Grantham Journal Big Interview: New headteacher at West Grantham Academy St Hugh’s

West Grantham Academy St Hugh's headteacher Susan Dench.
West Grantham Academy St Hugh's headteacher Susan Dench.
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Susan Dench has been appointed the new headteacher of West Grantham Academy St Hugh’s.

Mrs Dench, 45, a mother of two, comes to Grantham from her post as deputy headteacher at the Heritage High School in Clowne, Derbyshire. She lives in Nottinghamshire.

What are your plans for the school?

I would like to see the children achieve and continue to be happy. There is a lovely ethos here and a nice atmosphere, maybe because it is a smaller school. It’s a family atmosphere and very caring and I want that to continue. But improving results has to be the key priority.

Is teaching still important to you personally?

I have a love for teaching and I am still teaching. I am really passionate about the classroom. I won a teaching award in 2009. It was a lovely moment for me and then I was asked to meet the Prime Minister at a reception. After that I went to Singapore to speak to the biannual teaching conference. I wrote two papers on literacy and learning, and teaching in the digital age. I feel very strongly about technology in the classroom. I see it as a very useful tool.

Are there other areas of the curriculum you feel are important?

I am very keen on sport. I play tennis. Sport seems very important here. I see a lot of pupils are into cycling and table tennis. We have a lot of extra-curricular clubs in school and I certainly encourage that. There is nothing quite like sport to get you thinking about strategy and the aspect of discipline, which are very important in life. So I would like to see the sports programme develop.We have a lovely open space at the back of the school and an outdoor gym. It’s a nice site.

There were a few problems at the beginning of term with school uniform. Are appearance and discipline important in the school?

It’s important we are getting the basics right and we have good discipline. If these are right then the learning can take place. There has been lots of support from parents. Visitors coming here have said how smart the pupils look. There is a real buzz about the school and I have regular meetings with the head boy and head girl. I do believe the students should have a strong voice in school and that they should shape the way the school operates. If they feel part of it, I think that leads to success. It was great to see the summer school here which helps the new Year 7 pupils in their transition to the school. We had a fantastic Harry Potter theme and there was a visit to the studios. The pupils did a match report on a quidditch game and they had a potions lesson with the science teacher. It was a really inspiring summer school. The Year 7s seem so confident. They came for two weeks. They got to know the staff and knew their way around and they were making new friends.