Inspirational Woman: Marva Rollins | Headteacher at Raynham Primary School

Marva RollinsMarva Rollins is in her 22nd year of Headship and is in her 17th year as Headteacher of Raynham Primary (880 pupils, aged 2 – 11), in Edmonton, North London. She is also the Head of Raynham Children’s Centre Hub with approximately 15 local community partners. Previously, she was head of a junior school in Newham, for 5 years. Marva has a firm commitment to giving children in inner city schools an opportunity to excel. She has been the recipient of two awards, which recognised her contribution to education and the community: an honorary degree and the Windrush Education Champion.

Marva has been an active member of the community for over 30 years and is one of the founder members of a number of community groups including The Sickle Cell Society and Newham African Caribbean Centre. In 2009 Marva was named by the Evening Standard as one of the 1000 most influential people in London, and in 2011 featured in the Metro’s top 50 Black Heroes.

Marva is a regular conference speaker, trainer and facilitator in education and uses her training in Personal Development to train and motivate others. Marva is a qualified Education Mentor and Coach, mentoring newly appointed Headteachers as well as more experienced Headteachers. She is also a consultant Headteacher – Local Leader of Education (LLE) – and a ‘Leading Thinker’ for the National Education Trust (NET).

Raynham Primary School is a member of SSAT and Marva, as a member of their Primary Board, plays an active role in the work of this organisation. Marva also takes part in internship programmes, giving Middle and Senior Leaders from schools nationally, the opportunity to shadow her and her Middle and Senior Leaders at Raynham.

Marva has been one of the lead persons on two national programmes for BME teachers: Investing in Diversity and Equal Access to Promotion. Both these programmes have empowered many BME teachers/Deputy Headteachers to challenge the status quo, enhance their skills/knowledge and achieved their aims. In February 2017, Marva was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty The Queen.

Marva has three adult sons and several grandchildren.

What inspired you to work in the public sector?

I have been a Headteacher for 22 years. Whilst I wanted to be a teacher when I was young in Barbados, arriving in England in the 1960s did not offer the opportunity to fulfil that early dream. However at the age of 31, having been inspired by the other women in East London Black Women Organisation (ELBWO) I returned to study. Becoming a teacher and leader in education means that I have been able to use my knowledge and expertise to make a difference to the life chances of thousands of children and adults.   I believe in Servant Leadership and working in an inner-city area with a range of challenges enables me to serve the community.

How have you navigated challenges and barriers to career success?

I have been surrounded by many others who have also had to navigate challenges and break down or leap over barriers. I started by developing a great knowledge, and sense, of my ancestral history pre-slavery, the stories of my fore-parents in the Caribbean and the stories of those who came to this country and paved the way for my generation. These have provided a backdrop for me being proud of who I am. I have actively campaigned on a number of issues over the years and in focusing on the needs of others, I became more and more confident (this was a gradual process) as I saw that I was making a difference and I was being heard. Developing and delivering programmes, which enable others to find their strengths and their voices in challenging perceptions of their abilities, also pushed me to step up and represent.

What advice would you give yourself if you could turn back the clock to the start of your career?

Believe – all you have done to date will come together in this new role.

What are the advantages of being a woman working in the public sector?

Others see what I do and believe it is possible to challenge and overcome the range of obstacles that can seem insurmountable. Not just Black women but also women from all cultures.

How important is it to take responsibility for your own development?

I spent many weekends on self-development courses as I was developing my awareness of who I am. Knowing who you are and what you stand for underpins your professional success. In terms of knowledge in your chosen profession it is important not to wait to be spotted but to create opportunities and move on if your strengths and talents are not being recognised. My catchphrase for teachers who say that they are being overlooked by the leadership team, but that they love the children in their school and don’t want to leave is “there are children in other schools who need to be loved – go and love them!” Our success lies in our hands – with the right quality of support.

Have you benefited from a coach or mentor in your career?

Yes – both as a community volunteer and particularly in my early years of headship. I am still in touch with my Headteacher coach/mentor who is now retired.

Who are your female role models and why?

Stepping outside the positive women in my family I have many: Elizabeth Anionwu (now Professor Emeritus at West London University) taught me all I needed to know about Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia when she spearheaded the start of the Sickle Cell Society in the 1970s and trained a number of us (all lay people) to visit sufferers at home and in hospital and become their advocates, as the medical profession had not yet got to grips with the needs of Sickle Cell sufferers. This experience jumpstarted my community service and my awareness that a quiet person can learn to speak up. Angela Davis – first Black woman I heard speaking publicly about the challenges of racism. Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey have played a key part through telling their stories of overcoming. There are many more

What are your plans for future?

When I eventually retire I intend to carry on supporting leaders and possible future leaders in education through my role as an Education Consultant and focus on developing my Presentation and Interviewing Consultancy.

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