School leaders, teachers, independent sector organisations and others have paid tribute to Emma Pattison, head of Epsom College, who died suddenly over the weekend of Feb 4/5 2023.
Teachers praised how the head had supported them in their careers while others spoke of her “energy, wisdom and kindness”.
Cheryl Giovannoni, chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust, under whom Emma worked when she was head at Croydon High, said in a statement that she was “a much loved and respected member of the GDST community, as well as a talented head and teacher and a dear friend to many of us.
“She touched the lives of all of us with her energy, wisdom and kindness during her six years as head of Croydon High School and the school will always bear the legacy of her inspiring leadership.”
Beth Dawson, head of Sutton High in South London, wrote on Twitter: “Emma was a role model to me going into headship. She was an exceptional colleague and someone I loved to be around. Her guidance early in my headship was invaluable and I am devastated by her loss.”
One teacher, Jacob Thorpe, wrote an extensive thread on Twitter outlining how he had been supported by Pattison in his career.
He wrote: “Emma Pattison gave me my first teaching job. At Croydon High she created a work environment that felt so safe and encouraging. She was an exceptional leader. She supported me and I became the teacher I am proud to be today. I am endlessly grateful.”
He wrote how she supported staff through Covid and helped him with his application and interview prep for his current job.
“It’s all because Emma Pattison gave me a job when my confidence was at its lowest. She has impacted many people and losing her is devastating,” he wrote.
Rebecca Brown, head of Northwood College for Girls in London, also praised her for similar reasons, writing on Twitter: “Emma was a real inspiration to me as a new GDST head: compassionate, authentic, principled and a passionate educator.”
Also writing on the platform, Nina Gunson, head of Sheffield Girls’ School described Pattison as “a shining light”.
Vicky Bingham, head of South Hampstead High School, said on LinkedIn that Pattison “had the ability to light up a room and make anyone she spoke to feel special and uplifted by her presence.”
She was “forward-thinking, energetic and relentlessly positive”, she added.
Mark Mortimer, warden of Glenalmond College, said: “Emma was a inspirational teacher, a great colleague, a fine head and, most importantly, a kind and wonderful person and friend. So many people’s lives are richer for having known her, and so many of us will miss her terribly.”
Marina Gardiner-Legge, head of Oxford High School said on Twitter that Pattison’s “Joy, love of life, infectious sense of humour and positivity lit every room.”
Teacher and education commentator Zoe MacDougall, who interviewed Pattison for Independent School Management Plus recently, said her “warm and easy personality” made her feel they were “talking about a favourite topic with an old friend” when they had actually only just met.
She added: “I felt like her job was a real joy to her…Talking to Emma, it was clear that service and kindness were core values. Her vision was for her pupils to learn truths about the world around them, in preparation for the adults that she hoped they would become: people who would play leading roles in society with understanding, compassion and integrity. I found her inspirational.”
Organisations from across the private school world have also expressed their shock and sadness at her death, including the Independent Schools Council, The Heads’ Conference (HMC) and the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA).