Sue-Ellen Lamb is Head of School at Race Leys Junior School. She has a strong passion for helping all children achieve their best, and her natural leadership skills have helped her climb to the top and deliver positive change throughout the course of her career.
Sue-Ellen didn’t take a traditional route to teacher. In fact, she entered into work initially in the private sector, working for a solicitor’s office as a Court Clerk, and later as a Key Account Manager in an IT company. However, when Sue-Ellen started a family of her own, she found her true calling and entered into education; first as a dinner lady, before becoming a teaching assistant.
Her natural talent for leading a team and driving positive change became clear after becoming nursery manager at Park Lane Nursery, part of the Griffin Schools Trust. Leadership in the Trust continued to challenge Sue-Ellen with each step, becoming Early Year’s Lead, then Assistant Head for Key Stage One at Park Lane Primary School.
After securing an ‘outstanding’ Early Years Ofsted report at Park Lane, Sue-Ellen became Head of School at Race Leys, with a mandate to deliver similar results. In only 18-months, and with a pandemic to deal with too, her changes have revitalised the school, with initiatives such as free private music lessons, partnerships with The Royal Ballet, and a new sports festival and science symposium.
Sue-Ellen is personally driven to be the best she can be; this is reflected in how she and her team treat every child – providing them with the opportunity to flourish into their full potential. Under Sue-Ellen’s leadership, Race Leys truly has become a school of curiosity, awe, and wonder.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I have been married for 15 years and am a mum of two wonderful children, a boy and a girl. I am proud to be a Head of a Griffin Schools Trust school; Race Leys Juniors in Warwickshire. I have been in this role for the past 18-months and prior to this I worked at our sister school, Park Lane Primary, where I was a member of the Senior Leadership Team. Here, I found my love and passion for teaching, focusing on developing a creative and enriching curriculum, which I now have the joy of leading at Race Leys.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Growing up, I always knew I wanted to work in an office and have my own computer, but when I started working in a school, I thought of being a mid-day supervisor. My priorities had changed – I was a new mummy and wanted to support my children during the holidays. I quickly found a love in what I was doing and realised that I wanted to re-train. As I love leading people and helping others, it was always my long-term goal to become a school leader.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
‘Growing through the ranks’ has consistently presented new challenges. My ambition and hard work have paid off, and I have been promoted many times throughout my career. Some people may think that success changes you, but my beliefs and values have not changed at all. We all have chances in life and can achieve extraordinary things if we put the time and effort in. That’s always my message to the children that I have the privilege of being with every day!
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Having two fantastic children who I love and adore and then professionally, being Head at Race Leys Junior School. It’s a dream I never thought I would achieve. I also have the office and computer I always wanted as a child!
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Honestly, having the love and support from my partner. I know that sounds soppy, but he is my right arm, and at times when I’ve not believed in myself, he’s always been there for me. Also, the Griffins Schools Trust. They have also believed in me and given me opportunities I never thought I would get. I want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to them. It’s such a supportive trust to work for; they are my extended family.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I love mentoring staff; I often get told that I am an inspiration to others. When I worked at Park Lane, my most significant success was when I coached and supported a Teaching Assistant. She progressed and took over from me as an Early Years Manager. I have also supported newly qualified teachers, and they have gone onto great things. I love this part of my job!
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
We must ensure children are equipped for the world around us. This can be achieved through a full and varied curriculum, in which important issues, such as gender equality and social justice, are woven throughout. I believe this, not only because it is where I can help drive change, but because children are the leaders of tomorrow, now is the time to embed such values.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
I believe my dad already gave me all the advice I need. He passed away when I was 13, and just before he said to me, “life is not a rehearsal Sue-Ellen, live each day and enjoy. Be true to yourself and others.”
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Every year is an important year in education and I am determined to ensure that all children are able to experience the things that they may have missed out on during the pandemic. We know how important it is to work with our communities and to be part of a family of schools. We are ready for every challenge, and I am privileged to be sailing the ship.
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