Executive Headship – leading multiple schools

Richard Backhouse - Berkhamstead School

RB photoRichard read Economics at Selwyn College, Cambridge. After holiday jobs at factories and warehouses in Swindon, his first permanent job was at Oundle School, where he taught Economics and Business Studies, coached rowing, was a resident tutor in a boarding house, Head of Year 9, and ran a CU. Nine years at Bradfield College followed, and roles as Head of Economics & Politics, Boarding Housemaster, and Director of Pastoral and Extra-curricular Activities. In 2005, he was appointed Principal of Monkton Combe School, where he spent 10 years. In January 2016, he took up the role of Principal of the Berkhamsted Schools Group. He has, at various times, been a trustee of three other charities, and is married with two adult children. Interests include skiing (fast), golf (badly), gadgets, and, as a Good Schools Guide reviewer put it once, he gnashes his teeth weekly in support of Southampton FC.


Emma Taylor - Dean Close School

ET photoEmma Taylor graduated from New College, Oxford with a BA, and subsequently an MA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Having trained to teach at Westminster College, Oxford, she took up her first teaching post at Stowe School, Buckingham as a member of the Economics, Politics and RS departments. Having run a Sixth Form girls’ boarding house at Stowe, she moved to Canford to take on the leadership of a brand new 13-18 girls’ house as part of the school’s transition to coeducation. She subsequently served as Senior Mistress and Admissions Tutor at Dean Close Senior School, before taking up her first Headship, at Christ College, Brecon. During this time she oversaw a significant expansion of the school, including the opening of a junior school and the setting up of a sister school near Kuala Lumpur, as well as significant improvements in academic performance and in the breadth of co-curricular provision.

Emma took up her role as Warden and CEO of the Dean Close Foundation in 2017. The Foundation consists of 5 schools and 5 nurseries, with its headquarters in Cheltenham.

Having been a Forces boarder herself from the age of 8, she is an advocate for the benefits of modern boarding and for co-education, and has contributed regularly on educational matters to BBC Radio and TV in Wales and to numerous journals and publications. Her interests include rugby, travel, reading and tackling the Times crossword.

Her husband, Simon, is a modern linguist, and she has two daughters; Holly, 22, who is a student of French and Spanish at Bath University, and Daisy, 14, who is a pupil at Dean Close.


Tricia Kelleher - The Stephen Perse Foundation

tricia kelleherTricia Kelleher is Principal of the Stephen Perse Foundation, a family of schools in and around Cambridge educating boys and girls aged 3-18 to become independent thinkers.

Since 2001, Tricia has led significant change within the Foundation, shaping a vision for education that is truly future-focused and developing a creative, progressive curriculum that encourages creativity and excellence in teaching.

Her time as Principal has seen the Foundation grow significantly. In 2008, the co-educational Stephen Perse 6th Form College was set up, and ten years later she is welcoming Cambridge Centre for Sixth-form Studies (CCSS) to the Foundation family of schools. Between 2010-11, the Foundation opened two Pre-Prep sites, and in 2014 welcomed Dame Bradbury’s School in Saffron Walden to the Foundation family. Since 2014, Tricia has also  introduced the diamond model to the Foundation’s Junior and Senior Schools, realising a 21st century vision for single-sex education.

Tricia’s outstanding leadership and strategic vision has been acknowledged through awards and accolades including the TES Independent Schools Award for Outstanding Strategic Initiative.

Tricia has pioneered the use of technology in the classroom, leading the Foundation to become one of the UK’s first Apple Distinguished Schools. Pupils use iPads as ‘virtual satchels’ and teaching staff continue to unlock new ways to help pupils collaborate and innovate.

Tricia’s commitment to education goes far beyond Foundation pupils. Under her leadership, teaching staff have shared their digital expertise worldwide, with learners from around the globe accessing digital Stephen Perse resources.

Prior to moving to Cambridge, Tricia was the first female Deputy Head of Brentwood School, one of the first schools to adopt a diamond model for learning. She was previously Head of History and Head of Year 7 at Brighton and Hove High School.

What does life look like when you have several schools to run?

How does a federation of schools benefit the pupils, staff, heads and governors?

Why are more and more (private, charitable) schools linking into federations?

Is being a ‘super-head’ super?

Trying to answer these and other questions, and to stimulate a discussion on the nature of leadership in 21st Century schools will be….

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