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Channing School’s new headteacher on the Covid-19 era and freeing Highgate girls of ‘fear’

PUBLISHED: 12:39 28 September 2020 | UPDATED: 09:12 29 September 2020

Lindsey Hughes says she wants to develop pupils' confidence, self-compassion and bravery. Picture: Channing School

Lindsey Hughes says she wants to develop pupils' confidence, self-compassion and bravery. Picture: Channing School

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“What if we could be 10% braver? Then we would have young people going out into the world ready to take on whatever life throws at them.”

Mrs Hughes chatting with Channing pupils. Picture: Channing SchoolMrs Hughes chatting with Channing pupils. Picture: Channing School

Lindsey Hughes, the new headteacher at Channing School in Highgate, has made it her mission to develop the courage of her students.

This summer, during the grips of a pandemic which has turned everything upside down, Mrs Hughes took over from Barbara Elliott who led Channing for 15 years.

Now, after a spell of huge growth for the private girls school which has 983 pupils aged 4 to 18, Mrs Hughes says her main task is one of “consolidation”.

The Highgate head told the Ham&High: “In my first assembly I talked about the importance of not judging or making assumptions about other people’s experience of coronavirus and their lockdown.

“Everybody’s experiences the last six months have been very different and very personal, so we need to be very respectful of each other.”

In the era of Covid-19, Channing has adapted. Masks are now worn in corridors and communal areas; break times are lunches are staggered, and hand sanitiser stations are always nearby.

Female pupils can often be Female pupils can often be "held back by fear", Mrs Hughes says. Picture: Channing School

Mrs Hughes, who moved from Lady Eleanor Holles School in Hampton, says she is “loving” her start in Highgate, having waited 15 months to take up the role.

Her personal stamp, she says, will be to develop students’ attitude through their confidence, self-compassion and bravery.

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Mrs Hughes said: “Girls and young women are often not very good at acknowledging their strengths and being proud of themselves for the things they do well.

“We are traditionally not great at blowing our own trumpet and I think that’s a really important skill to learn, and a characteristic to have.

“It’s about having appropriate pride in achievements that are worked hard for.”

"It's about having appropriate pride in achievements that are worked hard for." Picture: Channing School

Mrs Hughes said she wanted to stop students blaming themselves.

The headteacher continued: “We are really good at supporting each other and supporting our friends when things go wrong.

“If somebody has a bad day, you’ll say: ‘Don’t worry, you’re amazing, you’re great. This was just a blip. You’ve totally got this.’

“But we’re not always great at turning that voice on ourselves, and treating ourselves with the same self-compassion.”

Too often, Mrs Hughes said, women are “held back by fear”.

“My personal motto is about being brave and being willing to try things.

“I ask the girls what they could do if they were 10% braver. That doesn’t require them to conquer their fear outright, but it allows them to be a little bit braver to take a small step.

“I think that’s really powerful.”


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