Focus on Kate Martin

  • 5th April 2024

Kate Martin

Kate Martin is head of Mowden Hall School in Northumberland, a prep school of about 220 pupils aged from three to 13 years. She was born and bred in the North of England. She attended local state schools and studied sport at Northumbria University. She then completed a PGCE in secondary PE at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education. Both of her parents were teachers; her mother was a head, and her sister is also a teacher, so it’s very much in her blood. She is married to Simon, and they have one son, Ted, who’s 13 years old.

 What have been your previous roles, including in other sectors?

I initially started teaching in an 11-16 local authority school. After two years, I moved into the independent sector, and have since worked in a variety of schools, day and boarding, co-ed and single sex. Mowden is the only prep school I have worked in.

How many staff are there in your school?

We have about 80 members of staff.

 What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Building pupil roll following a drop in numbers as a result of Covid. Exploring and developing external revenue streams has also been an interesting challenge.

What will be your probable next big challenge?

Categorically, the threat of VAT on school fees should Labour form the next government.

What’s the most useful advice you have been given?

Always be yourself.

Who has been the biggest influence in your career?

There have been several people who have influenced my career and I have been fortunate to work with many talented people. Overall, my mother has been my biggest influence. She died when I was 19 years old. She became a head at a very young age and was so strong and impressive in the way she fought for her school and the children in her care. For her, being a head was the best job in the world – and I have so much respect for her.

Please relate a funny story from your career.

There are too many! I do remember going sledging late one snowy evening with a group of other young staff. I had the best run of the night, but ended up stopping at the feet of a housemaster, who very gently informed me that I was keeping the children in the boarding house awake! The other staff all ran away very quickly and I was not far behind them.

What has been the best money-making project that you have introduced?

We are a small school, and so a lot of our projects are relatively small, but one of the first external revenue schemes I introduced was a programme of baby swimming lessons. This has not only raised a significant amount of external revenue, but also worked well from a marketing point of view.

What has been the best cost-cutting project that you have introduced?

Very simple, but we have worked hard to be more responsible about the small things in terms of energy saving.

What has been the biggest surprise you’ve had in school?

Every day can bring something new, which is why I love the job. It is often the small things that really make a difference. Seeing a child succeed in something, or supporting a parent who is struggling is incredibly rewarding. A parent recently very spontaneously asked me for a hug. It was because she was so thrilled at how well her children were doing at Mowden. This was a surprise, but also made me feel incredibly proud of everything that makes Mowden such a special school.

What has been your lasting memory so far?

I don’t really want to labour the Covid times, but inevitably they forge a lasting memory for me. As a new head, making decisions that could potentially impact the health and wellbeing of others was a huge responsibility, but this taught me to trust my instincts and believe in myself.

Any hobbies or outside interests?

Fresh air. I love being outside. As a PE teacher, I was used to spending the majority of every day outside. As a head, I don’t. I think this is why I appreciate it so much more now.

What are your personal future plans?

I want to continue to develop as a head. Times are changing and the landscape will continue to evolve. The future will be challenging, but I am always up for a challenge.

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