William Ellis' new headteacher: ‘I want this school to create good sons and… fathers'

First woman to be permanent headteacher explains success that isn't measured in the statistics

Thursday, 2nd September 2021 — By Harry Taylor

Izzy Jones William elllis head2

Izzy Jones is about to start her first academic year in the permanent position of headteacher

THE new headteacher of a Camden secondary school said she wants to help create the next generation of “great fathers, responsible sons and people who make the world a better place”.

Izzy Jones was confirmed as headteacher at William Ellis in March this year after a spell as interim headteacher. She goes into the new school year with the position now permanent after emerging successful from a gruelling two-day interview process with staff, students, governors and council staff to become its first woman headteacher.

She told the New Journal of the Highgate Road school’s pupils: “It would be naive to say that school helps them to become brilliant people, but wouldn’t it be great if we can measure the amount of William Ellis boys who have become great fathers, responsible sons or doing jobs that help the world to become a better place.”

She added: “We’re never going to get statistics on that but that’s the other reason why we need to do work around boys’ education and boys becoming great citizens, and also people who can build successful lives and have jobs that give them stable livelihoods.”

Ms Jones’s predecessor Sam White announced he was stepping down in March 2020, less than a fortnight before the national Covid-19 lockdown began.

The pandemic then dominated Ms Jones’s year as interim headteacher, with remote learning becoming the norm for many students for months on end. Pupils and staff will be doing tests this week before returning to classrooms after the summer break from today (Thursday).

“I’ve got a CNJ front page at home which says ‘Virus disruption from Covid’ and then next to it saying Sam White was stepping down, I’m never throwing that away because it sums up the confusion of those early days,” she said.

“For a lot of us coming in to school was a comfort blanket sense of ‘I am getting up and going to work and this is no different to what I’ve always done.’ A lot of people didn’t have that.”

She added: “The routine of being able to do that, coming in, seeing staff, seeing the boys every day meant I coped with lockdown much better than I would have done otherwise.”

The former history teacher said the effect of Covid will be in the education system for at least the next decade. Two sets of primary school pupils have not sat their SATs and the effects of ­disrup­ted schooling on children has not yet emerged.

She believes it should give school leaders and education officials a chance to look and evaluate how assessments work.

Ms Jones said: “It’s a chance for the system to sit back and look at how it does assessments. We’ve never really mapped out how you learn this thing in Year 3, which helps you learn this in Year 5 and it helps you then when you’re approaching your GCSEs. It’s like children who can’t use a knife and fork as toddlers, that affects their handwriting, and that affects their learning.”

Ms Jones has worked in the area for more than 15 years, including a spell at neighbouring Parliament Hill. A PPE graduate from Oxford University, she did her PGCE to see what education was like in the classroom, thinking like many of her contemporaries she would end up in the civil service. However, once she stepped in front of pupils, she didn’t turn back.

“I realised how energising it was, how complex the intellectual challenge of making learning happen is,” she said.

“There is a real immediate reward and feedback and gratification from seeing young people learn and succeed, and being able to share in that happiness. That’s particularly true in diverse and challenging schools where students are so responsive and you can make so much difference.”

Ms Jones added: “With an Oxford PPE degree I could have gone and taught at Highgate or Channing but I want to be at this end of the hill because that’s where you make the difference.”

The school is Camden’s only all-boys non-selective state school, and will celebrate its 150th birthday next year. She added that she had no intention of a move towards co-education for its secondary years, with some teaching at its shared LaSWAP sixth form with La Sante Union and Parliament Hill mixed-gender.

She said: “When I was interviewed back in March, there was a definite thrust from the boys who interviewed me on the student panel that we needed to keep William Ellis as a school for boys and there was something really special about being a boy, and being able to be any kind of boy. I haven’t become the female head of an all-boys school to turn it into a co-ed.”

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