Rachael Cox discusses why she wanted to take on the Headship at Eton End School and why she feels privileged to overseeing the start of her pupils’ education journey
What attracted you to taking over at Eton End School?
Eton End has a real family feel and that is important to me as a head: education is about the whole child and working in partnership with families and the wider community. It is essential for me as a school leader to be part of a community and have meaningful daily contact with our pupils. I am also committed to independent education and the freedom that offers to our profession to always act in the best interests of the child and the family with regards to the curriculum, structure of the school day and the enrichment programme we can offer to our pupils. Eton End is completely independent, we are free to design the curriculum which works for our pupils and advise them, without bias, on future schools.
Looking back on your career in education to date, what would you say is the biggest thing you have learnt?
That no two children are the same and that emotional security and positive nurturing of children alongside high aspirations and a belief that anything is possible will enable all children to succeed in a variety of fields. When I started teaching nearly 30 years ago there was a belief that children had a certain level of potential; we always talked about children meeting their potential. I have learnt that a child’s potential is limitless, it is capped only by those who try to define it and measure it. I am always mindful of the words of Einstein when he said, ‘Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.’
How would you sum up what Eton End School offers?
Eton End is a traditional school with a forward-thinking approach to teaching and learning. We deliver an inspiring and ambitious education, both inside and outside the classroom centred on happy children who exemplify the school motto: I am, I can, I ought, I will. We value the uniqueness of every child and their family and tailor our teaching to maximise their strengths and support them in the next steps in their learning. We are a school with a real focus on well-being and pastoral care, our High Five and Sunny Selves programme help support children’s character development, mental health and well-being enabling them to flourish and thrive at school.
How does the school motto fit in with your own approach to education?
The school motto – I am, I can, I ought, and I will – is central to our philosophy of education here at Eton End. As I have previously mentioned children can all achieve great things when they have the mindset and support to do so from those around them. The school motto could not be more apt to represent what I believe about education, it is not only about imparting knowledge but about creating members of society who make positive contributions with confidence, humility and compassion.
The age range, 3-11, is a key time for a child’s development. Is it a privilege to help introduce a love for learning?
I trained as a teacher almost 30 years ago, I chose to specialise in the primary years because I believe that it is such a key part of children’s development. To be entrusted with someone else’s child in their formative years is an honour I find difficult to express in words. If I can play a small part in helping any child develop a love of learning, overcome obstacles and be mindful of their own and others’ wellbeing then there is no greater achievement or reward for the work I do.
What do you expect to see in a typical classroom?
Happy, excited children, productive talk and lots of questions and curiosity. High levels of collaboration and empathy and evidence that the children are willing to take risks in their learning and step outside their comfort zones. We can only learn when we face challenge, as educators we must establish an environment where children feel it is safe to put themselves in that place of challenge.
How important are opportunities outside of the classroom to you?
Vital. Reading, writing, and adding up are only one piece of the education pie! Children learn so much from other experiences; respect, teamwork, dignity and humility from sport are classic examples. Through the performing arts children gain confidence and develop their imagination and public speaking skills. Co-curricular clubs present the chance to try new skills and work with different people – the list is endless and one of the greatest advantages of an independent education is the option to take part in so many enrichment activities.
What are you looking forward to most as the school year begins?
Getting to know everyone in the Eton End community and forging strong and productive working relationships has to be near the top of the list but, as always when a new school year dawns, I am looking forward to seeing that priceless look on a child’s face when they grasp a new concept for the first time, or achieve something that they have so worked hard for. That is why I come to school every day – because the children in my care have only one childhood, it is my responsibility to lead a school which celebrates that, protects it and provides memories that will last a lifetime.