Meet the head: Sarah Wicks at Knighton House School
PUBLISHED: 16:58 10 August 2016 | UPDATED: 16:58 10 August 2016
Cartwheels, tree climbing and cultivating confidence. Sarah Wicks, Headmistress at Knighton House School wants her pupils to have a proper carefree childhood
How do you introduce pupils to school life?
Whenever children join us they are welcomed into a warm, friendly school family. In The Orchard Nursery and Pre-prep, they start their journey in a caring and nurturing environment where they learn through play, investigation, exploration and discovery. As they move up the school, children spend time with prep school teachers so that transition for girls at 7 is seamless. Taster days (and nights for boarders) help prepare them for the adventure of a new school and there is always an experienced ‘shadow’ to help them to settle in quickly.
What are the benefits of single sex prep school for girls?
An all-girls environment allows us to educate without the pressures, distractions and anxieties that girls can experience in a co-ed school. Far from being ‘girlie’, they are more likely to engage in maths, science and sport in a single-sex environment.
Tell me about your distinctive uniform?
The red dungarees were introduced in the 1950s and symbolise everything we would like Knighton children to be… vibrant, practical, resilient, standing out from the crowd and ready for the adventure of life. Excellent for girls who love cartwheeling on the lawn and climbing trees – we have brilliant trees in our 30 acres of grounds. It means the girls sometimes get a bit mucky, but then, that’s the beauty of dungarees!
How do you create a home away from home for the boarders?
We provide an atmosphere of security, encouragement, space and freedom. Central to this is the boarding experience and, whether they are full boarders, weekly or flexi, the girls relish the fun of being with their friends. For me, one of the most rewarding times is when Saturday morning school is finished, afternoon matches are over and my husband and I become the parents of a close-knit (if rather large) ‘family’ of full-boarders – we can share experiences such as campfires, stargazing and wildlife watching. On Sundays we take full advantage of our wonderful location with scavenger hunts in the woods, a tramp to the nearest hillfort or a trip to the Jurassic Coast, but there is always time to write a letter home, Skype your parents and play.
What special qualities does Knighton House School bring out in its pupils?
Opening their eyes to possibilities and cultivating in them the confidence to embrace all the opportunities and challenges that come their way. Our aim is to discover and unlock their potential so that they will be able to ‘soar’.
Tatler magazine described your school as ‘Girl heaven’ what does that actually encompass?
For me it means a place where you can feel safe just being yourself; somewhere you can be a child for as long as you need, where you can run barefoot across the lawn. And, of course, there are ponies…and pygmy goats, alpacas, chickens, dogs, guinea pigs and rabbits!
What is your proudest school moment so far?
At our 65th anniversary celebrations last year, I talked to many former pupils, all wonderfully articulate and confident young women, successfully pursuing their dreams. To know that one has played even the tiniest part in their journey is, in my view, the greatest reward a teacher can have.
Sarah Wicks joined Knighton House in 1995 as Head of Drama and Year 3 form teacher from the Royal Masonic School; she became the Head of English in 2004, Deputy Head in 2005 and Headmistress in September 2014. Sarah has a keen interest in wildlife and is a Jane Austen fan. She also loves the theatre, singing and travelling with her husband, Alan, who is also fully immersed in school life.
Knighton House School, Blandford Forum, is a prep school for girls 7-13 offering day, full and flexi boarding. The Orchard pre-prep is for boys and girls 3-7. More details at knightonhouse.co.uk or call 01258 452065.