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News > Alumnae Interviews > 10 Questions with ... Wendy Challen

10 Questions with ... Wendy Challen

Former Head Teacher and OR Scholarship Fund Trustee Wendy (pictured here with her husband, Nigel and daughter, Miranda) talks about her career in education and her lasting Roedean friendships.
18 Oct 2022
Alumnae Interviews

Wendy Challen (Nelson-Griffiths, No. 4, 1964-72) is a retired Head Teacher, and one of the current Trustees for the OR Scholarship Fund. She joined us this month to talk about her career and the importance of her lifelong Roedean friendships.

What is your favourite memory of Roedean?

The camaraderie. I am about to spend three days away with “The Roedettes". We get together once a year and stay in a hotel. There are often up to 12 of us. I feel blessed to have this loyal and supportive group of friends. In true Roedean form they are strongly opinionated and always ready to laugh.

The new indoor swimming pool was a thrill for me, after years of suffering the freezing cold outdoor pool.

What was the best piece of advice you were given whilst at School?

At the time I don’t think I realised how invested the staff were in us and did I take heed of their advice; probably not. However thank you DWU (death warmed up), Stooge and OC for telling me to believe in myself. They told me I had leadership qualities (a surprise to me at the time) I have since found letters from them all. They took the time to write to me after I left school with advice and support. A true reflection on their dedication to the profession.

When you were at Roedean, what did you want to be when you ‘grew-up’?

Initially a Physiotherapist (physics-defeated me), or to go into hotel management.

After Roedean I attended The Froebel Institute, London University and studied Primary Education.

What are you now you’ve grown up?

I am a retired Headteacher of a central London Independent School. I worked in Primary Education for 39 years and was a head for the last 25 years.

Now I am a tutor for Buckingham University and have trainee PGCE students. I mentor several pre-prep Heads who are new in post and am an Educational Consultant helping families navigate the British system of education.

What does your job involve?

Like all jobs my job title evolved over the years from starting as a class teacher to setting up a boys' school and advising on our sister schools in NYC. I was instrumental in the development and expansion of the school academically and pastorally. We started with 85 pupils and had 525 on role by the end.

The many strands of a Head’s role were what made the position so memorable and satisfying. No day was ever the same; pupil involvement was a joy, seeing a child’s progress and bumping into them now as adults is always a thrill. If they recall happy, fulfilling times I am delighted. Parents’ expectations were a challenge and became more so. The role required pastoral skills and time to listen. One was only as good as one’s team. I was blessed with wonderfully dedicated staff.

What have you done that you are most proud of?

A half a page article in the Sunday Telegraph in the final term of my career. It was during this period that I really reflected on the influence my Roedean education had on the running of my own school. Pupil voice is encouraged and valued so much more nowadays, thank goodness. Students are taking more ownership of their learning, and the petty rules that I was always ready to challenge at Roedean were not a feature at my school.

And, realising on the death of John Hunt, that I had been educating his grandchildren.

What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?

Self charging Dyson hair dryer

Playlist

Comfortable chair

What books have had a significant influence on you and why?

Our Island Story - the history of our land.

Thomas Hardy - thank you Stooge for bringing these books to life and appreciating the richness of language.

Ian McEwan - always a good read. Sadly, his latest is supposedly his last.

What is on your bucket list?

More of the same - Enjoy life to the full and be able to take on any opportunities that come my way, be it travel or a new life skill.

If you had one year and unlimited funds, what would you do?

Probably the obvious, travel the world and the unlimited funds would mean we could take our friends and family along too!

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