29 April 2022
Following an extensive recruitment process by the Girls’ Day School Trust, we are delighted to announce Antonia Geldeard as Head of Sydenham High School from September 2022.
Antonia grew up in Surrey and Sussex. She read English Literature at Trinity College, Cambridge University, graduating with an MA, and later a PGCE in English and Drama. After early years spent working as a television journalist, in factual programmes, she joined Alleyn’s School, in Dulwich, as an English and Drama teacher and was appointed to the role of Head of House, and Head of Film/Media Studies before being promoted to Head of English. In 2017, Antonia moved to Trinity School, Croydon, to take up the role of Head of Sixth Form and then in 2019, she was promoted to Deputy Head. She has extensive academic and pastoral experience, holding responsibility for Sixth Form, enrichment, EPQ, school admissions and marketing, university admissions and careers as well as holding the position of Deputy Safeguarding Lead for many years. She also has experience as a primary school governor. Antonia lives locally and is married with two children.
We are grateful to Antonia for making the time to tell us a little more about herself:
What attracted you to Sydenham High School?
Working and living in Southeast London for many years, I have heard lots of wonderful first-hand experiences of the school. What has always stood out for me has been the overriding commitment to the individual; the warm, supportive atmosphere, caring for each pupil and helping each student to benefit from the wide range of co-curricular opportunities on offer; there is a real commitment to recognising each girl’s own achievement and academic success, which particularly resonates with me. Visiting Sydenham High, it is clear that it is small enough that each child can feel that they are really known, part of the community, but large enough to be able to enjoy diversity and variety in all aspects of school life. I spent a day at the school during my application process and, walking around, it was so evident that the girls are happy, confident, and curious – they were quick to ask me questions and volunteered all sorts of stories showing their utter engagement and joy in school life. This is a great testament to the ethos of the school and the atmosphere to which all the community contribute.
How did you feel when you were offered the role?
It was such a privilege to receive the phone call just before the Easter holidays! I feel honoured to have been offered the role and I very much look forward to getting to know the staff, pupils and parents, and to working with this vibrant school community in the years ahead.
How will your experiences prepare you for your new role?
I’ve gained a lot of experience from the last 22 years in co-education, as well as a single sex environment. I have always championed young women’s concerns in all my roles, whether growing up in all-girls’ school, in a family of three sisters, in my varied career or in my life as a parent of two teenagers. I am a strong advocate of the importance of considering the individual and promoting all aspects of equality and inclusion, so these values will remain constant for me looking ahead. Coupled with this, understanding the challenges that our young people have growing up and coping through these recent years, I can see the importance of nurturing strong, resilient, healthy young women who have the confidence to speak with their own voice and a full range of skills to be well prepared for their futures. Our classrooms must offer the space for girls to grow their interests, take the lead, share their academic discoveries, and explore new things without fear. I think my breadth of experience prepares me well, and I am ambitious for girls’ education in the years to come.
What is your initial vision for Sydenham High?
I am working closely with Katharine Woodcock to ensure a smooth handover and would like to thank her for all that she has done for the school to date. Together with the staff and Senior Leadership Team, I will build on these strong foundations which value and promote each child’s academic achievement, alongside the rich, co-curricular life of the school. We will continue to prioritise individualised pastoral care, and wellbeing, alongside an ongoing commitment to delivering outstanding teaching and learning. I value a rich, co-curricular life in school, cultivating enquiring minds through enrichment and extension both within the classroom and beyond, at all ages. Learning must be inspiring and fun and therefore investing in our teachers, our departments, and maintaining a forward-thinking, innovative approach is key in the years ahead. I firmly adhere to Sydenham High’s ethos: our girls should be ambitious in their endeavours, develop their higher order thinking skills and be confident to speak up, stand out, think creatively, and reach for opportunities.
Looking ahead to the young women who leave after a complete Sydenham High education, we will ensure that we have thoroughly prepared them for their futures, whatever pathway they may choose, providing every opportunity to deliver competitive applications with their very best grades, but equally fostering over the years, a depth of character, strong values, and a willingness to commit and give back to their community. I will continue the strong partnerships with all aspects of the community; between the Prep and Senior School, between pupils and staff, with parents, the local community, neighbouring schools, alumnae and visiting experts.
What are your interests outside of school?
As an English teacher, I do very much enjoy reading when I have the time between work life and family life. I still get excited about attending the theatre and there is much to see right now. I also enjoy visiting art galleries with my daughter who is taking Art GCSE and I’ve recently taught an enrichment elective on film as an art form which has renewed my interest in film. I like jogging and cycling, and we have a family beach-hut in Dorset, so I enjoy some paddleboarding (not always in warm weather though!)