Testimonials -
We love our schools, but what do they say about us?

Joanna Savidge, Headteacher

Clockhouse Primary School, Havering

Pupil population has a higher than-average number of pupils:

  • Eligible for free school meals
  • With an Education, Health and Care (EHCP) plan

Outstanding June 2023

“I would absolutely say it's been worth the investment because it's made us think in different ways than we would have ever thought before, it's challenged our view of how a school can be.”

The training program helped us move our school from good to great by making us think differently. We had to really think deeply about what we wanted as a school.

Heads Up has helped us create a cultural shift in the school by allowing us to establish our cultural ecosystem, so that we now have a really clear mission and vision, and values that link down into our key priorities. 

It’s also allowed us to be really clear with staff about expectations in terms of their behaviours and their attitude. Everybody knows, in very fine detail, what’s expected. It’s transformed our approach to appraisal and performance management.

Heads Up is different to other training providers because it offers that blended knowledge of education and corporate, and I think that’s what, for me, makes the difference. It’s also transformed the way our children work with each other and operate with the staff and the wider community. The approach has impacted the schools metrics in ways that were softer than quantifiable data. I would absolutely say it’s been worth the investment.

Ian Scotchbrook, Headteacher

South Harringay Schools, Harringay

Pupil population has a higher-than-average number of pupils:

  • Who speak English as an additional language
  • With an Education, Health and Care (EHCP) plan

Outstanding May 2023

“We did feel a little bit stuck, we were a good school but we wanted to be even better, so the training program helped us move from good to what we considered to be great.”

We were motivated to work with Heads Up because we had reached a point in our development where we were doing well, but we did feel a bit stuck. We were a good school but we wanted to be even better, so the training program helped us move from good to being great. It helped us to step back and evaluate the more fundamental aspects of our school culture that we thought we had nailed. 

It’s really hard when you’re in school, to examine school, even with a skilled leadership team. Sonia’s team have the warmth and the skillset to break that open for you, in a way that changes your perspective in quite a radical way, that’s done very respectfully with a lot of integrity. Heads up has helped us to create a cultural shift in our school giving us more positivity, and much more clarity about who we want to be. I couldn’t have imagined getting to the point where we got to today without investing that money. Investing in school development is a no brainer for any headteacher, and it has to be of good quality, and that is exactly what Heads Up brings.

Paul Murphy, Headteacher

Lancasterian Primary School, Tottenham. A large school, serving a diverse population.

Pupil population has a higher-than-average number of pupils:

  • Eligible for free school meals
  • Who speak English as an additional language
  • With an Education, Health and Care (EHCP) plan
  • With SEN support

Outstanding in 4/5 areas, June 2023

“The work we have done with Heads Up has given us a significant return on investment. I would do it again 100 times over; the legacy of it continues year on year.”

The training program helped move the school from good to great in a number of ways. We have now got to the end of a 5 year period, year on year key stage 2 improvement, and now we are at the national average, having been at the bottom of the borough. 

It has been a long journey, but a real journey rooted in actual organisational change year on year. 

It is not rooted in hot-housing children, but rooted in really changing the school so that children can actually sustain those changes here year on year. 

I can’t really say enough about how much the vision and values changed the school. Everything we do now links back to the vision, and we talk about it all the time. It’s in every assembly, it’s in every staff training, it’s a live thing that really dictates how we run the school. 

I would say the difference between Heads Up and other training providers is that Heads Up feels more like you’re going on a journey with someone who’s there to support you, with sound advice and inspiration. The work we have done with Heads Up has given us a significant return on investment.

Vicki Lord, Headteacher

Irk Valley Community School, Manchester.

Pupil population has a higher-than-average number of pupils:

  • Eligible for free school meals 
  • With an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan
  • Who speak English as an additional language
  • Good, May 2023

“Working with Heads Up changed what we thought our goals were. It shifted our perspective and updated our thinking. In becoming truly great we had to rethink our priorities and our actions.”

I thought that Heads Up could be useful to our school, it’s helped us to think about the things that we felt we already had covered. It helped us to shift the culture and ethos of our school by getting us to focus on our vision and values. To rethink them so that they explained really well to all parts of our school community who we are, so they are individual to our school.

Getting those things right has enabled us to move our school culture forward and realign all the things that we do. It is a big piece of work that is a real rethink about the bigger purpose of what you really want as a school, making sure your vision and your values are aligned with what you want to achieve as a school. I personally felt more prepared for the Ofsted experience, I felt that I was able along with my team to ensure that my school showed itself at its best.

It was as a result of working with Heads Up that we changed our goals, what we thought we needed was in fact different. It shifted our perspective and updated our thinking on our priorities and the actions that we needed to take, in order to make our school the best they could be.

