In Conversation with Emma Hattersley, member of the Council of Cheltenham College.

Members of the Council of Cheltenham College (our governing body) typically serve terms of office of between three and nine years. Our most recently appointed Council member, Emma Hattersley, is just starting out on that journey and took time out from her familiarisation to tell us a bit about what attracted her to the role.

Please start by telling us a little about yourself.

My background is almost entirely in education. Having studied Music at the University of Durham, I went on to the Royal Academy of Music to do a post-graduate in vocal studies. I got a part time job teaching music and singing in a school and realised my vocation lay with helping young people. From there it was a combination of teaching, bringing up three young children, and then into full time teaching in a large co-ed boarding school. I realised that it was the pastoral side of teaching that I had most affinity with and was fortunate enough to be offered a role running a large day House. That was followed by a stint as a boarding Housemistress, and then a deputy headship. For the last 10 years I’ve been Head of an all through 3-18 HMC (The Heads’ Conference) school in Wiltshire. And now after almost 40 years in teaching, I am enjoying a new career helping schools across the world find new leaders.

Why did you want to be an independent school governor?

The independent sector needs good governance perhaps now more than ever. Having spent my career serving the independent sector it felt like the natural next step to be able to give of my time and expertise as a governor in a setting that I know and understand. The sector does a tremendous amount of excellent work and by the very nature of its independence, can innovate and seek out the best possible opportunities not only for its pupils but more widely for the community too.

Why College in particular?

I was approached about the role, and when doing my research and visiting the school I got a real sense of College being a strong community. I felt it was very up-together and moving with the times, exuding warmth and energy. I also liked the governors that I met and of course the Head, Nicola Huggett, is impressive and very widely respected.

You are Designated Safeguarding Governor – why is this special to you?

I think this is an incredibly important role for any school and I don’t underestimate the commitment involved. Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and touches every part of the school. It provides me with an opportunity to be a support to the senior leadership team when there are any welfare concern and to be a listening ear when needed. The post also requires me to keep up to date with best practice and training so that ultimately we can all, collectively, make a difference to young people and make College as safe an environment as possible.

What are the big challenges that young people face in 2023?

How does one begin to answer such a huge question in just a few words. We know the pandemic had an impact on young people that could take years to sort out. Child and adolescent mental health support services are overstretched with demand outstripping supply. Personal worries around exams, relationships and identity, coupled with general fears about the environment and a world in a state of unrest all contribute to young people feeling a lack of control and, for some, a lack of self-esteem. However, it is schools like College that can help to make a real difference when a child is in crisis, as they have the pastoral structures to provide genuine support and guidance.

Finally, Council members can serve for up to nine years… do you think we’ll all still recognise College in 2032?

I think the best schools are those that have managed to achieve the right balance between tradition and innovation. These are challenging times for the sector and in my current job, working with schools helping to find them new leaders, I see a sector that has an appetite for change. College is no different in this regard so I would certainly expect to see some significant change in the next nine years. I am sure that College will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the 21st century and beyond whilst retaining its very special ethos.