The rise of the executive headteacher is one of the biggest changes to education over the past few years. Nadine Carroll understands this shift well, as she is now executive headteacher of both Whitefield Primary School and Faith Primary School in Everton. Nadine tells Educate about the leap from running one school to two and her vision for the schools’ future.
Nothing but the best
by Hannah Fowler
When Nadine Carroll took the role as headteacher of Whitefield Primary School in 2010, it was only meant to be on a temporary basis. But seven years later, Nadine is still at Whitefield and thoroughly enjoying her position.
“I can honestly say it is the best place I have ever worked and the most rewarding, interesting and challenging role I have ever had,” says Nadine. “The children capture your heart and working with them and seeing them do so well makes my job completely worthwhile.”
If you thought being a headteacher at one school was challenging enough, in March this year Nadine became executive headteacher across both Whitefield and Faith Primary School, a neighbouring school in Everton.
“We understand just how it feels to be on a journey of improvement and our commitment, tenacity and ability to deliver mean we are ideally placed to work in another Everton school,” explains Nadine.
As executive headteacher, Nadine is seeing what successful strategies can be implemented at Faith to drive improvement and says the collaboration between the schools is mutually rewarding. “We are never complacent and as well as implementing tried and tested strategies we are not adverse to risks and to trying new approaches,” she said. “I am supported by an excellent team in Faith and the school is making accelerated progress.”
Nadine’s headship at Whitefield has been nothing short of impressive. In 2016, reflecting on his five years as Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw named Nadine as a headteacher who is “showing what can be done in areas of significant social and economic disadvantage.” And with a mission statement of ‘nothing but the best’, the school continues to excel.
“When I went to Whitefield I was determined that the children in the local catchment should have a brilliant school to be proud of,” says Nadine. “I know the area of the city as my mum and dad lived there when I was born and I felt privileged to be back there.”
In 2016, Whitefield had 94% of pupils achieving the expected standard in Key Stage 2 reading, writing and mathematics – that’s 41% higher than the national average. School attendance is also high, it’s been above 97% for five years.
“We work a lot on developing confidence and self-esteem in the children and we have a great team who strive for success,” Nadine explains. “At Whitefield we are strong communicators, team players, problem solvers, change-makers and transformational leaders. We truly work as a team. This all builds a cohesive, united, expert and successful school.”
The school’s focus on mental health and wellbeing is something Nadine believes enables their pupils to make the most of their educational journey.
“Children are taught how to maintain good mental health and well-being through the strong PSHE curriculum, various additional mental health and well-being interventions such as yoga, LEGO therapy, Time to Talk, Think Yourself Great and individual counselling,” she said.
“We prioritise the mental health of our pupils to ensure their access to the full curriculum and we offer therapeutic support as part of our offer.”
With these outstanding outcomes, it’s no surprise Whitefield has been rewarded for its success. “We were delighted to be successful as the Most Inspirational Primary School at The Educate Awards in 2014 and since then we have gone from strength to strength,” said Nadine.
Whitefield is also a flagship school for the National Inclusion Charter Mark, a School of Sanctuary and a Reading Recovery school.
Nadine says everyone at the school is pretty uncompromising when it comes to overcoming any barriers in the way of children’s learning. “Our school ethos tells every single child, adult and our school community that where you come from, who you are or the deprivation you experience should not limit your educational experience or its quality,” explains Nadine.
“My job in one sense is quite straight forward, it is firstly to completely believe and be committed to this ethos and then to create the conditions for it to deliver success.”
Now as executive headteacher at Faith Primary, Nadine says it’s not about cloning Whitefield’s success but building on the school’s own strengths. “Ultimately it is my job to ensure that every child has a successful and happy time at the school. I would like to improve outcomes for the children and build on the strengths of the school in the local community,” she said.
The September term brings with it some exciting developments at both Faith and Whitefield. “We will be working on some joint projects such as Lesson Study and Safeguarding,” Nadine explains.
“We also hope to have a maths quiz and football tournaments between the schools so the children get to know each other. We will be implementing the new curriculum at Faith and hoping that the Wow Factor will make a huge impact.”
Nadine is brimming with passion and drive, qualities which are much needed when leading two primary schools. “I enjoy a challenge and I suppose I just never get tired of the job. I am very lucky to say that I get paid for doing something I love doing.”
“Don’t get me wrong being a headteacher is pretty demanding and is also a big juggling act. I am very grateful that I have a supportive family and great colleagues. We are there for each other and that is important.”
And in this big puzzle of life, Nadine said she feels “very lucky and privileged to be part of the jigsaw that helps children to be themselves, be happy, be safe and be successful.”
“My greatest reward is seeing the children do well when they go to secondary school and later to college and then to University, work or study. Most of all I like to see our children happy in whatever their life choices are and that they feel fulfilled and positive in whatever they do in future.”