Exclusive interview with the headmistress of Sarum Hall, Ms Victoria Savage

 

Mumsinthewood had our first interview for 2020 with Ms Victoria Savage, the vibrant and enthusiastic new headmistress of Sarum Hall, on 14th January 2020. Ms Savage has a passionate interest in music and is an accomplished musician, having  achieved countless accolades throughout her musical career.  Ms Savage, first got into teaching  after working in organisations where music was used as a means to helping and healing children with special needs. Her first job at Falkner House was via the Royal Academy of Music and from there she went on to teach at Lambrook, Eton, Garden House, Dragon and finally, Newland House before taking on her role as Headmistress of Sarum Hall.

She was wonderfully enthusiastic about her new role, speaking about how wonderful it was that at Sarum Hall, all the teachers and departments collaborate and are willing to engage in a variety of creative opportunities to bring education to life for the children. As a way of breaking the ice with the children, Ms Savage, came up with the fantastic idea of asking the children to put their questions for her in a box which she read out and answered at assembly. She clearly, genuinely loved the school and was brimming with ideas on how to take the school forward. She was clear that it was the happiness of the staff and pupils that made the school tick. She has also introduced child led assemblies and has planned to have Women’s week in March where all the great women of the world will be introduced to the children.

She was very much invested in the idea of empowering every individual girl in the school and stated that her vision was to keep the school non-selective, to work with families to make sure that every child is supported and enabled, to encourage big personalities to express themselves in the right way, for girls to be independent, articulate and to provide opportunities within the school for every type of girl to shine. She proudly mentioned that being a one form entry, had actually helped in instilling a very caring and considerate atmosphere, where the older girls help and support the younger ones. 

On admissions, Ms Savage was clear, in answer to questions, that working parents were not discriminated against, that the girls were chosen via a ballot system and that registrations were closed at 100 applications so that the school was open to all alike and everyone got a fair chance. 

Question:

Having taught previously at a range of co-educational schools, girls schools and boys boarding schools, what was it about Sarum Hall that attracted you to the school?

Answer:

I was extremely keen to join Sarum Hall because as soon as I walked through the door for the very first time, I felt the happiness and genuine warmth of both the pupils and staff. Everyone is here for one common goal – to give the girls an exciting education with memories and experiences that will last a lifetime.

 

Question:

Taking into account your experiences, do you agree with the idea that girls fare better in single sex schools and boys in co-educational schools?

Answer:

There has been lots of research and many reports on why girls fare better in a single sex environment and I feel that we now need to be more proactive in promoting and celebrating this educational value. The girls definitely benefit and progress at a faster rate and have the capacity to be challenged in order to enhance their critical thinking skills. We want our girls to be strong, independent young women with a thirst for life and adopt the philosophy that anything is possible. We are excited to be introducing our ‘Week of the Woman’ which will focus on celebrating and exploring influential women across the world.

 

Question:

What changes if any do you envisage making to school policy regarding the admissions process, the focus of the school or its ethos?

Answer:

We will continue to be a non-selective school that welcomes all children and provides an education tailored to each individual pupil. We are a popular school so I don’t intend to change the fundamental ethos of Sarum Hall but that doesn’t mean that we can’t look to improve and refine what we offer, as education is constantly changing and evolving. In conjunction with my Senior Leadership Team and through introductory meetings with staff, as well as introducing Class Reps Meetings for parents, we have been able to create a meaningful, dynamic and strategic development plan for the next three years of the school.

 

Question:

As we move to a digital age, do you feel the national curriculum sufficiently prepares children for their future? If not, what, if any changes, would you propose?

Answer:

I think that the national curriculum is somewhat conservative in this area however we use it as a starting point and supplement it, in order to give our pupils the skills and ability they need to adapt in an ever-changing technological world. I do feel it is important to address the many issues that arise and provide a ‘joined up’ approach between school and home so that there is a robust support network in place. Pupils need this area to be explored and taught confidently and openly in schools in order that they can safely make the most of the benefits that technology offers.

 

Question:

What do you feel should be the most important traits instilled in the girls before they leave for secondary schools and what does Sarum Hall do to promote such traits?

Answer: 

I am passionate that the girls learn social skills and values which they can apply to life both at Sarum Hall and in the wider world, alongside transferrable skills from the curriculum. It is so important for children to have people skills for the world in which they will work and I am confident that all our girls will be equipped to be confident and articulate young women who are able to empathise with others.

 

Question:

What are the most significant characteristics you look for when offering places to families?

Answer:

We are completely non-selective and operate a ballot system to allocate places. We do not meet the girls in advance of this process but I enjoy meeting all the different parents and discussing each child’s educational needs.

 

Question:

What is the school’s policy on multiples, are places offered even if the siblings have different ability levels?

Answer:

We are a non-selective school which means places offered in Nursery are not based on assessment. However, if these girls have older siblings wanting to join the school, we do assess to ensure that they will be able to access the level of curriculum that their cohort are working at.

 

Question:

Being an inclusive school, are there plans to expand the SEND department?

Answer:

We currently have a busy SEND department that manages the requirements of the girls well, and supports each individual through differentiation, intervention and extension, as appropriate. We constantly evaluate what we are able to offer and will of course expand as and when the school requires this.

 

Question:

With the school being so oversubscribed, do you have any plans for expanding the school and perhaps acquiring more space?

Answer:

We are in a very fortunate position but are not currently looking to expand the school further at this stage.

 

Conclusion:

Sarum Hall have in the recent part, established  a food studio where the girls are  introduced to cooking vegetarian food and they are taught not just the basics of food nutrition and healthy meals but are also learning about the science of food by a professional chef. The studio has cross curricular uses and is used in science, art, ICT and is also used in community outreach programmes like hosting cooking demonstrations for boys in Hereward House. Sarum Hall is also now hosting debating competitions, chess and fencing to help develop social skills. A dining hall refurbishment is on the cards as well. Other than that, Sarum Hall remains the same lovely little school with the girls looking forward to the Easter ducklings which seems to have become a school tradition. 

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