Redefining stereotypes by showcasing positive Black and Ethnic Minorities contributions, and empowering and inspiring the next generation.
EDITION ONE – 2019
I am… the CEO of a multi-academy trust, an independent leadership consultant, a mentor, and a speaker.
I am the CEO of a multi-academy trust, an independent leadership consultant, a mentor, and a speaker. I am also learning a new role as the founder of a social media platform which helps educationalists to connect, celebrate and support each other.
Tell us about your life journey so far. What has brought you to your current role?
I was born in South Africa during the apartheid regime. My birth certificate labelled me as Cape Coloured. My parents were teenagers when they had me and we had a very humble existence. There were no choices about schools so I was sent to the local school for my racial group. There were more than 50 children in the class, resources were non-existent and the teachers ruled with a cane. School was a terrifying place and I dreaded each day.
Despite the barriers, I was a successful learner. My god-mother taught me to read and I had a love of reading from an early age. Books were my sanctuary. My parents were academically ambitious for me and for all of my life they drummed into me that you don’t allow the expectations and limitations of others define who you are or what your success can be.
We lived in range of countries and ended up in Northern Ireland during the 70s – at the height of a period of sectarian violence. I gained a scholarship at an academically high performing girls grammar school. The teachers had high expectations of me and I rose to them.
We moved to England just before I entered sixth form. Staff there clearly saw me as a working class black pupil, had very low expectations in me and I encouraged to do sport. I did not do so well there
I chose to become a teacher because I felt it was my calling. I wanted to be the teacher I always wanted when I was at primary school. I absolutely loved teaching and still do. I had a great mentor and school leaders who saw my potential as a leader. I was persuaded by them to apply for my first headship
In your field of work, what has been your observation and/or experience of white privilege, discrimination and prejudices?
Yes, I have witnessed discrimination and privilege directed at pupils, parents and staff at every level. My most recent experience is as a CEO being asked who I was representing!
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were younger?
I wish I learned to embrace being me rather than trying to fit in with everyone else.
I wish I’d learned to be my own best supporter and spend less time looking towards the external world for approval. If you don’t have confidence in your own abilities and values, you can’t expect others to have confidence in you.
I wish I appreciated my time more. It goes quickly, so embrace every day
I wish I learned to spend less dwelling on what ifs and regrets. You can’t undo a mistake but you can live to make each new day better than the last
I wish I had learned about the importance of having a balance between work and personal time. They are both equally precious.
I wish I had travelled and worked abroad before settling into a career. We work and live for a long time here is plenty of time to settle and grow professionally
What song, quote, statement or image do you find most encouraging?
And Still I Rise – Maya Angelou
‘I Am Light’ and ‘Video’ by India Arie
How are you redefining a stereotype?
I love that I am black, born into poverty to teenage parents during the apartheid regime and it has not been a barrier to my success
(I am a leader in education and the first BAME CEO in the country)
I am shy and an introvert but I can lead and do public speaking
What advice or top tip would you give to the next generation of BAME individuals?
Blaming, complaining and hating does not look like success so make and keep a promise to yourself to always be your best self. Never let anyone’s limiting judgement of you become your reality.