In just a few weeks time, Mrs Jennie Phillips will take up the role of Head Teacher here at King’s Hawford and become the first female Head in our Foundation’s near 500-year history. To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, we caught up with Mrs Phillips to find out a little more about the influential women in her life, and what this day means to her.
Why did you choose to become a teacher?
I come from a long line of teachers. My Grandfather was the Headmaster of a Grammar school in Lancashire, my parents worked for Oxford University and my brother and sister both teach too. It was something that I always aspired to do. When I was 14 years old I completed my first work experience placement in my local primary school and loved every minute of it.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
As a woman with a career, and the mother of two teenage daughters, it is the opportunity for us to celebrate some extremely talented and inspirational women, who have generated social, economic, political and cultural change around the world. It gives us cause to stop and reflect on the on-going journey towards gender parity and equality, whilst celebrating how far we have already come.
Can you tell us about a woman that has had a positive impact on your career?
Whilst there are a great many women in the public eye that I admire and whose achievements I aspire to, the women that have had the greatest impact on me are closer to home. Mrs Ann Lloyd was the first female Head that I worked for and I learned a great deal from her. She was a formidable school leader, who was protective of her pupils and staff, whilst being caring and dedicated mother and wife. At the time of Mrs Lloyd’s appointment there were few female Prep school leaders and she was very much in the minority.
I would say that the most important lesson that she taught me was that there is no greater achievement than providing an environment where the children are resilient and have high aspirations, regardless of their gender.
What advice would you give to young women just starting out in their career?
Be assertive and confident and believe in yourself. Only you know what you are capable of so never let the expectations of others limit you. Be resilient and learn from failures. Always be genial and respectful but challenge stereotypes and injustice where you see it.
When you take up your role here at King’s Hawford, you will be the first female Head in our Foundation’s near 500-year history. What does that mean to you?
It means a great deal to me and I feel extremely proud to have been chosen to join the King’s family. Throughout its history King’s has built upon its traditions and character and continued to develop and enhance its strengths. King’s has become a progressive and forward thinking foundation, and I am delighted to be taking my unique place in the timeline of the schools.
I very much look forward to the future and will embrace the opportunity to be a positive female role model for all of the children at King’s Hawford.
The theme of this year’s IWD is #ChoosetoChallenge, encouraging us to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes, and help forge an inclusive world. What role do you think schools can play in answering this challenge?
Schools are essential in educating our young people around the issues of equality, and it is our responsibility to demonstrate and champion inclusivity and acceptance within our communities. Delivering a PHCSE curriculum that strives to develop an understanding of inequality due to gender, race, sexuality, or towards any other disadvantaged members of society is a priority.
PHCSE is just one element of our journey to equality. Inclusivity has to be woven into the fabric of the school. I was delighted to be involved in a Year 6 enrichment session last week where Bluebell was sharing her presentation on the life and work of Emmeline Pankhurst with the class. It was wonderful to see this young ambassador delivering her message with such knowledge and passion.
What’s your International Women’s Day message to everyone here at King’s Hawford?
I would encourage all of the children to celebrate their own female role models, both in the public eye and at home. I would ask them to consider how they might challenge or question stereotypes, so that they can flourish in an inclusive global society in the future.
But before any of that, they should go and find the woman they admire the most and give her a big hug.