A NEW woman is at the helm of one of Chichester’s biggest secondary schools.
Yasmin Maskatiya has been appointed as the new head teacher of Chichester High School for Girls.
She has been acting as interim executive head teacher since the departure of Fiona Oliver-Watkins and will start her new full-time role from September when the school will join the The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT).
Here, Ms Maskatiya and chairman of governors Simon Elliott talk about her pleasure at joining the school team, hopes for the future and the challenges the school must overcome.
“The plan is to make Chichester High School for Girls outstanding and I think that is absolutely, from day one, what we are working towards,” says Yasmin Maskatiya when we meet to discuss her appointment as head teacher.
“I think we have a good chance of achieving that over the next three years. The girls strike me as very capable, very talented and really wanting to make progress and achieve success.
“All of my meetings with the staff and the governors of the school have been entirely positive.
“Everyone has agreed that the school has tremendous potential. The thing that struck me as soon as I walked in was there is so much we can do here.”
Welcoming Ms Maskatiya to the school, Mr Elliott said: “The governors are delighted that Yasmin is coming to the school and we are truly excited about future for Chichester High School for Girls.”
Ms Maskatiya has been head teacher at Thomas Bennett Community College, a large TKAT academy in Crawley, for 13 years. During her time there, it went from a low-performing school to one that had some of the top progress rates in the county.
In its last Ofsted report it was judged ‘good with many outstanding features’.
Prior to that, her roles included deputy head teacher at Angmering, English teacher and acting head of department at Littlehampton and head of English, and head of sixth form and assistant head teacher at Imberhorne.
Ms Maskatiya has not taught at a single-sex school since her training but has acted as a school improvement partner – a ‘critical friend’ – to Davison CE High School for Girls
“There are going to be different types of learning styles and approaches,” she said.
“But ultimately you have to find out about the person as an individual rather than what gender they are.
“For me that’s the most important thing – that we individualise and personalise the education as much as we can.”
Ms Maskatiya’s experience across West Sussex has certainly been welcomed by the governors.
“Yasmin’s come to us on strong recommendations from the county council. They are really pleased at Yasmin’s appointment here,” said Mr Elliott.
“We have had lots of messages of congratulations.”
Speaking about her priorities, Ms Maskatiya said: “What we want to really, really push on is making sure the quality of learning and teaching in the school is as good as it possibly can be.
“We have started that work already, refocusing and getting consistency in the school. That will be our approach next year and we are starting to prepare for that now.
“Improving the quality of teaching and learning is absolutely key. We are expecting the results this year to be our best ever so that change is already underway.
“But there is more to come absolutely, hopefully this is just the start.”
So what is she most looking forward to about Chichester?
“I am really looking forward to getting to know the students. That will take a bit of time but it is very important to me.
“I am very excited by their potential and the potential of staff.
“I think becoming an academy within TKAT is going to provide new, exciting opportunities for the school.
“I am looking forward to working with the parents. Everything tells me they are very committed, involved and want to see the school do well. I am looking forward to bringing the whole community together.”
As to the challenges facing the school, Ms Maskatiya believes it is important to keep disruption to a minimum as both the school, and education systems, change in the next few years.
“Becoming an academy shouldn’t really be an issue for anyone in the school apart from the head, governors and senior leadership,” she said.
“That leaves other people free to get on with what they need to be getting on with, which is the business of teaching and learning and raising standards.
“This school has the capacity to be outstanding but there are key things we need to improve.
“Most of them relate to what happens in the classroom and how we work together as a whole school. We have made an excellent start on that over this last term.
“There is absolutely no reason to believe we won’t continue that in the next year.
“If the exam results come back as we are expecting them to it will give a huge boost to everyone as go into next year.”
Speaking about the proposals for GCSE reform, which will see current Year 7 pupils sitting the new-style exams, she said: “I think we are pretty well prepared for that because a lot of those changes relate to nontraditional alternatives to GCSEs which a lot of schools have gone down the route of, which we have used sparingly.
“The transition may not be as difficult for us but we are not going to be complacent.”
As reported in last week’s Observer, the three TKAT secondary schools – Chichester High School for Girls, Chichester High School for Boys and The Academy Selsey – will be working closely together.
“That is one of the reasons why I think TKAT is going to be the right academy chain to be part of,” said Ms Maskatiya.
“They focus very much on school-to-school support. Not to just go into schools and change things but to bring out strengths in each other.
“We make sure we find the help that the school needs to make the progress that it needs to make. There is no point being insular.”
Mr Elliott said co-operative working was part of what attracted the school to TKAT initially.
“We very much wanted to be part of a collaborative family,” he said.
“We felt the way forward was to be part of a group that helps each other.”
Ms Maskatiya is keen to point out she will not just be working with other TKAT secondaries but also other academies, faith schools and primary schools to share ideas and improvement ideas.
“The bottom line is always to support what is happening here at this school,” she said. “How do our girls make the progress that they want and we want them to?”
So where does Ms Maskatiya see the school going?
“The girls that we have here are very able, they have the potential to be some of the highest-performing students in West Sussex. That is what we want to achieve.
“I am confident about the future. I think we have students who are capable and committed as well as parents that will support their children’s progress.
“Once we get all of those things working together that is the perfect environment.”