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Headteachers reveal their struggle

TOP DUO: Headteachers Paulette Osborne (left) and Ava Sturridge-Packer, CBE.

TWO OF Birmingham’s most successful headteachers have revealed the secret to inspiring hundreds of youngsters in their care while also confronting their own issues – that of racial discrimination.

Ava Sturridge-Packer and Paulette Osborne shared their experiences during a conference at the University of Birmingham on British Schools & the Black Child.

Both women have been pioneers in their field as they transformed struggling primary schools in Birmingham’s inner-city and raised the self esteem of both pupils and parents along the way.

Sturridge-Packer, a national leader in education, who is part of the Sturridge football family, is executive head of St Mary’s Church of England Primary Academy in Handsworth, and is also now head of Handsworth’s St Michael’s C of E Primary for the past three years.

The Kingston-born teacher revealed that her own experiences of failing the eleven-plus exam as a child and not getting good enough grades to get into law school helped her to cope with setbacks.

But it’s clear her skills as a teacher are immense as her hands-on approach moved St Mary’s out of special measures within two years of taking on the failing school.

She stressed the importance of raising her pupils’ pride through their own achievements and self image, pointing out that it is the attention sometimes to small details that made all the difference.

Paulette Osborne, Sturridge-Packer’s mentor, has been head of St Mathew’s Church of England Primary School in Nechells, the fifth most deprived area in the UK, since 2009.

One of the first things Osborne did was improve the school’s relationship with the parents of pupils – something that is reflected in the last OFSTED report which ranked their parent partnership as ‘outstanding’.

Her deputy, Sonia Thompson, contributes to the school’s unique status; two of its most senior teachers are of African-Caribbean background.

Osborne said: “Only recently a man came to the school to do a repair job and was introduced to both of us. He then said: ‘Right ladies, who is in charge here?

“People still have difficulty realising that two black women can be in charge!”

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