New Headmistress for Cumnor House School, Girls

Cumnor House Welcomes Mrs Amanda McShane

Cumnor House School for Girls is delighted to welcome Mrs Amanda McShane as Headmistress from April 2018. Here we find out a little more about our new Head.

Tell us about yourself..

I have been a teacher for 27 years, having taught in both state and independent sectors. Most recently I have been Deputy Head and Head of Science at the Old Vicarage School in Richmond, but previously have held a senior post in large state school and taught in small prep schools as Head of Science. Becoming a teacher is all I ever wanted to do. I have had other interests along the way, I had dreamt of becoming a photographer, a professional Flautist, a journalist and a writer. But all through, I wanted my own school.

My desire to teach stems from wanting to inspire and motivate children in the way that I never was, my parents and I moved a lot in the UK and abroad, so I never really settled in to learning. One of the joys of teaching is that children are uninhibited, they will ask questions that adults are too blinkered to think about. They see things with fresh eyes and have a genuine joy when discovering something for the first time. Children inspire me to see things with fresh eyes and to remain curious.

How did you hear about Cumnor House School?

I was approached about applying for the role of Head and immediately wanted to learn more about the school and its pupils. Rather like a parent looking for a school for their daughter, I was looking at the school’s results, destination schools, ethos, sport provision, pastoral care, extra-curricular activities, staff and pupil ratios. On visiting, I was struck by the dedication of the teachers and pupils – their combined desire to be the best that they can be; the school has a warm and friendly atmosphere and a great buzz of learning. I felt that this was a school going in the right direction, a school that shared the same values as me. I feel confident that it is suited to my skills as an experienced senior leader.

What do you think is the greatest challenge facing students today?

Children are more than just results. They deserve better than that. We, teachers and parents, need to prepare them for their life’s big adventure and to do this we need to give them a breadth of experience, to take them outside their comfort zone – in a safe way – so that they realise that they can do it. We need to give children the courage to think outside the box, to allow them to fail and learn from that failure. We must give them the skills to develop a growth mindset, by teaching them how to reflect and move themselves forward, thus developing resilience.

What makes a ‘good day’ at school?

Happy children, happy teachers, happy parents. When a child joyfully tells me something that they have mastered, or achieved for the first time. To have the privilege of going into classrooms, seeing teachers inspiring learners. It is wonderful and rewarding, on a daily basis, to be brought back to that childhood wonder.

Is there a quote or saying that you live your life by?

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” – Nelson Mandela

“It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but that you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it.” Arthur Conan Doyle

If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them?

England. Children are so well travelled and cosmopolitan these days – they go all over the world. However, England has amazing treasures to reveal. Experiences that I think children really benefit from are things like, camping out in the woods, sleeping to the sound of owls hooting and badgers snuffling round. I would take pupils to The Yorkshire Dales with the incredible caves and the magical stalagmites and stalactites, the rugged scenery and limestone pavements. Encouraging them to look at the wildlife, wild flowers, trees, mushrooms and toadstools; and at night time to lie beneath the stars and wonder at our universe. Teaching our children to see and appreciate our great surroundings.