Thriving through challenge, teamwork and wellbeing [interview]

Susan Gakungu

Born and bred in Kenya. Studied in Kenya (BEd Technology) and Scotland (MSc Nutrition). I teach Food Preparation and Nutrition, which I really enjoy. Growing up in a different culture has enriched my teaching as I am able to draw from all my experiences. I am head of year, a role I am passionate about because it gives me the opportunity to develop students in all areas of their lives. I enjoy running and travelling.

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Susan with Bukky Yusuf // via @SuHAppyNess. Susan with Bukky Yusuf // via @SuHAppyNess.

What makes for a courageous leader? To find out, we sat down with Susan Gakungu, a London educator, governor and NPQSL who works with such organisations as the Chartered College of Teaching and WomenEd.


You're head of Year 10 at the 'Outstanding'-rated Clapton Girls’ Academy in Hackney. Tell us about the school.


We’re an inner city school with a diverse range of students from different backgrounds and cultures. Our values are Compassion, Ambition, Integrity and Resilience, with the key priorities being Challenge, Teamwork and Wellbeing. The staff body has great teachers and support staff, who work daily together to ensure that our students progress not just academically, but in all other areas too. We have a broad and balanced curriculum that suits the needs of the students, and a great range of extracurricular activities that make the school a unique place to be.


Tell us about some of your favourite edtech and digital resources.


I use 4Matrix to track progress, Google Classroom with my KS4, SIMS for the register, behaviour and achievement points. I really like Google Classroom especially because I am able to set tasks and resources for my students. They are then able to respond, and they / I can edit as they work. Plus, since work is automatically saved, no one has to worry about the lost work. It has been especially great for GCSE work


You're particularly passionate about inclusion and diversity. How can educators go about promote these values in their schools and across the education community?


It’s vital that the staff, SLT and governors represent the students in the school by recruiting inclusively and developing a range of leaders. Schools must also use the PSHCE curriculum, assemblies and collective time activities to ensure that key topics such as bullying and diversity issues are thoroughly covered, and that students have the chance to model these in their daily lives.


I recommend using blogs and other meetings to share good practice on how inclusion is done within a school.


As an enthusiastic user of the platform, what do you get out of Twitter? Any movements or hashtags you're keen to share?


I have benefitted greatly by connecting with like-minded educators, and Twitter is ideal when it comes to recommendations for blogs and other education material. There’s also the aspect of being able to take part in conferences and unconferences. The hashtags I would recommend are #BAMEed, #SLTchat, #WomenEd, #Teacher5aday, and #HeforShe.


Tell us about the experiences, opportunities and people that led to where you are today.


I came to the UK to do my masters degree. That was made possible by my family, who supported my dream to further pursue my education overseas. Having travelled by myself to a different country and into a different culture, I learnt to be resilient and keep the core focus, which was education. After completing my degree, I came to London. Teaching agencies give me daily supply teaching jobs for one term, which was instrumental in me learning about the nature of schools in London.


When the opportunity came up for me to join my current school, I was lucky enough to get the job. Since then, our SLT have given me many opportunities to develop myself and my career. The Courageous Leadership programme and WomenED have both had significant impact for me, as they have made me belief in myself and be more reflective on who I am as an educator. I have also benefitted immensely from BAMEed, as they have given me opportunities to be a coach.


What would you like to achieve in the next year?


I would like to develop further in my leadership journey as well as get certified as a coach.


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