Kate Bailey, Headmistress of Godstowe Prep School in Buckinghamshire, on her background and educational approach

What is your background?

On leaving Edinburgh University after four happy years studying for an English and History MA, I moved to London and gained my PGCE from the Institute of Education, University of London. Finding my feet, I worked at Garden House Boys and Broomwood Hall in the early days. I have been lucky to work across the 3-13 age range in co-ed and single sex independent schools for boys and girls. I worked as Head of the Junior School at Westminster Under and as Deputy Head at Wetherby Prep at Bryanston Square. I was then asked to be the Founding Head of Wetherby-Pembridge in New York from July 2016 and moved to Manhattan for – on 96th and Central Park – for six years. I moved back to the UK to take up headship at Godstowe in July 2022.

What excites you most about your role at Godstowe?

Godstowe is an exciting place to work. The girls are fresh and ever enthusiastic, and I love being immersed in the day and boarding aspects of school life. We have around 430 girls from 3-13 and we are a diverse community where the students just want to learn and engage. They are given so much opportunity to explore and grow. My team are incredible, and I count myself lucky to work alongside talented educators. Waving a group of Years 6-8 girls off to Canada for their annual ski trip was the icing on the cake for me recently!

What is your educational philosophy?

Education is precious and for life and schools should inspire and instil a deep love of learning. It is our young people’s time to learn integrity, meet the people and friends who will shape and change their outlook forever and embrace kindness and compassion for the road ahead. At Godstowe, we focus on character, leadership skills and self- awareness. Above all, we want them to be happy, to communicate well and collaborate, having a lot of fun in the process.

Can you tell us about one pivotal moment in your career?

Moving to New York in 2016 as Founding Head of Wetherby-Pembridge was the moment everything changed for me. I had been lucky, as my previous experience in London had equipped me with a fundamental love for our curriculum and well-rounded offering. Nothing prepared me, though, for the sheer graft of the school set-up, in a new city and country. I gained a good dose of resilience and tenacity but certainly fell in love with what we created. The people I met made the experience a treasured one. The school and project attracted the very best people, children, and families, and that is what made it so special.

What is Godstowe’s approach and what sets it apart?

Godstowe aims to produce happy, confident, and successful students. Academic success is carefully balanced with character education, wellbeing, and enrichment. We take time to work with every individual girl in our care, and they leave us ready to embrace life and reach the goals that resonate with their own path. There is a sense of adventure here – I like that…

What makes a great student?
For me, it is a sense of curiosity, fun and humility. Working together we can achieve great things with respect, good manners, kindness, and honesty.

From your experience, what makes a great school environment?

If I’ve learnt anything, great schools are about the people that work in them. It is hard to find the same sense of community or friendship and camaraderie in other environments. The greatest schools I’ve worked in value talent and potential, look for individual strengths and encourage development and personal growth – and that is as much for the adults as for the children in our care.

Godstowe School godstowe.org

Further reading: 60 Seconds With Judy Wells, Head of Wells Cathedral Junior School