knowing how to use technology, but above all, they know how to use their brains to make the world work for them!

MM to SP: We are, as always, in complete alignment on that one. Thank you, Sandrine, you will be missed. As will Manel (SP’s whippet). I don’t suppose Manel might be interested in staying, perhaps on a consultancy basis, to continue his wonderful wellbeing drop-ins for the girls and staff?

SP: I am sure Manel would love to; he will really miss his many friends here, but I’m afraid he is coming with me to Paris!

St Christopher’s School

32 Belsize Lane, London W2 5ER

020 7435 1521

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