Mary-Jo Hill

03 Jul 2020
To start off this series, we present to you Heather Brand, Headteacher at The Kingfisher Partnership - Ditchingham Primary and Gillingham St Michael's Primary.

Since we believe that schools are first and foremost communities, today Coach for School Improvement starts a series of interviews with Norfolk’s headteachers. Our view is that these dedicated professionals sometimes get forgotten in the midst of daily tasks and challenges.

The interviews will be published on Fridays, on our Instagram @coachforschools and also here. To start off this series, we present to you Heather Brand, Headteacher at The Kingfisher Partnership – Ditchingham Primary and Gillingham St Michael’s Primary. She has been a head at Gillingham for ten years and in partnership with Ditchingham for five years. Heather became one of the youngest female headteachers aged 29, after teaching in urban primary for ten years previous to that.  We thank Heather for making the time and, without further notice, introduce her to you.

Reading? (apart from the Dfe e-mails)

Becoming by Michelle Obama — I really enjoy reading about history and find it particularly interesting when interpreted through someone’s life story. It is a particularly interesting read given what is happening in the world with the BLM campaign. I am enjoying how this book helps articulate that during the different stages of our lives we learn so much about who we are.


In line with the history theme I enjoyed watching ‘Self Made: Inspired by the life of Madam C.J. Walker’ and ‘The Last Dance’. I have a 13 year old son so we have enjoyed watching random American challenge game shows such as ‘The Titan Games’ – I grew up watching Gladiators on Saturday nights and thought that looked tough – this American show seems impossible!

Preferred social media?

I use different social media for different things. During lockdown I have needed my Strava APP to keep me motivated to get fitter when seeing all the activities my friends are doing. Facebook, I find useful for local knowledge.

Most useful social media for school during lockdown?

I find Twitter really useful for school, I usually find it an invaluable source of CPD as I follow many different professionals. During lockdown, it has been helpful and reassuring finding out how other headteachers are dealing with the latest government updates.

What is keeping you grounded during this time?

People around me. Most days I will have a conversation with someone who is dealing amazingly with challenges far greater than I have to deal with. I have always valued being part of team, but even more so now. My staff team have been amazing, they have risen to every challenge presented to them and always with a supportive smile.

Unexpected positive outcomes?

At school I was contacted by Morrisons about being part of their community champions scheme – they provide a bag of goods each week to our Free School Meals families – amazing! At home, my husband was furloughed for a short time, so we finally got round to some of the household jobs we’ve been ignoring! It has been really positive to have time to spend together as a family actually at home, we are usually off out every weekend visiting people or playing sports.

What are you looking forward to?

It has been humbling to receive thanks from the key worker families whom we have kept the school open for during lockdown. But it has been really hard to not be able to have all children back in school. Like all headteachers, I am a really looking forward to hearing that buzz of learning from each classroom when all children are back in again.

A wish for September and / or next academic year?

I work with many highly skilled professionals, my wish for next academic year is that those colleagues feel respected and empowered to deliver learning in the way that they know will meet their children’s needs best.