Epsom Appoints its 14th Head - Epsom College

Epsom Appoints its 14th Head

The Board of Governors of Epsom College is delighted to announce the appointment of Emma Pattison as the school’s 14th Head. Emma will lead the school from September 2022, taking over from Jay Piggot who steps down from the College after 10 years as Headmaster.

Emma will become Epsom’s first female Head, and joins following six years as Head at Croydon High School GDST. Prior to that, she was Deputy Head (Academic) at St John’s School, Leatherhead.

Emma will live at the Head’s House, on the College grounds, with her husband George, a Chartered Accountant, and their six-year-old daughter, Lettie.

Emma said: “I am delighted and honoured to have been appointed Head of Epsom College. It is a school I have long admired, with an enviable reputation, and George and I can’t wait to meet the pupils, parents and staff and to become part of this wonderful community. It is my aim to ensure that Epsom continues the upward trajectory on which it finds itself thanks to a decade of transformative leadership from Jay Piggot. I am grateful to him and his wife Poppy for leaving me with a school of so many talents and strengths, and for making me and my family feel so welcome. It is our intention to make our home and our school equally as welcoming in the months and years to come.”


Rigorous recruitment process

The Chairman of the Board of Governors, Dr Alastair Wells, began the recruitment process in August 2021, intent on finding a candidate with the requisite qualities to maintain, and build upon, the excellent educational standards already in place at the school.

“Emma emerged from a strong field as a most impressive candidate,” said Dr Wells. “She excelled and excited the Governors with her vision for the College. Epsom’s pupils were similarly impressed; at the final interview Emma taught a class for 30 minutes on a topic of her choice, which was ‘identity’. The lesson was of such outstanding quality it concluded with spontaneous applause from the pupils.”

Emma graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA Hons in French and English Literature, and from the University of Warwick with a PGCE. Her teaching career began in 2002 at Lutterworth College as a teacher of French and Spanish. In 2005, she joined Caterham School teaching French and Spanish and became Head of Year 8 there one year later.

In 2012, after four years as Head of Modern Foreign Languages at Guildford High School, Emma was appointed as Assistant Head of Professional Development at St John’s School, Leatherhead, and promoted to Deputy Head (Academic) in 2013. Three years later, Emma was appointed to her first Headship at Croydon High School GDST.

“I have loved every minute of my first Headship at Croydon High, GDST,” Emma said. “It is a very special school with wonderful pupils, staff, alumnae and parents who have greatly inspired me. I will treasure the memories and carry with me everything I have learned at the school as I embark upon this exciting challenge.”

Dr Wells said: “In announcing this wonderful news, I should also like to take this opportunity to thank Jay for his total and professional support to the Governors during the recruitment process, along with his outstanding skills of leadership and management in establishing Epsom College as one of the leading schools in the UK. We would have struggled to attract interest from the very best candidates had the school not enjoyed its current standing.”


Q&A with Emma Pattison


Why Epsom? What did you know about Epsom prior to applying? What was the appeal of taking on the role of Head?

I’ve lived and worked locally for quite a long time, so I knew Epsom College by reputation.

Epsom is – because of its exams results – already one of the most successful schools in the country. It has the potential to become recognised as a world-class school.

However, Epsom’s success is about more than results alone. I was attracted to the blend of academic excellence, the focus on co-curricular – the co-curricular offer is truly exceptional – and the way the school builds the character of its pupils.

Childhood is precious and education is a preparation for life, it defines the person you’ll become. It is crucial that children learn to have fun, to enjoy life and learning, to take pleasure in the activities and the skills they choose to develop, as well as building lifelong friendships. When I visited Epsom, it was immediately evident that the school embodies this ethos, and that really resonated with me.


Why now, why was the timing right for you professionally and personally?

I’ve done six years in my first headship, and I’ve been able to take Croydon High School on the journey I had envisioned for it. It’s been a fabulous six years and the school is in a great position. It’s an exciting time for a new head to take it on to the next phase of its journey.

The role at Epsom certainly has a wider scope. But when I took over at Croydon High, my daughter was a year and a half, she will be seven when I start at Epsom. So, it feels like a good time to take on a role of this nature. I feel ready for the challenge.



What did you discover about Epsom College during the recruitment process that surprised you?

I read everything I could so that there would be no surprises in the interview process. So, while there may not have been any surprises, the highlight was most certainly meeting the pupils. I took 30 minutes of a PSHE lesson, focusing on identity. The pupils were brilliant: fun, interesting, confident. They spoke their minds freely and were happy to share their opinions in an articulate and respectful way.

