Lisa McDonald started her role as Head of Woodford Green Prep in September – here she tells Absolutely how things are going
How long have you been Head of Woodford Green Prep and what originally
attracted you to the role?
I have been Head at WGPS since September 2023. The pupils are undoubtedly the
school’s greatest asset and when I first visited I was so impressed by their character
and individual personalities. As someone who is values driven, for me, it’s so
important that the pupils (and staff) actively and authentically demonstrate our core
values on a day to day basis. They are intellectually curious, quietly confident and,
above all, kind. It’s a real pleasure to lead a school with a hugely talented and
committed staff and a really positive culture.
How would you describe the school’s setting?
The school is set in an urban location but on the doorstep of Epping Forest, enabling
us to capitalise on all that this natural space has to offer. Being on the periphery of
central London, and just a short tube ride away, also opens the door to the vast
cultural heritage of the capital.
How important are the Prep years to shaping a pupil’s educational journey?
Absolutely critical. Providing children with a secure and nurturing learning
environment in which they can build character and confidence is crucial. Children are
challenged to become intellectually driven, brave, independent thinkers within a
community that is kind and which places happiness and wellbeing at its core.
How do you look to instil a love of learning?
It’s important for children to have the time and space to be curious; to develop a
sense of wonder and perspective about the world beyond that which is immediately
around them. Making space for children to become open minded risk takers, to ask
lots of questions, to fail as well as succeed and to have an intrinsic desire to lead
lives of consequence is a crucial part of what we do.
A broad, innovative approach to the curriculum with a real focus on developing
important skills and attributes, as well as knowledge, is key.
What would we find in a typical classroom?
You would see children who are lively and engaged and with a real sense of purpose
about their learning. There is a palpable sense of the supportive and caring relationships that exist in the school and it’s obvious that the children really enjoy
learning. There is also an abundance of creativity and a real excitement for learning
thanks to a broad, sharp and dynamic curriculum.
What curriculum do you follow?
We follow a bespoke and advanced English National curriculum, with opportunities
for the oldest children to explore philosophy, metacognition and leadership. Breadth
of opportunity is also important and our pupils excel in sport and the creative and
performing arts. Last academic year, a record number of scholarships were awarded
for senior school entry.
Does your school do anything different compared to other Prep schools?
We are ambitious for every child and I am unwavering in my belief that every pupil is
capable of great things. There is academic rigour but we are a compassionate and
inclusive community that is wholeheartedly committed to nurturing respect and
kindness, and which is unafraid to place personal development at the heart of school
life. WGPS pupils are knowledgeable, principled, caring and quietly self assured.
How has the new school year begun?
The new school year has begun with a renewed sense of energy and excitement I
think! Thanks to the generosity of my predecessor, I was lucky enough to be able to
spend a large part of the summer term in school getting to know everyone in our
community. For me, positive and strong relationships are the bedrock of a successful
school and being able to cultivate that mutual trust and respect early on, particularly
with staff and parents, has made for a really positive start to the school year.
What are you looking forward to this year?
There are no doubt challenges ahead for our sector, but I am looking forward to the
opportunity that those challenges bring! I am supported by a highly skilled senior
leadership team and I am excited to work with them to lead WGPs boldly through its
next phase of development. As a passionate EYFS practitioner, I am also hugely
excited about the Nativity season!