Ms Nikki Knight - Headteacher 2004-2009
A change in many ways, not least because she is the first Head to be younger than the school!
Nikki’s experience of the education system is hugely varied, partly because she herself attended seven schools between the ages of five and eighteen, due to parental moves. Her secondary education took place in Lancashire in a brand new school, one of the first comprehensives in the country. She remembers it having “a full sized theatre, swimming pool, sports centre and Arts centre as well as the classrooms. Very conveniently it was also only 500 yards from our house so we were able to pop in on our cross country lessons!”
She continues: “As expected of a future Headteacher I very much enjoyed my time at school and took full advantage of the opportunities given to me. I swam for Lancashire, was involved in school plays and was on the gifted and talented programme. That said there were some teachers who found me irritating (unfortunately one was a friend of my Mum so she got more information than I would have liked.)”
On leaving school, Nikki went to Durham University to study Zoology and Biochemistry. “Whilst there I rowed for the ladies University team and met my husband, Mick.”
Whilst at Durham she thought about going into research but quickly realised that “I was not meticulous enough and liked people too much. I had worked at play schemes over the summer breaks and so thought I would try teaching. I have never looked back.”
From her teaching practice in Brixton at the time of the infamous riots, she went on to her first job as a Science teacher in Hampton and celebrated by buying a bright green 2CV with a stripy roof.
“I was very lucky in my first job and had many opportunities to get involved in extra responsibilities. I was promoted to Head of Biology after one year and became a Head of Year after two.”
She found that working with young people was “a joy and a challenge.” So much so that she decided to have some of her own. “Fortunately my husband agreed and in 1987 Jake was born, followed by Kate in 1990.”
There followed jobs in three other Surrey schools, and her children were in their mid-teens when “I felt ready to take on the responsibilities of Headship and was thrilled when the position of Headteacher at Glebelands came up, as I knew Mr Baker and that he was a very respected Headteacher. Two days of interviews and the rest is history!”
Harry Good in Year 9 interviewed Ms Knight and writes:
Fifty years is a remarkable achievement for anything: a business or a company, let alone a school. Glebelands has no intention of leaving it at 50, and therefore needs a strong figurehead. We are grateful to have this in Ms Knight.
Joining in 2004, she has quickly made an impact. We are lucky she chose us. “I joined Glebelands mainly because I was struck by how friendly the students and the staff were towards me and I felt I wanted to be a part of it.” She also revealed that it was the right size; about 900 pupils. “The size of the school was important to me because I felt that I would be able to get to know every pupil.”
She arrived to find a school that had just been granted Science Specialist status, had moved into an era of more effective governance and accountability, and was already very involved in the local community. However, as all new Heads do, she wanted to improve attainment. “Myself and the staff decided that learning was the key, helping every child to make progress,” she informed me. “If every student learns something every lesson, then we are on the right track.”
The new Glebelands motto – ‘Learning with Confidence’ arrived at about the same time as new rules about school uniform, including the black blazer.
The school council was already active in raising money for a range of charities, some local. However Ms Knight didn’t feel it was fulfilling its potential.
“I believe that to find out what the students want, you must ask the students, so I strengthened and promoted the role of the school council. The student voice is very important, and through this, areas such as the canteen and the LRC have been refurbished to the students’ plans. Take the bike sheds - another idea from the students.”
The school council still does raise money though, as she recalled in this story:
“We had not been doing Comic Relief for some years but the students didn’t seem to be happy with this. So this year, it all changed. Students and staff were allowed to dress up and dye their hair for money.” Ms. Knight, in a sly attempt to embarrass some of her deputies, brought in a big red wig and planned to make them wear it. “Sadly, this backfired on me, as the staff decided to put forward £150 to make me wear it. Of course I had to.”
When I expressed regret that I hadn’t seen her, she replied: “That was the plan!”
“I account a lot of the school’s success to the students”, she revealed, “along with my staff. Team work is the key.” Parents also seem to be very important in her view. “Parents need to be involved in a child’s learning, however not too much. A child needs encouragement, but needs the space to be able to grow individually and I hope school helps them to do this.”
She believes the main reason for the school’s success is happiness. “Happiness through relationships, worthwhile learning and success through achieving your very best, is the key to a successful school,” she claimed. “This is what I am most proud of.”
One Family, One School
Alex Jacobs (Year 10) interviewed various members of the Disley clan.
If you were to look back at Glebelands class lists for the last 50 years, what are the odds that you would find a family who had managed to have one member in attendance every year since the school opened 50 years ago? Well, for the Disley Family, Glebelands has been part of 28 members’ school life spanning over an amazing 50 years of Glebelands history.
It all began when Terry Disley, the eldest of eight siblings, joined the school in 1956, three years before it became Glebelands. His seven brothers and sisters followed him through the school, as did their children and grandchildren in the subsequent years. Now, all these years on, four members of the family comment on their school days and how the school has changed half a century on.
Rosie started at Glebelands in September 2008, and is daughter to Jane, great-niece to Alan. Her grandfather was the first Disley at the school.
One of her first memories of the school was, “Having to move classrooms after every lesson, which I wasn’t used to. And knowing where I had to go next.” Her views on the uniform - a black blazer, maroon jumper and maroon tie with black trousers or a skirt – is that “It is accepted and I think generally liked.”
Rosie’s Mum, Jane, started at Glebelands in 1978 when Mr Cozens was Head, and now has two children in attendance, Lewis and Rosie.
She says of her first days, “I just remember that the school was very big and I wasn’t sure if I’d remember where to go!” There weren’t so many buildings then either, South, North and the Practical block. Of the uniform, she says, “there was the maroon jumper and tie, but no blazer. Girls would wear their skirts nearly down to their ankles but now they’re worn slightly shorter!” Jane believes that, “The timetable is similar, but there are more opportunities for students now. The lunchtime is the same, but the canteen is much better.” And she expects to see “probably more buildings and more advanced technology,” in the next fifty years.
Jane’s cousin, Kirsty, is Alan’s daughter. She was at Glebelands from 1992-1996, when Mr Baker was Head, and was Head Girl in her final year.
Like the others she remembers, “Feeling like a little fish in a big pond. There were lots more people than in Park Mead where I’d been for 8 years before Glebelands.”
She recalls more buildings than her cousin - P.E Blocks, Canteen, CDT and the Home Economics Block –and that, “There were no blazers when I was there, just itchy burgundy jumpers! They did introduce black ties for the year 11 pupils when I was there though.”
Kirsty adds, “I still keep in touch with lots of people from school. My best friend from Glebelands is still my best friend now.”
When she looks to the future she says, “I expect it will continue to expand. There was always talk that it might have a 6th form one day.”
Finally, Alan, Kirsty’s Dad and third eldest of his eight siblings, came to Glebelands almost 50 years ago in 1960. His wife, Pat, also went to Glebelands and, in the years to come, so did his two children.
Alan had Mr Wiskar as Head and of his first days says, “There were so many people and I remember being the only one in my class from Ewhurst.” There were far fewer buildings, too, just “the Domestic and Practical Block and then the Main School.”
About the uniform he says “that if you didn’t wear it you had to choose something to wear from lost property!”
He knows that Assemblies still feature in the school day, but that “we used to have different local Rectors in every Friday.”
He also looks back to “The first time we had a talent show, some of the teachers found it very funny - whilst others stormed out!”
The Disley Family Tree
Showing all 28 members who attended Glebelands, beginning with Terry & his siblings