Carol Taylor, Headteacher

New Mills Primary School – Derbyshire

Pupil population has a higher-than-average number of pupils:

  • With SEN support
  • Good, June 2023

“Being part of the programme has been very special. What you provide is unique and vitally important…I knew I needed to be part of it.”

Being part of the programme has been very special, it’s left me stronger. I know I still have a long way to go with changing the culture in the school, but I have started to work out what I’m aiming for. The difficult conversations make me stressed beforehand but they are essential!

Sophie was great to work with and she got the most she could out of a team [when we] were not always on the same page. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew I needed to be part of it. What you provide is unique and vitally important. Thank you for sharing your expertise, knowledge, and passion.

Kim Parnell, Headteacher (retired)

Balfour Academy, Medway

Pupil population has a higher-than-average number of pupils:

  • Eligible for free school meals
  • Who speak English as an additional language

“I was getting to the point where I was either going to retire or resign, so for me it genuinely was the best decision I've made in 15 years. I'm really delighted that we decided to work with Sonia, she's had such an impact.”

“We had a vision and a mission statement that nobody could repeat, and it meant nothing.”

“Sonia said we need to make it together, which we did. It went down incredibly well and we all believe in it.”

This was a school who thought they were good, but went into ‘requires improvement’. In fact, they should have been in special measures. The main challenge was the staff, as they had been at the school a long time. 

We didn’t really start to move on until we started to work with Sonia. We had a vision and a mission statement that nobody could repeat, and it meant nothing. Sonia threw it out of the window. She said we need to make it together, which we did. It went down incredibly well and we all believed in it.  

The other really high point was the work on difficult conversations. We looked at things like skills versus attitude. We’ve been talking in a much more common language since we worked with Sonia, giving us that ability to be able to work together openly and honestly. There is a huge amount of support, contact, and trust with Sonia. We are working with two other external agencies, and I don’t have that level of trust with them.  

Sonia is totally committed to believing every school can be outstanding and we share the same vision, that every child deserves the best education. I’m really delighted that we decided to work with Sonia, she’s had such an impact.

Jo Hester, Headteacher

St John’s Church of England Primary School, voluntary-aided primary school

Pupil population has a higher than average number of pupils:

  • Eligible for free school meals
  • Who speak English as an additional language
  • Good, January 2019

“It was exciting training, it was very empowering, a little scary at times because we were taken out of our comfort zone. As a team, we grew together”

Within my first year we had Ofsted, and we were put into requires improvement. We worked very hard for the first two years. 

With just focusing on the data standards and the monitoring, you actually lose what’s really important at the heart of the school, and for us as a Church of England school it was really important to get back to what that vision is about. When Sonia came to work with us, the end result of our sessions together was a vision that really truly reflected who we are. The great thing was we were able to share that with the children, the parents, and the governors. It was heart rendering in terms of the parents talking about their own personal experiences, and what the vision meant to them. It brought this school community a lot closer. 

It was great fun and interesting because of the very nature of how the course was run. It’s very personal to the school, it’s very bespoke. Sonia was looking at the way we were working and how we work to get the best out of this, so I think that that was a real positive for us.

Lesely Dyer, Headteacher & Allyson West, School Business Manager

The Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee School 
Community Special School
SLD – Severe Learning difficulty

Pupil population has a higher than average number of pupils:

  • Eligible for free school meals
  • Outstanding, May 2023

Outstanding in all areas, June 2023

“It’s brought us together as a senior leadership team; we had to become more professional in the way we managed staff. It's been really good, and we've looked forward to it.”

Before we started with Heads Up training, we’d been a small school and we doubled in size to become a large school. We just felt that we needed to tighten up on our protocols. We needed to change the culture to match the needs of a larger school. 

I dreaded the role play, but it was done in a way that made it fine. You don’t feel uncomfortable, and if you’ve got it wrong, you could go back and you could start again and redo it. Having the actors was amazing, because they just got the situations and the context from a bit of paper. It’s actually easier to role play with an actor. 

I think, from my point of view as a school business manager, I can see the potential financial benefit. We’ve addressed some absence issues and those staff are now in school and working. I think we’re dealing with things better and that’s helping, so I can see the financial benefits.

We’ve learned so much and we’ve been able to go away between sessions and put those skills into action. We’ve all been able to remind each other and encourage each other. We have become more professional.

David Leach, Governor

Clockhouse Primary School, Havering

Pupil population has a higher-than-average number of pupils:

  • Eligible for free school meals
  • With an Education, Health and Care (EHCP) plan

Outstanding June 2023

“I would say value for money absolutely. I’ve spent more money on fire door surveys this year than we've spent on Heads Up consultancy fees, so thank you very much, Sonia, and I continue to look forward to working with you.”

I have worked with Sonia for over 2 years, and over that time we’ve defined our school vision, our mission, and values, and now we’ve embedded them in our unique school cultural ecosystem. Sonia has led and facilitated this process which has been ingenious at times. It has always felt relevant to our school context and never felt like a standard roll-out process from a school improvement playbook. We are proud of what we have produced; it has made a real difference to the way we do things, and it was commented by Ofsted in the recent inspection for its clarity. 

