'One year in and the school's magic has made my world better'
Sandrine Paillasse, head, St Christopher's School
- Credit: Martin Phelps
Family and friends often ask what I make of my first year in post, as head of St Christopher’s School.
Over the last twelve months, I have refined my answer, just as my attachment to the Belsize school and its community has grown stronger.
St Christopher’s magic has made my world better – who would not rejoice in magic in these uncertain times, when sadness has touched so many of us? My first year presented challenges – change, inevitably, brings loss and grief, even when change is a desired transition. I am indebted to the parents and staff for allowing me in their community, for their honesty and warmth, for putting words to their feelings and aspirations.
Together, we are shaping St Christopher’s for tomorrow. It has been an exhilarating ride – a rollercoaster, complete with the excitement we feel when queuing to get on, the fear when the locks come down, the handholding with the friend next to us, the wide eyes when the cart goes up, the shriek when it goes down, and the laughter and amazement when we come out of it alive! All with candy floss smells filling the air.
That is St Christopher’s; it is magical, like a summer fair. We have dreamt big; our vision speaks of ambitions for our pupils. Cutting-edge learning steeped in tradition (we teach thinking, philosophy, chess, and we have brought back Latin) with an eye firmly on our girls’ future (we have new digital leaders, a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) strategy and a football festival), whilst never forgetting where we come from, to learn with and from others (we have a new partnership with a school in Sierra Leone, and we have created charity pupil leadership positions).
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We teach our girls to hug trees in our beloved Heath (we are committed to becoming a Forest school this year), and each other too, to care big.
Inclusion is at the heart of all we do. We have reviewed our admission processes and we are evaluating our bursary system to promote meaningful outcomes and to create a culture where diversity can thrive. We must teach children to think differently, moving from a position of social responsibility towards a culture of social justice.
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Childhood is precious; we treasure it. I want St Christopher’s girls to remember their prep school and their community, to remember their roots as they branch out in the wider world… for home is where the heart is. Our leafy school is their home, just as it is mine now.
Sandrine Paillasse is head of St Christopher's School.