'I'm woman they love to hate' says head

THE outgoing headmistress of a leading Suffolk private school has described herself as “the woman they love to hate.''

Russell Claydon

THE outgoing headmistress of a leading Suffolk private school has described herself as “the woman they love to hate”.

Gwen Randall, who is retiring after 15 years as head of Framlingham College, told her last Speech Day that she felt like “the Mick McManus of the world of education.'' McManus was a notoriously unpopular figure in wrestling in the 1960s and 1970s.

Mrs Randall recalled that when she was appointed in 1993, as the first woman head of a top public school, “it caused quite a stir.''

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She said she had found it disconcerting when, from her early days as headmistress, parents would make comments, apparently believing that she was leaving the job. She said this also happened at a London supper, and even at a parents' meeting in Dubai.

Mrs Randall said: “You begin to worry. Does this rumour actually represent wishful thinking on the part of some? Is there a coup being prepared? You begin to feel like the Mick McManus of the world of education. Yes, I have become the woman they love to hate!''

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Also in her speech, Mrs Randall launched a staunch defence over the future role of grammar schools, saying the comprehensive system was failing students by producing a “postcode lottery”.

She hailed grammar schools as “the greatest instrument for social mobility ever invented” and revealed she will be depositing a financial sum of her own money into a bursary scheme to continue widening the college's reach.

Her comments came on an emotional last speech at the successful boarding school, which recorded a record-breaking 80% A-B A-level rate this year.

She added: “I wholeheartedly agree with David Davis and go further. Had we funded properly education for those weaker children, the tripartite system need never have been abandoned.

“Instead, academic selection need never have been replaced by postcode lottery, where comprehensives in the leafy affluent areas flourish, like the Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham - which is a good school - but where inner city comprehensives provide few educational chances, condemning the pupils in those catchments to remain underprivileged, ignored. There is no way out for them.”

Mrs Randall also spoke about her pride in hearing former student Laura Wright, of classical group All Angels Fame, has won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. It comes after she won the BBC Radio 2 Chorister of The Year and was again a finalist in the Classical Brit Awards.

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