From a governor’s perspective, a key responsibility was to set strategic vision. As a byproduct, we have useful key performance indicators and dashboards that allow us to hold school leaders to account. It was absolute value for money. I’m sorry to say but I’ve spent more on fire door surveys this year than we’ve spent on Heads Up consultancy fees, so thank you very much, Sonia, and I continue to look forward to working with you.

“It's been ingenious at times, it’s been fun, and it’s always been relevant to our school context. We're very proud of what we produced as it resonates with our school values and drives our school improvement.”

Paul Murphy, Headteacher

Lancasterian Primary School, Tottenham. A large school, serving a diverse population.

Pupil population has a higher-than-average number of pupils:

  • Eligible for free school meals
  • Who speak English as an additional language
  • With an Education, Health and Care (EHCP) plan
  • With SEN support

Outstanding in 4/5 areas, June 2023

”Successful difficult conversations…even in just purely financial terms, I think about some of the situations we've remedied in our difficult conversations, and the cost that they could have had to the school. It's been a saving overall.”

I was the fourth Head in two years, so you can imagine all that comes with that. There were quite a lot of challenges at the school and underperformance. We really needed to work on the culture of the school. The way in which we were having difficult conversations wasn’t uniform and probably could be improved. 

It’s definitely given us loads of tools and techniques, but mainly one clear approach that we’ve all been able to use. It’s a simpler approach to improving our skills in having difficult conversations. We’ve had regular periods where we’re checking in and talking about how we’re making progress against different issues that we’re dealing with, so in that way it pushes you a little bit harder to deal with issues quicker. We’ve managed to move on from some quite entrenched issues that have been in the school for a number of years, very quickly. 

It’s been really useful, it’s definitely given us loads of tools and techniques, but one clear approach. We’ve managed to move some quite entrenched issues on very quickly. I knew that we could put in place all the best systems, structures, and resources – all of those things we could spend money on – but if we didn’t sort out the culture, none of it was probably going to work. 

Alison Moller, Executive Head

Julian’s Primary School, five-form entry school. A large school, serving a diverse population

Pupil population has a higher-than-average number of pupils:

  • Who speak English as an additional language
  • With an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan

“The great thing about working with Heads Up has been that the training has been very bespoke for our school, and everything that we have done, we have been able to put into practice.”

We are a five-form entry school based on two sites, and as part of our journey to outstanding we looked at revisiting our vision and our values as we were not quite where we wanted to be. As a senior leadership team, we’ve been able to work with Heads Up and really focus on our core values and what drives us.

We’ve been able to go on and work with governors and staff, children, parents, and carers, so that it becomes really embedded within our old school community. I think the great thing about working with Heads Up has been that the training has been bespoke for our school, and everything that we have done we have been able to put into practice.

The training is really hands-on and relevant to what’s going on in school today. With difficult conversations, we are now able to apply that directly to our work, and it’s been a real benefit to all of us. With the vision and values, that’s what obviously drives us as a leadership team, but also as a school. We’ve been absolutely able to apply everything that we have worked on, so that’s been great for us as a school. 

Mathew Round, Assistant Head Pastoral

St John’s College, Southsea, Plymouth

  • Independent Day and Boarding School
  • Mixed 2 – 18yrs

“I had very effective conversations straight off the bat. The improvement was pretty well felt within a week of the first training session. I would definitely recommend 100%, absolutely definitely.”

Before the training, I found difficult conversations surprisingly difficult. Quite often, you went into a meeting and you talked through an issue with a member of staff and it felt unsatisfying. It felt that you didn’t get to the bottom of the issue and quite often the issues themselves didn’t really resolve. 

I’ve been able to get into the core of the issue very quickly and have some pretty crunchy but very effective conversations straight off the bat. The improvement was pretty noticeable. I would say I felt that improvement within a week of the first training session. I would definitely recommend 100%, absolutely definitely.

Sofia Laq, Assistant Headteacher

Raynes Park High School. 
A large school, serving a diverse population.

Pupil population has a higher-than-average number of pupils:

  • Eligible for free school meals
  • Who speak English as an additional language
  • With an Education, Health and Care (EHCP) plan
  • With SEN support

“There's a consistent approach when we're having those conversations with the people that we line-manage. We have a sense of camaraderie and a shared approach.”

If I had done it by myself, I could not have expected to share the same values and goals, but because we’ve done it together, we are all on the same page with the same expectations. There’s a consistent approach now when we’re having those conversations with those people that we line-manage. We are having a really similar experience, so that’s really powerful, doing it together as a team. The sense of camaraderie and shared experience means we are creating a culture whereby we target each other in a really positive way.