Nicole Chapman

Headteacher, Chelmsford County High School for Girls 

What is your present role and where?

I have been Headteacher of Chelmsford County High School for Girls, a high achieving selective school since 2007. As Joint President of the ASGS 2013-2015, I worked to build on driving the mission of promoting the education of girls and modernise our image as an association. Traditions are at the core of my School’s ethos; it continues to thrive with outstanding examination results and destinations to prestigious universities.  In 2011 CCHS became the first secondary school in the County of Essex to acquire Academy Status, and top performing school in Essex 2017.

I believe that education makes a significant, long lasting difference to the lives of the girls whom we have the privilege of educating; the better the education we can offer, the more of a difference it makes to the adults they become and to the people with whom they will work and live in the future.

I am dedicated to my roles, passionate about education, particularly instilling confidence in students to strive for excellence, fulfil their potential, whilst contributing to the local and global community. I believe that girls will become the leaders of tomorrow; as a manager I am compassionate to the needs of both students and members of staff, and uncompromising in achieving the highest standards possible.

During my time at CCHS, I have led the expansion of the School, brought  facilities into the 21st Century with a new Music Centre, Sixth Form study facilities,  an extended dining hall, re-designing existing facilities, a three-storey Languages Centre; upgrading and developing ICT for high quality teaching and learning in addition to more efficient administration. I am a champion of the International Baccalaureate both within my school and beyond, although in 2017 we had to discontinue the programme due to insufficient funding.  CCHS developed its own Learner Profile demonstrating our commitment to developing the characteristics that will ensure our students become some of the ‘leaders of tomorrow’, understanding their responsibility to themselves and others.  I am a Local Leader of Education, as a Professional Partner, mentoring newly appointed headteachers, adviser to schools requiring support to raise achievement and a Pupil Premium Reviewer.

What two professional achievements you are most proud of?

1. Embedding an ethos that enables girls to thrive and believe in themselves.

2. Developing staff into effective leaders.

What four words best describe your approach to leadership?

Principled; Dedicated; Compassionate; Resilient. 

What have you learned about effective leadership most recently?

To be resilient in challenging times.  In order to be effective, leaders need to be aware of and work within the specific circumstances of their school, rather than plough on regardless; adapt and respond to the changing political and economic context; accept what cannot be changed but challenge convincingly.  Never lose sight of the fact that for each student the education they are experiencing is their only opportunity, it must therefore be the very best that can be provided.  Above all have faith in students to achieve and be the best they can and instil the same belief in all the adults who work in the school.  Create a climate of mutual respect, caring discipline and high expectations.

What three pieces of advice would you give to a new headteacher colleague?

1. Get to know your school by listening to each member of staff and as many students and governors as is practicable, and hear their message before making big decisions.

2. Grow your vision from your personal convictions and what is right for the students and the staff.

3. Be prepared for setbacks, don’t take them personally, use them to reflect, review your strategies and adapt them to changing needs and circumstances.

Who have been your influential mentors/ role models?

I cannot single out individuals in my personal and professional life who have been particularly influential, however I have valued the encouraging feedback from line managers, headteachers and inspectors that has spurred me on to apply for the next step in my career.  I have also learnt from those whose style and approach have taught me what would not suit my personality and preferred approach. 

What do you view as the most pressing issues / challenges for girls and young women in our schools currently? 

1. Managing social networking to ensure that they regulate and limit their own use of it.

2. Developing the resilience not to be pulled into negative feelings about their personal image, which in turn affects their well-being and mental health.

3. Breaking away from stereotypes and believing they can really do anything that interests them.

4. Standing up for themselves and what they believe in without fear.