Woodhouse welcomes new Principal Sugra Alibhai

Dated: 19 April 2021

 
Sugra Alibhai joins us this term as the new Principal of Woodhouse College and also as CEO of our newly established Frontier Learning Trust (FLT). The FLT has two schools: Woodhouse College and the new Imperial College London Mathematics School, which aims to open in 2023.
 
Sugra joins us from Isaac Newton Academy, an (Ofsted) outstanding all-through school for students aged 4-18 in Ilford. She had been there since its early days of inception in 2013. As well as teaching maths, she was Vice Principal and Head of Sixth Form. She has been teaching for 16 years since earning her master’s degree in Economics from the University of Edinburgh.
 
Sugra told us…
 
“I’ve been really struck by how special Woodhouse College is. I love that there is a high level of intellectual rigour, a geekiness and joy for learning. It has a great ethos of preparing students for university and providing that safe stepping stone. But alongside that there is space for the students to grow and express themselves, to become young adults and have agency.
 
Agency is a massive part of my educational philosophy. There’s the freedom that academic success gives you in terms of doors being opened but true agency comes from being able to make decisions for yourself and live a happy and fulfilled life. I think what Woodhouse does incredibly well is give students the space to make those decisions. Sometimes students will make the right decisions and sometimes they won’t, but that’s fine because this is a space where they can grow and learn from mistakes. When they go on to university, they are really well prepared because they’ve had those opportunities to make decisions about how they learn, what they prioritise and what they are really passionate about.
 
I also like the commitment the college has to educating the whole person in the widest possible sense. Extracurricular enrichments have always been very important to me. I am so excited about Woodhouse being able to provide those opportunities again post pandemic. To provide an environment where young people can start living and having a bit of fun in their day-to-day existence.
 
I grew up in north west London and really value my education. My parents didn’t have the same opportunities that I had. My mum grew up in Uganda and she had to leave school at a young age because my grandfather had passed away. She needed to work. Her wages supported my aunts and uncle to be educated to a really high standard. In fact, my aunt went on to work in education too. I have therefore always been keenly aware of the lottery of life. Some people have the privilege of a great education and some people don’t. My sister and I have had a completely different life to that of my parents. I see the power of education to change lives and having that perspective is why I got into teaching.
 
 
The chance to support the opening of the Imperial College London Maths School is also a really exciting opportunity. I come from a context in my previous job where we created a school from scratch and that was something really amazing. The idea of being a big part of a college that is nearing its 100th year and then being part of an organisation that is just starting is very special.
 
Partnering with Imperial College London will also bring fantastic opportunities for the students in the Woodhouse College community. We now have representatives of one of the top universities in the country on our Board of Trustees. Our students will have access to phenomenal university lecturers, external speakers and mentors. There will also be CPD (continuing professional development) opportunities for our staff. I think really understanding the higher education space with people who are taking our students into their next phase can only benefit all of us.
 
The underlying philosophies and values of Woodhouse College really resonate with me. Our mission statement talks about a transformational education experience for the community. That opportunity for young people here is not about to change. My predecessor John Rubinstein has left a wonderful legacy. There is a high level of pastoral care here, our staff know their students well and there is a strong sense of community. All of those things will stay.
 
Woodhouse has an illustrious reputation and literally everyone I have spoken to about this appointment has started smiling and sharing such positive anecdotes about people they know that studied here or worked here. They’ve all had a fantastic experience. It’s a real privilege to join the Woodhouse family and I can’t wait to get to know everyone better.”


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