Interview with: Kate McCourt, headteacher of St Julie’s Catholic High School

St Julie’s Catholic High School is an all-girls secondary school, with a mixed sixth form provision, located in the leafy suburbs of Woolton, south Liverpool.

It is proud to be a Notre Dame school and puts into practice the principles of the school’s patron saint, St Julie Billiart.

In a significant appointment earlier this year, Kate McCourt was announced as the new headteacher. With a distinguished career spanning over two decades within the school, she is exceptionally well-suited for the position.

Kate’s deep understanding of the school community, and its context, equips her to lead with clarity, insight, and compassion.

She says: “I joined St Julie’s in 2001 and I’ve given 23 years of service. I am completely invested in what it means to be leading and serving an all-girls Catholic school.”

After a year of teaching, Kate went down the pastoral route and also became the school sports coordinator and worked with local primary schools.

“By 2010, I joined the leadership team and I became deputy headteacher in 2012,” she adds. “I have had quite a lengthy experience of leadership and I have been fortunate to work closely with other schools through collaboration and completing various leadership qualifications along the way.

“In 2018, the previous headteacher was asked to become executive head at another school in St Helens, and so I stepped up to head of school for one year and when he retired, I was acting head from February 2023 until becoming substantive head in January 2024.”

Kate credits the school’s former headteacher, Tim Alderman, as being a fantastic mentor.

She adds: “He really helped mould me and made me believe in myself. Sometimes I have imposter syndrome and I think ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’m not able to do that’, but through the many different routes I have taken during my time at St Julie’s, it’s really opened those doors for me.

“Last May, we had our Ofsted inspection, and Tim was off work due to surgery at the time, but it was a bit of a milestone moment for me because I’ve gone through many inspections before, but I have either been a deputy headteacher, an assistant headteacher, or a teacher.

I’ve not actually been the one who everyone is looking at, and so we were really delighted with that outcome.”

Kate’s love of sports inspired her journey into teaching. At school, she was heavily involved in athletics and netball and saw positive role models in the teaching staff.

She explains: “As time progressed, I had experience of doing some coaching and delivery, and I thought this may be a route that I would like to take. After studying in Sheffield and working at different diverse schools, I really got that passion for teaching and it was one of those light bulb moments because with young people you can make a real difference.”

While Kate went to a mixed comprehensive, she recognises that it was an altogether different experience to an allgirls Catholic school.

She shares: “Over the years I’ve taken a step back and thought ‘How is it different?’ But there is a distinct difference between a faith and a non-faith school. Sometimes it’s hard to put into words but when you walk into a faith school I guess you can just feel it as soon as you enter – it’s warm and it’s welcoming.

“We talk to our girls all the time about our core values of faith, truth, justice, love and joy, and I always say to staff, academic excellence is important but if the girls don’t leave us as good independent citizens and exceptional young women by the time they get to the age of 18, we’ve not done our jobs.”

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