17 May 2023
Having been a leading pioneer of girls’ education for 130 years, Harrogate Ladies’ College has a long and rich heritage of educating inspirational women in Harrogate.
Principal and CEO Sylvia Brett has recently been recognised as a finalist in the Business Leader of the Year category in the Harrogate Advertiser Business Excellence Awards.
The school, which comprises Harrogate Ladies’ College, Highfield Prep School, and Highfield Pre-Prep School, educates over 600 children aged between 2 and 18 years old and employs around 200 people from the local community.
Sylvia has been Principal of the school for the past 10 years and is a visionary champion of women and girls. She is the recipient of a Northern Power Women Award in recognition of her work in this field.
She believes that, as the leader of a girls’ school, she has a responsibility to inspire the next generation of women and to play her part in helping to close the gender gap. Under Sylvia’s leadership, the school has recently introduced a new initiative called Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE@Hlc) to encourage and inspire the next generation of women to consider careers in these fields – an area where Sylvia believes women are “shockingly under represented”.
Sylvia believes that being authentic and being yourself is important as a leader. She actively encourages this quality in staff and in all the pupils – evident in the school’s motto of “I Am Me”.
For Sylvia this means not being afraid to show her sense of humour and sense of fun – something which saw her jump into the newly opened swimming pool fully dressed (and persuaded staff, parents, and School Governors to do likewise!).
Wellbeing is a passion of Sylvia’s and she championed the development of a new Wellness Strategy and the opening of a dedicated Wellness Centre prior to Covid, something she believes really helped the organisation to cope with the challenges that the pandemic threw at staff, pupils, and parents.
Sylvia’s sound management practices were evident more than ever during the pandemic. Her foresight meant that a multi-discipline Covid Response Team was in place weeks before the first lockdown. This in turn led to IT, resources, and training all being in place to ensure the organisation was able to provide online learning for pupils from day one of lockdown. Throughout the pandemic, Sylvia’s leadership brought the whole school community together including staff, pupils, and parents, through a shared sense of purpose and support.
As CEO and Principal, Sylvia wears many hats. In addition to managing the school’s Covid response, she is responsible for ensuring a high quality of education and overseeing finances, HR, and the management of a 20-acre estate. Sylvia says that her role “sometimes involves making difficult decisions but if I’m ever in any doubt, I simply ask myself ‘what is best for the children?’ – that gives me the answers I need to successfully lead this wonderful organisation”.