Branching Out

We chat to Gretchen Copeman, incoming Head of Oaklands School in Loughton, about her aspirations for her new role within the Oak-Tree Group. 

How exciting is it for you to be taking over as head of Oaklands School in September?

I am both delighted and excited to be the Head of Oaklands from September. To lead an already successful school that has been at the heart of the Loughton community for 85 years in the next phase of its journey is an opportunity I feel privileged to have been offered.

Why were you so keen to take on the role?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as Deputy Head at Braeside, but the opportunity to lead a successful school such as Oaklands comes along very rarely. Remaining in the Oak-Tree Group is extremely important to me because child-centred learning is at the heart of the education process throughout the four schools and this aligns completely with my approach to educating children.  To be able to say I really do love my job is fairly unique and many people do not have that luxury.

What does Oaklands School offer?

Oaklands is a warm and friendly school in the heart of the local community. Staff take the time to get to know families extremely well and, by doing this, the school enables pupils to be the very best they can be. They have a strong sense of self and make excellent progress by the end of Year 6. Oaklands values individuality and ensures the curriculum caters to all pupils by encouraging the talents and strengths of every child.

Which elements of daily school life make Oaklands stand out?

I’ve already seen the purposeful buzz. It is an incredibly happy school and the confidence of the pupils really stands out when you visit. Staff know what helps them learn and what excites and motivates them. Class sizes are deliberately smaller than elsewhere so that every voice and idea is heard. Each pupil is valued and challenged at their own level.

What aspects of the school are you most looking forward to seeing?

Having the opportunity to work with such a creative, dedicated teaching team and children who welcome challenge and strive to be the best version of themselves is the most exciting part of being the Head of Oaklands. It is a busy school but small enough for me to get to know pupils and their families extremely well. I am looking forward to guiding them, not only in their primary education, but also preparing them for life beyond Oaklands.

What does the Oak-Tree Group offer its families?

All four of the Oak-Tree Schools are family orientated and together we make one big family. Each of our schools is unique, as are the staff and pupils. The real strength is that every member of staff and each pupil can truly be themselves. Staff regularly meet up with their counterparts in other schools to share ideas, explore new initiatives and develop the curriculum. Our pupils often meet up with each other for many different events such as camping, performances, sports fixtures, learning days and competitions. We offer the best of both worlds as individually we are smaller, nurturing schools and together we can share ideas and compete on a much larger scale.

What are your hopes for the new school year?

September is always full of excitement for the year ahead, and even more so this year for me.  I am looking forward to getting to know the families at Oaklands and continuing the fantastic work of the staff and pupils. I’m particularly looking forward to working with our large Early Years department as the beginning of a child’s educational journey is extremely important in shaping the learner they will become. It is a time to inject magic into the curriculum and provide opportunities for children to grow and learn. Similarly, working with the older pupils and helping them to shape their futures will be an exciting part of my job.