New headteacher has a vision for the future of Torquay Girls' Grammar School

TGGS headteacher Ms Sarah Forster

TGGS headteacher Ms Sarah Forster - Credit: Julyan Bayes

Over the last few years Torquay Girls’ Grammar School has gone from strength to strength, winning numerous awards and accolades.

They were named The Sunday Times Schools Guide ‘South West State Secondary School of the Year’ in 2019, closely followed by The Real Schools Guide ‘Top School in Devon and Cornwall’ in 2020.

Following a viral video campaign by students and staff, pressing for young people’s representation in the climate change debate, they were named ‘School of the Year 2020’ in the UK Parliament Awards.

They were also shortlisted last year for two prestigious national TES Awards: The Well-Being and Mental Health Award, and Environment Champion of the Year.  

In September, the school welcomed a new headteacher, Ms Sarah Forster.

We were able to find out a little more about Ms Forster and her vision for the future of this exceptional school. 

Tell us about yourself...

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Originally from Yorkshire, I grew up in Doncaster with my mum and two younger brothers.

As a teenager I used to volunteer and teach young children swimming and I swam competitively throughout my childhood representing my local club and university.

My first job was as a swimming teacher and lifeguard.

Prior to moving to Devon, we lived in London where I have completed my MA in leadership and I worked in seven schools in and around London.

I live with my husband, who has his own business, and my three-year-old son and five-year-old cocker spaniel.

What is the vision for this exciting new chapter at TGGS? 

Our vision statement is to equip students for a future in which they have academic qualifications, character skills and  high self-esteem, enabling them to make decisions that lead to long, happy, and content lives. 

I want the students to have the absolute best possible academic success and develop the character skills that they can explicitly articulate with confidence to future employers.

These skills including leadership, aiming high, staying positive, creativity, problem solving, speaking, listening and teamwork. 

The curriculum which includes our excellent programme of trips, clubs, and enrichment opportunities all contribute to the development of a high self-esteem preparing the students for their future in which we want them to be happy. 

What makes you proud to be the headteacher at TGGS? 

Our bright girls believe they can achieve anything and the curriculum at TGGS encourages them to think this way and become the leaders of tomorrow.  

All of our students are history makers of the future and the teachers and support staff work in harmony to create the best possible school experiences for them.

The TGGS family is a supportive, caring environment where everyone can thrive.

You have recently moved with your family to Devon in order to be the headteacher at TGGS. What do you think? 

Wow. This place is breathtakingly beautiful, and I feel so lucky to live here.

In Devon, you have the best of everything from Dartmoor, the beaches and lots of history and culture on your doorstep. What is there not to like! 

What was your favourite subject at school? 

My first degree was in psychology and l love the social sciences. However, I have to say mathematics.

Not because I loved the subject but because of the way it was taught and the satisfaction that comes with solving complex problems!  

I passionately believe that great teachers can make any subject fun and engaging, and they have the power to develop skills such as resilience in their approach to learning within their classroom.

My love for maths was because I had a great teacher and I believe every child deserves the same.

How do you relax outside of school? 

I enjoy visiting new places and countries around the world especially those that put me out of my comfort zone.

The social scientist in me enjoys getting to know people in the places I visit and for that reason I really loved staying with the Masa Marri village people in Kenya and getting to know the young adults I met prior to the pandemic in Beijing and Hong Kong.

Being interested in people gives me joy every day. 

Finally, what are the biggest challenges facing schools at the moment? 

Following the past 18 months of the pandemic, I would have to say the uncertainty.

Uncertainty on the financial, academic, and pastoral impact of the past two years.

The young people in our care have missed out on fun and essential rites of passage that come with been a teenager in modern Britain.

It is my intention to offer as many trips and experiences we can over the next two years to bring back the laughter and joy into their lives. They deserve it.