Pupil happiness is at the heart of learning at Prep School, says new head

Lisa Finch Prep School Ipswich High School
Lisa Finch, head of Prep School at Ipswich High School. Photo: Clare Douglas

Happiness is at the heart of everything we do here. That’s the message from Lisa Finch, the new head of Prep School at Ipswich High School (IHS), who joined at Easter.

Mrs Finch, previously the headteacher at Stanway Fiveways Primary School in Essex, said she is passionate about taking what the school does well and developing it further while maintaining its vision and ethos.

She said: “The education here is really tailored to the needs and interests of the pupils and goes beyond what is covered in the national curriculum.

“We want to nurture children individually and build on their strengths.

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“The ethos and vision here are to place happiness at the centre of everything we do and that is something that the Prep School does fantastically well.”

And, that in part, is down to the school’s enrichment programme – something that Mrs Finch, who took over from Eileen Fisher who left for a new founding headship in China, believes is “incredible”.

“The enrichment programme here is key to being able to give children that breadth of experience,” she added. “The opportunities for children are phenomenal whether it’s skiing, sailing, karate, cookery or music, there really is something for everyone.

“We want pupils to excel in their area of excellence, but we also want to encourage them to try new things. That’s why our enrichment programme is so important.”

Pupils also have access to the Forest and Beach School thanks to its setting on 87-acre grounds in Woolverstone.

Mrs Finch said: “Outdoor learning develops the children’s love of learning beyond the classroom and being outside provides a different view for pupils, further developing their knowledge and skills.

“We are incredibly fortunate with the facilities we have here, and the grounds are very much part of our curriculum and ethos.

“And it’s not just the Woodland Pre-Prep School using it, we see children from all year groups making the most of outdoor learning.”

Despite having only been at the Prep School for a matter of weeks, Mrs Finch described her transition as seamless.

“I feel like I’ve fitted in really quickly,” she said. “The staff, parents and pupils have all been incredibly welcoming.

“I have been at the front of the school each day to greet parents and pupils on arrival and I have been teaching each class – that’s really important to me so that I can quickly get to know each individual child and learn their names as quickly as possible.”

Mrs Finch, who is a qualified SENCO, joined IHS at a time when they recently welcomed boys into the prep school and sixth form and began teaching via the Diamond Model approach, which is unique in Suffolk.

She said: “The decision to accept boys into the school was really exciting and was actually one of the reasons why the job was a positive move for me.

“It is an exciting time of change and with my background, which has all been in co-educational schools, hopefully I can bring some of my knowledge to the school.

“I think all headteachers bring experience and knowledge from previous positions, however what I think is really important, is developing what a school does really well as opposed to coming in with an ‘I want to change this’ viewpoint.

“As a new member of staff, I can’t tell that the boys have only been here since the start of the academic year.”

The Prep School currently has 123 pupils – 18 of which are boys.

From Year 5 to Year 8, pupils take part in the Diploma which rewards academic and extra-curricular achievements. It encourages pupils to aim high and achieve throughout all elements of their curriculum and enrichment so it rewards success both inside and outside of the classroom.

Mrs Finch, who has two daughters, one of whom is a Year 10 student at IHS, added: “We are developing the whole child, both academically and pastorally.

“At IHS Prep School, our teaching staff go above and beyond to develop our children’s full potential, so they exceed academic standards.

“We offer a rigorous academic experience, of the highest quality – without the added pressure of external examinations such as SATs.

“We prepare our pupils for senior school through developing excellent communication skills, well-developed knowledge and a wide range of experiences which foster a love of learning, providing the foundations for future success.”