New School Head Joins Leaders of Education in Oundle

20151117 Head with Pupils 117September 2015 marked the arrival of Oundle’s first female Head, Sarah Kerr-Dineen.

Previously a Housemistress and Director of Studies at St Edward’s, Oxford and Warden at Forest School, she confessed to having ‘always admired Oundle’, especially the Old Oundelians she encountered in day-to-day life.

Mrs Kerr-Dineen took time out of her incredibly busy schedule to talk about her first impressions of life and leadership at Oundle.

Despite the considerable expectations behind taking charge of one of the largest boarding schools in the country, the Head said she felt that there had been a smooth transition within the first few months, despite the perceived pressure of arriving as the first female head in the history of Oundle School.

While she does not want to over-emphasise the significance of being Oundle School’s first female Head, the statistics clearly show a gender imbalance in leadership positions, particularly in co-educational schools.

However, Mrs Kerr-Dineen was positive about changes afoot, and is pleased that more schools are appointing female heads.

Education is her priority, first and foremost. She said: ‘I feel sincere enjoyment at being given the opportunity to educate children with and through other people.’

Mrs Kerr-Dineen is delighted to be back in a boarding school environment, after having been Warden at a day school in London.

‘A boarding school has a real buzz. Boarding life instills a strong sense of community amongst its pupils.’
She plans to think carefully about what approach to take at Oundle: ‘Different things are right for different schools.’

Her principal challenge at the start has been ‘getting to know everything and everyone as quickly and as thoroughly as possible’.

Mrs Kerr-Dineen was not educated in the private sector, but at Steyning Grammar School in West Sussex, a large comprehensive. She said that her own educational experience taught students to ‘carve their own path’ by being given opportunities to excel in any particular area of the school.

The school taught them to understand the importance of ‘doing things off your own bat’, and instilled a level of resilience.

Mrs Kerr-Dineen studied English at Cambridge and then pursued graduate study at Oxford, and is an English teacher. She said the study of English literature helps inform the decisions that she makes as a leader.

‘Reading encourages you to understand people’s motivation.’

She emphasised the importance of the study of literature in the sense that it has allowed her to recognise the ‘importance of communication’ in all areas in life, in particular as head of a school.

By Isabella Bradstock