We asked the new Tongwynlais Primary School headteacher, Mrs Sally Phillips, a few questions.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and when you entered teaching?
I joined the teaching profession relatively late, having graduated from Cardiff University in the late ’80s. I then worked for Kalamazoo Computer group until I had my children. I began my PGCE when my youngest child started in Reception class. I had always wanted to be a teacher when I was younger but had been dissuaded from attending teaching training college and had gone to university instead, becoming a graduate recruit.
Where was your previous teaching post and what was it?
Before joining Tongwynlais I was deputy head and then acting head at Pentyrch Primary: I loved working at Pentyrch and being part of the village community there. It was very different to my post prior where I had worked in Splott in a large multi-cultural school for six years. Again, I loved working there and have been sad to leave both those roles.
What were your biggest achievements at your last school?
That’s a very difficult question as I was there for four years and felt I achieved a lot. I think becoming part of the community and getting to know families and having a sense of being part of village life was probably the biggest thing – although I also think the year that the school allotment I developed with year 6 produced enough potatoes, peas and beans for the whole school was also a real high point!
What was the most important thing you learnt at your previous school?
Keep at it – be tenacious! It’s the same message I would share with the children – you can achieve whatever you want if you “stick at it”! I also believe that the small things can make a big difference: as acting head I grew to realise what a difference remembering all the small details about the children I worked with could make to them and help make them feel that they matter.
What made you want to come to Tongwynlais?
I knew Tongwynlais quite well as a school within the same cluster as I was already working: I already knew some members of staff well and liked and respected them. I also, of course, knew the school by its excellent reputation and that was very inspiring – to be part of a school that was achieving so highly for its children was also very motivational.
Do you have any significant plans for the school in the future?
At my interview I shared my vision for the school as to “Sustain and Grow” its excellent standards and provision. This in itself is quite a challenge and Judith Davies’ boots are large ones to fill. My vision is to maintain the excellent standards the school was achieving when I came into post but also to look at how we can develop still further and move onto the next level in terms of the innovative curriculum and opportunities we offer the children here.
If you had some extra money, what would you spend it on?
Well, a fantastic outdoor structure for our Forest School so that the awful weather we get such a lot of, won’t affect the learning outdoors. Also a sack of iPads would be very nice to give the children the most up-to-date technology!
What is the role of the Parent Teacher Association, (PTA) and how can parents get involved?
We have a really committed and hardworking PTA who put a tremendous amount of time and effort in: I commend them truly. Any parents or members of the community who would like to get involved needs just to contact the school to find out when the next meeting is. The minutes from our PTA meetings are on the school website for all to read which give a real flavour of what they do for us.
What would you tell parents about the school on their first visit?
I would tell them the truth – that Tongwynlais Primary is a fantastic school that wants the best for every child here, that we have fantastic children and staff and that their child will thrive and blossom here. I also tell parents that as the headteacher I am personally here for them and if they have any questions or concerns, the staff and myself will do everything we can to help them.
What do you feel are the biggest issues facing the school?
At the moment we are very fortunate in that one of our biggest challenges is ensuring that all the children who want to come to our school are able to get a place here. This is especially important for families with children moving into the village who want to be able to send their children to the school in their local community but might well find it is already full for children of their age. We have increased our admission numbers but we still have lots of families enquiring if we have space.
How important is technology in schools and how are you utilising it for the children’s benefit?
Technology is such an important tool in school and is an area we are looking at. We are a Thinking School with much emphasis on “brain power” but we of course also recognise the huge role of technology in today’s modern world. The primary ICT National Curriculum is now much more modern in its approach and the application of ICT skills across the curriculum is a key feature. The children are so used to modern equipment out of school that all schools face a real challenge in providing equipment that is relevant and which will prepare them for the modern world.
What is your favourite part of being a headteacher?
I just love to be with the children and colleagues; no matter how many challenges we face during the day I never feel that I would prefer to stay in bed in the morning! I love teaching and becoming a headteacher has not changed the joy in that: I want to be a positive influence in the lives of all the children in the school and to be able to make a difference.
Thanks to Mrs Phillips for answering our questions. You can find out more about the school at their website.