Head, Blackheath Preparatory School

In the latter half of 2019 we were asked to partner with Blackheath Preparatory School on the appointment of the School’s next Head. This came after Penelope Thompson’s retirement in March 2019, whilst Deputy Head Clare Dawe had taken on the role of Acting Head.

The School had enjoyed considerable success both academically and with regards to extra-curricular provision over recent years. This had also been paired with a period of relative uncertainty. The School therefore sought to appoint a Head who would help to shape their next phase, by devising and implementing a new long-term strategy with the governing body. Compliance expertise and some experience of formalising governance structures was seen as desirable. The Head would need to gain the confidence of the common room and the parents, while also having the credibility to lead an experienced Senior Team.

The School’s holistic approach to education was attractive, especially for those who had been based within schools with a lesser focus on the co-curricular provision. Blackheath’s combination of academic rigour with wide-ranging extra-curricular activities was a considerable draw for a number of candidates. The School’s grounds were also seen as a key attractor, particularly following recent renovations to the site.

Saxton Bampfylde was also chosen to find Blackheath’s next Bursar concurrently with the search for their next Head. Some candidates currently based in South East London knew of recent changes to the senior team and sought some reassurance about working with a new Bursar. On this front, we acted as ambassadors for the opportunity that this change provided: candidates would be able to shape their own working relationship with the incoming Bursar and pave an ambitious new commercial outlook for the School.

Candidates needed to be familiar with the London preparatory schools sector, however our search also identified those working across the country who had some experience of working in or around London. Ensuring a diverse range of candidates in all senses was of the utmost importance; with this in mind 69% of those whom we approached for this role were women.

The position attracted a range of current Heads and Deputies, with twelve Deputy Heads (or equivalent) and six existing Heads applying for the post, Candidates came from across the UK and internationally, with almost all having some experience of the London schools market. Alex Matthews, Pastoral Deputy Head from St Paul’s Juniors was appointed. Alex had previously been Deputy Head Co-Curricular at Dulwich College, having studied at the University of Oxford and University of Chichester. Alex was well-known for his outstanding work creating innovation within St Paul’s approach to pastoral care and was appointed from a highly competitive field.

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