Talking Heads Blog #3: Shirley Drummond

Leadership Biography

Name: Shirley Drummond

Phase: 2 – 11

Sector: Independent

Region: London

Years Served in Education: 28

Years Served as a Headteacher: 4 months!

Leadership Journey:

My leadership journey has been very diverse and started when I was a young PE teacher when I moved from a large comprehensive school in Hertfordshire and was appointed Head of PE and Games in 1991 in a south London Prep School. From there I moved to Japan and this is where I grew so much as an individual and leader where I led a department as Athletic Director/Head of PE  in a highly sought after 3 – 18 International School in the centre of Tokyo.  Working with teachers, pupils, sports coaches from at least 54 countries it taught me a lot about people and myself.  Also being a female Athletic Director in a very male dominated arena amongst the other International and American military schools in Japan was fascinating and only being 5ft2” it was challenging holding my own in board meetings with 6ft Americans!

From Japan I ended up back in Scotland (my dad took ill and we returned to be with him) but I decided then to return to university and add to my qualifications and qualified as Primary teacher.  That was a massive turning point.  A couple of years later my leadership journey continued but in Primary education. I worked for 11 years in a 3-18 boarding school where I led English in KS1/2, and was Key Stage 1 curriculum coordinator.  I gained other qualifications along the way attending Oxford Brookes for a year studying Literacy difficulties and completed the MLDP (Middle Leadership Development Programme). I was appointed as a Deputy Head in a Prep School in 2014 and have now just taken on my first Headship as a co-ed Prep School in North London for pupils aged 2- 11.

Leadership Coach/Mentor/Inspiration:

I do believe that I have been inspired by such a range of leaders both first class leaders in my eyes and not so good leaders!  (I am sure we have all said to ourselves …well I wouldn’t’ do it like that!)  I owe a lot to the Head who I have spent most time with (Linda Beckett) who nurtured, challenged, and gave me so many opportunities to extend my leaderships skills over 11 years.  We had good and bad times together but she is one of the most stoic, forgiving and genuine leaders and luckily is still a very significant person in my life.

I would not be in my current position though if it were not for Jill  Berry @jillberry102.   I met Jill when I had just completed the MLDP and from that day we connected, she has been incredibly influential over the last few years, introducing me to the world of Twitter, staffrm, Teachmeets and WomenEd. My new network of inspirational leaders has grown and many of you reading this will know whom you are.

Twitter Handle: @shirleydrummond5

Leadership Reflections

Why did you become a Headteacher?

Being a Headteacher was not something that I have always aspired to as I was having way too much fun as a teacher and my ‘teaching’ has been incredibly diverse over my career that I have never waned in the love of teaching.  However, I could see the impact that a good leader could have on a whole community and it is so rewarding when you work with a team of people to make every opportunity for children the best it can be but also developing other people is incredibly satisfying.  #WomenEd has to take credit for me becoming a Headteacher – this community made me really reflect on who I was and what I could achieve – I really have become 10%…no 100% braver!

Why do you engage with grassroots and social media?

We are all teachers and entered the profession because we wanted to make a difference for children and be part of their learning journey. It is crucial that even as a leader we are part of the grassroots – too often in organisations there is a hierarchical structure where decisions are made and the fundamental principles and values are lost. Social media for me is a way of keeping abreast of new developments and connecting with other professionals.   I am in the minority with working in the Independent sector (only approx. 7% of schools) and it is through social media that I continue to learn and grow as a Head but very much keep in touch with what is happening at the grassroots level with other professionals.

How do you celebrate the teaching profession?

Teaching as a profession is possibly one of the only jobs where there in no predictability of what each day will bring.  The children are the ones who inspire us each and every day, thus it is important as a leader to recognise the great teachers who ignite the spark with our youngsters and commend them for their efforts and share the achievements of both the pupils but also the teachers within the community and wider.  I always will be a ‘teaching’ Head and continue to promote teaching as profession of choice.

How would you like to change the perception of Headteachers?

It depends on how Headteachers are perceived!  I have been fortunate to have met and worked with some very ‘real’ and down to earth Headteachers who are truly connected with the teaching profession at a grassroots level.  However, I have also encountered the opposite.  I do believe that Heads require a good blend of personal, social and professional qualities. There are so many great ‘leadership’ courses out for aspiring heads that perhaps the perception of heads is changing as the role and responsibilities of Heads also changes.

What are the values that your shape you as a leader?

I find it hard to pinpoint every value which shapes me as a leader – but I do believe that the way in which you live your own life and your own personal character do reflect who you are as a leader. Thus authenticity, compassion, honesty, courage, patience, passion and humour are important to me but having integrity is key.   I am still learning as a leader but my own personal morals and values do help me every day.

What have been the highs and lows of your role as Headteacher?

My Headship is very much still in its infancy, I am just starting my second term but I have experienced so many highs and as yet I have yet to experience a major low!  I cannot quite believe how happy I am and although I have so much responsibility I feel the calmest and most fulfilled I have ever felt in my professional career.  Some days it can feel rather overwhelming but the adrenaline on this roller coaster ride is like nothing I have ever experienced.

Some of the highs – the warm welcome I have received from pupils, parents and staff, walking around the school during our recent STEAMco day and listening to, observing and feeling the passion and enthusiasm from pupils and adults and  launching a new kindergarten with my great team.

I am not naïve and I am sure that there may be lows to come but I feel assured that with the support I have from my SLT and Principals, Jill Berry, my WomenEd comrades and the other Heads I have connected with through the Independent Association of Prep Schools I will deal with the lows the best way I can.

Leadership Advice

 ‘Always bring it back to the children’.  Whenever I have had to deal with a tricky situation, prepare for a ‘frog’ conversation, or make any changes as a leader I always remember that phrase.  Sometimes you need to bring perspective to a situation, put personalities, historics or egos aside and remember the reason we are all in the job, remember the children and our commitment to them.

Leadership Inspiration

Currently reading: CleverLands by Lucy Crehan

I may not be able to impact upon government policy on education but there is so much to be learnt from how other countries structure their education systems.  If only all government minsters were made to read this as policy!

Recently read: Making the leap – Moving from deputy to head by Jill Berry

Such a great book full of wonderful advice for aspiring and current heads.

Leadership Mantra

 ‘Keep it real and be yourself!’




3 thoughts on “Talking Heads Blog #3: Shirley Drummond

  1. Shirley – thanks for sharing your journey with us – gosh you have done some interesting thing in your time! I love the recognition of the community: “WomenEd has to take credit for me becoming a Headteacher – this community made me really reflect on who I was and what I could achieve – I really have become 10%…no 100% braver!” What will anothe 10% look like?! Looking forward to comparing our journeys! H x


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