I was also blown away by the warmth and the friendly nature of everyone at the College. It’s such an impressive-looking school and has such an exceptional reputation that I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first visit. At other schools, that austere architecture and imposing reputation could weigh heavily, particularly when you are feeling a little nervous anyway. But the pupils showed genuine warmth, with a very down-to-Earth nature. Equally, the governors and teaching staff I met left me in no doubt that I will be working with talented and supportive people who are utterly committed to the College and the pupils.

Epsom College is clearly not only an outstanding school, but one with real heart and spirit.


How will you adjust from an all-girls’ day school to a co-ed boarding environment?

I’ll be adjusting back to the co-ed boarding environment. I’ve worked at more co-ed schools than girls’ schools, and I have experience of both boarding and day schools.

In fact, my career has spanned independent, state and international schools. The experience I’ve gained has been invaluable in helping me to understand the needs of diverse groups. I’m a true advocate of social mobility.

The time I’ve spent as a tutor in a boys’ house, as well as a Head of a girls’ school, has given me a sharp focus on what boys and girls need inside and outside the classroom. I understand and celebrate that co-education is all about healthy competition, developing mutual respect, teaching collaboration, and promoting equality.

I’m really looking forward to being back in this environment, armed with everything I’ve learned and the experience I’ve gained in my first headship.

It is also worth stressing that leadership is a collective endeavour. I will be ably supported by an SLT with vast experience of co-education, boarding, and the specific characteristics of Epsom College and its rich history.


What are the key aims and objectives for you as the 14th Head of Epsom College?

There are no plans for immediate, widespread change. Epsom College enjoys fantastic results and facilities. I’ve already talked about the co-curricular offer and the pastoral care is innovative; in so many ways it is sector-leading. A key aim and objective is to ensure that the College continues to build on these very strong foundations.

I’m thrilled to be able to build on the stellar tenure of Jay Piggot. He’s lauded, quite rightly, for the enviable position that the College now enjoys. It’s an honour to follow in the footsteps of such a well-respected and talented leader.

My focus will be to ensure continuity and then build a vision in collaboration with every section of the school community, not least pupils and alumni, so that over time we enhance Epsom’s already very strong position.

It’s important to remember, though, that education is not alone in having experienced a turbulent few years. What I have learned as a school leader is that there is absolutely no room for complacency, even for schools that are the best of the best. Therefore, I’m really excited to hear from the school community how they believe we can traverse the turbulent times still ahead while emerging as the school that everyone is talking about.

I want us to innovate to inspire. When the best schools in the country are making decisions, I want them to ask “what are Epsom doing about this? Because they’ve usually got really exciting ideas”. I want us to innovate to inspire because it prepares our pupils for exciting futures where they can become leaders in society.

I want us also to collaborate to create; securing exciting partnerships with leading creative talent to give us new and progressive ways of working, upskilling staff and designing a curriculum for the future.

The final tenet is that I want us to transform lives to shape the future. I spent half an hour in the company of the most wonderful pupils in the final stage of my interview, and it’s an absolute privilege to think that I’m going to be at a school that is preparing the influential leaders of our future. It’s important that those pupils represent the society they’re going to lead. And I think that social mobility plays a big part in that.


How will you judge if your first term has been a success?

Over the summer, I’m going to visit and get to know the campus as intimately as I can. Therefore, if within my first term I can find my way home from any corner of the campus, that will be a real success.

More seriously, I will be pleased if, by the end of the first term, I have had the opportunity to engage with and learn about all the various members of the College community. I want to get to know their thoughts about the future while building a deep understanding of the operational structure and the functions of the College. I want to be in a position after the first term where I understand the challenges, the potential for the future, and be at a point where I can start piecing together the strands of an exciting and progressive strategic plan.


What do you enjoy when you’re not running a school?

The things I enjoy most are music, skiing, reading, running, and family time, of course. I hasten to add, I’m not a particularly proficient musician or skier at all. I just find them very relaxing.

The things I enjoy outside of school are those which have the power to transport me beyond what the day-to-day job might be throwing at me. So that’s why I enjoy them so much.

I’m not a classical pianist, but bashing out a pop song or jazz standard on the piano helps. I just really enjoy it. Good for relaxation if not for the ears of those closest to me.

Where to next?


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