Bringing the community together through leadership [interview]

Christalla Jamil

Christalla Jamil is headteacher at Eastfield Primary School in Enfield. After completing her NPQH, Christilla took on a DHT role, which instantly became an acting headteacher role for 18 months. This role enabled her to apply for the headship of my own school; a Primary for 480 pupils, from Nursery – Y6. Christalla has an Additional Resource Provision within her school, serving pupils with complex needs that are able to integrate significantly into mainstream.

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Christalla Jamil is very proud of her school, and it’s easy to see why. All evidence points to London’s Eastfield Primary being a tremendously happy, vibrant place, with a real emphasis on developing each pupil as a healthy individual. Christalla was kind enough to take some time to talk school leadership and how ‘Easty’ achieves excellence.

You're headteacher at Eastfield Primary, "a 'Good School' with 'Outstanding' elements". Tell us how about how the school achieves its goals.

Eastfield achieves its goals by having strong leadership with a clear, joint vision and high expectations, along with standards that are disseminated through osmosis to the entire community. We really enthuse teachers and children, and have a strong, effective focus solely on teaching and learning - everything else is peripheral. CPD is a high priority for all staff at all levels, and this enables us to move with the times, to inject passion and excitement to learning.

Exemplar behavior in all classrooms is pivotal to successful learning. The same goes for the pastoral care we offer with resident Place2Be counselors and a nurturing staff. We are a school that never sleeps; always seeking ways to impact more effectively on our children. We’re also a values led school, and have devised our own values specific to our community’s needs. As an inclusive school that oozes respect and tolerance, our children are happy and feel safe.

As a speaker of both Greek and Arabic, how useful would you say multilingualism is to the modern school leader?

Being trilingual has many benefits. Many members of the community I serve are also bi and trilingual - it is always good to share commonalities! It also allows me to translate where possible.

Your SLT journey has seen you go from assistant head, to deputy head, to acting head, then headteacher. What has this progression of roles taught you?

I have been privileged to work with inspirational leaders, and fully understand the journey to headship. One skill I’ve learnt is to successfully coach/mentor staff, so that they continue to grow and impact on others. It has given me a window into knowing and understanding the pressures and challenges each role brings, and being realistic in my expectations of others. I’ve also become a forward thinker, and have developed the courage to take learning forward and influence my staff to take risks too.

My main takeaway is that providing a creative, rich education for our children is vital. At present, we are educating children for careers that have not been invented yet, for a future that we are unable to predict. Therefore, we need to ensure our teaching stimulates thinking, so as to create creative and critical thinkers who are ready for the demands of the future. However, as educators we also need to provide children with social, emotional and intrapersonal skills to enable them to be successful adults. Plus, Twitter has given me the opportunity to continue to be influenced by many colleagues.

At Eastfield, we are now in a position to share great practice with other schools and impact beyond our borough.

In September, your Year 3 pupils went on a trip to the Natural History Museum. How important are such excursions to Eastfield Primary School?

Hugely important! Though a large majority of my community are EAL, even those born to English speaking families have language poverty, and in general, a lack of many life experiences. Such excursions allow for learning through hands-on experiences. These live scenarios not only bring topics of learning alive; they equip my children with the ammunition they need to write.

How do you go about ensuring an excellent school community for your pupils, teachers and parents / guardians?

I love to work with people who share and understand my vision for our school. Performance is a parameter we must keep in mind, but it’s important to look beyond. What I look for is aptitude and the desire to grow. I look for people who make things happen, who are decision makers, who have an identity. I identify those who are accountable, even when mistakes happen. Particularly important for teachers is that they are in a ‘safe place’ where they won’t be made accountable for taking risks to innovate if their actions don’t pay off. They must be able to empathise and have emotional intelligence too. Communication is key, so articulation and courage is another factor.

Actions are powerful. We work as a family, and I’m always looking to bring others aboard the good ship Easty! Our success has taken a while. I needed to both befriend my community and bring about fast change that instantly impacted on our learners. Mutual respect is another driver - I don’t have all the answers, but somebody will, and this is something understood by all. Great team spirit has now been established and accepted by all stakeholders.

What do you hope to achieve in the next year?

My goal is to continue to foster an environment where learning is a daily adventure to be delighted in for all pupils, regardless of their needs, ethnicity, culture, religion or background. Easty will continue to grow as a place where the relationship with self, peers, the school community and wider society is held in high regard. This is what has led me ultimately to becoming a headteacher. To make the biggest impact, to transform education and help children achieve what they want to achieve, to inspire them to do things they never thought they could do.

I am currently exploring a variety of possibilities linked to joining a trust (MAT) to continue to grow in strength and continue to bring every possible opportunity available to my children, staff and parents. I want to ensure a great future for all and impact further on learning.

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