|28 Aug 2020|
Dear Alumna or Friend of JAGS,
I hope you are all well and have enjoyed the sunshine over recent weeks. It is a pleasure to be writing to you from my office in JAGS as I enjoy my first week in post.
Following the email sent to you about my appointment late last year, please allow me to now introduce myself fully. My journey to the Headship at JAGS has seen me hold a wide range of roles. After an initial foray into co-education teaching Chemistry at Clifton College, I began teaching in all-girls’ schools in 2001 and have been a passionate advocate of all-girls’ education throughout my subsequent career. Following time as Head of Science at St Mary’s Ascot, I became Head of Sixth Form at Central Newcastle High School, spent a wonderful year teaching Chemistry at JAGS, then moved to become Head of Sixth Form at Wimbledon High School. From here I moved as Deputy Head to Woldingham, where I became Headmistress in September 2016. Those of you following this carefully may find it an unusual geographical route around the UK. The explanation is a simple one, and involves juggling two burgeoning careers in education as my husband, Chris, and I followed our routes to Headship. Chris has been the Head at Royal Russell School since 2011 and it is a pleasure for us now to be both settled in South London. There are no plans for any further moves!
Outside school I have been a lifelong sports enthusiast and, until very recently, played competitive hockey in the Surrey league. Cricket is my other great sporting passion which alongside hill walking, cycling and tending the vegetable patch, means any time spent in the fresh air is a joy. I am an avid reader, a cryptic crossword fanatic and an enthusiastic (but rarely tuneful) member of occasional choral ensembles.
My year spent in the Chemistry department at JAGS in 2011/12 was an extremely happy one. I discovered a fantastic body of eager and curious students, a committed and inspirational team of staff and a diverse community working together for a clear common goal. To return here as Head is nothing short of a dream come true. I do, however, arrive as Head in unprecedented times as the school comes back together following the period of UK school closures. Our immediate priority is to rebuild and reconnect as a community. We will all have been affected by this global pandemic in different ways and JAGS will, without doubt, do what it does best and wrap up each individual in the warmth and care of its community.
There will be time this year for me to set out the vision for the future of JAGS moving forwards, but this is not the time to do so and it would be arrogant of me to assume I have all the answers in my first week in situ. My first priority is to get to know you all – students, staff, parents, alumnae and governors – and to engage in an active period of listening. Only through doing this will I really get to understand the heartbeat of our school, the traditions, the excellence, the grumbles and the non-negotiables.
Suffice to say at this point that JAGS has a long history of academic excellence combined with a commitment to ‘total education’. So, my focus is to ensure that every aspect of this offering is contemporary and to pave the way for JAGS students to be at the forefront of academic development. At the same time, the focus on those wider skills garnered from a committed approach to a holistic education cannot be underestimated. These skills are essential for ensuring the girls are both well-rounded and broad-minded, and will face life’s challenges with good humour and a light touch. You have my commitment that I will be a role model for this vision whilst making sure that I quickly get to know and understand the very heart of this community.
It only remains for me to wish Sally-Anne Huang every success in her new role and thank her for her generosity in answering my endless questions in our handover period. I am eagerly anticipating the return of our staff and students and the sense of a return to routine, however socially distanced that may be in the coming months. I also very much look forward to meeting you, the alumnae community, as the vital bridge connecting the school’s past and future.
With my best wishes,
Mrs Alex Hutchinson