This tribute to Emma Pattison was first published on the HMC website, and reproduced here with kind permission.
Emma Pattison started her teaching career at Lutterworth College before moving in 2005 to Caterham. It did not take long for her to become an outstanding classroom teacher. Her lessons were vibrant and busy; her students invariably became confident, enthusiastic linguists.
Emma strongly believed that modern foreign languages were a core element of any student’s education. She also believed that the teaching of languages enhanced cultural understanding, broke down barriers and empowered students to become global citizens.
Emma was professionally ambitious and rightly so. In 2008, she moved to Guildford High where she became the head of modern foreign languages. Four years later, Emma was appointed assistant head (professional development) at St John’s, Leatherhead and was soon promoted to the role of deputy head (academic) at the same school.
“Emma was professionally ambitious and rightly so.”
In 2016, Emma was appointed head of Croydon High which she led with distinction until September 2022 when she took up the post of head of Epsom College.
Emma was a dynamic but thoughtful leader. She asked for advice and weighed up her options when caution was required. But she could be bold and innovative. When those who reported to her were passive in meetings, she reorganised the room so that they would speak to each other.
Emma always listened and was willing to take on board the opinions of others. She empowered her teams and instilled in them a professional self-belief. There are many colleagues working in our schools who are grateful to Emma for her time, thoughtfulness and insight.
“Emma was a dynamic but thoughtful leader.”
All school leaders themselves are, to an extent, the product of the professional journey that they have been on. Whilst on that journey, we never stop learning from colleagues and from experiences which can be referred to at a later date.
Emma Pattison worked in a range of school settings: day and boarding, single sex and co-educational, highly selective and less so. Whilst she often had to adjust to different school settings, the experience of working in such a range of schools and the nature of her professional journey helped to shape a rich educational philosophy. This philosophy was centred on an insistence that the interests of the individual child come first and that the child’s voice should always be heard.
As a head, she exuded confidence. Such confidence was compelling and, as the head of Croydon High and of Epsom College she quickly won the admiration of pupils, parents, governors and staff. With regards to her colleagues, Emma insisted on the highest professional standards and would be quick to pull up those who fell short.
“She was hugely convincing when speaking to any audience.”
With her expectations understood, she drove up standards, academic and otherwise. Emma was thrilled to be appointed head of Epsom College and had thrown herself into her “dream job”. Placed in a wider context, Emma was coming into her own as a leading figure amongst the next generation of school leaders.
Emma was a perfectionist. As a public speaker, she learnt how to balance her wish to cover all points with effective delivery. She was hugely convincing when speaking to any audience, from prospective parents to current pupils. Invariably her addresses were victories of style and substance. But one shouldn’t underestimate the time that Emma put into preparing her assemblies and speeches. As with all aspects of her work, she was meticulous in preparation and always attentive to detail.
Emma was a wonderful person to work with. She was relentlessly positive and upbeat; her smile and her laughter were infectious. Whilst very much her own person, Emma was collegiate and a great team player. She had integrity in buckets; she was loyal, warm and kind. Emma lit up the lives of those around her. She will be sorely missed but not forgotten.