Meet the head - Penny Austin at Halstead Prep School

PUBLISHED: 15:59 27 August 2015 | UPDATED: 15:59 27 August 2015


Penny Austin, Headmistress of Halstead Prep School in Woking, loves musicals and finds Bridget Jones’s Diary particularly good for a giggle

Originally published in A+ Education South East Autumn 2015


If you hadn’t become a teacher what would you have done instead? - I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to teach. I taught the local Sunday school as a teenager. With a passion for music too, I also spent a few years singing professionally and teaching singing and clarinet before entering the classroom. Twelve years ago I became a head so I have done everything I have ever dreamed of doing.

Was there any type of school dinner that you couldn’t stand? - At school I remember the smell of over boiled cabbage filling the building which was not at all appetising (and we had to eat everything we were given.) Thank goodness for our delicious school lunches now with so much choice.

What is your favourite film and why? - I appreciate good quality drama but also love anything musical and films to make me laugh. Classics like The Italian Job and The Imitation Game has to be a favourite for its fantastic acting and social comment. All the Harry Potter films too for the imaginative story lines and brilliant sets and effects – and, of course, Bridget Jones’s Diary for a giggle. I am more likely to be found at a theatre, concert hall or opera house than the cinema though.

What were your favourite lessons at school? - I loved school and enjoyed every subject. I was always busy taking part in everything sporty, musical and dramatic that I could. When I reached the sixth form and had to choose a direction music, drama and languages won.

Your Desert Island Disc(s)... - I would find it difficult to choose just one. Debussey’s La Mer is a must for relaxation. Faure’s En Piere sung by Geraldine McGreevy for its beauty (and it is a song I loved learning) and I Was Glad by Parry which was sung at our wedding; my husband, my children and I have also sung it many times together. Memory from Cats would also have to be included for nostalgic moments.

How do you relax? - I sing in choirs, love long walks in the countryside, read many books, swim and spend time (when I can get it) chilling out in the spa.

What is the one thing that makes you most proud of where you work? - It has to be the friendliness – there’s a smile around every corner – and the enthusiasm of all the girls and the staff. Halstead is such a lovely place to be.

If you could be Prime Minister for a day what’s the first thing that you would do? - I would make sure that all children are taught in small classes. At Halstead the maximum class size is 16 in the Pre-Prep and up to 18 in years 3-6. In small classes children can all be taught as individuals and receive the attention, help and support that they deserve. I would also enrich the National Curriculum to ensure that all children can benefit from the enrichment and opportunities that pupils in prep schools have – plenty of sport, music, drama, art, food technology as well as the core subjects.


School of thought

Maths or English? - I enjoyed maths at school but English was a greater strength

School dinners or packed lunches? - Definitely school dinners - the choice of fresh, healthy food we are lucky to have is amazing. No packed lunch could match them.

Newsletter or Twitter? - There’s an important place for both. Twitter is so accessible but you can’t beat keeping Halstead’s colourful action-packed weekly newsletter on your coffee table.

More from Surrey Life


At Sir William Perkins’s School (SWPS) the aim is to build confidence, integrity and excellence in a caring, innovative and happy community so that each student leaves with the best possible chance of achieving her full potential and ready to take on the world.

Read more

If the colder weather is making you feel like escaping to somewhere snug and cosy, you might be surprised to find some perfect rural retreats right on your doorstep. Here’s our pick of the best to discover in Surrey…

Read more

Get ready to laugh, boo and hiss, and cheer on your favourite childhood heroes in the array of pantomimes coming to Surrey theatres this Christmas

Read more

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Yesterday, 16:01

Actress, singer and entertainer, Anita Harris has travelled the world in an illustrious career that spans over five decades. From her home in Chertsey, she talks to Tinx Newton about the people she has worked with, her tour and life in Surrey

Read more
Yesterday, 14:13

If there's ever a time of year when a brisk, bracing walk is needed, then winter and the lead-up to the festive season is surely it. Here we round up a few of our Surrey favourites

Read more
Yesterday, 13:01

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (14, 15 and 16 December): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Surrey is a county full of festive delights. Think cosy pubs, frosty views and long winter walks. We pick 22 wonderful reasons to spend Christmas in Surrey.

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

We round up some of the best events and things to do across Surrey this month

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

With beautiful countryside, stunning villages and plenty of bluebells during spring, Surrey is an amazing place for a stroll

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Pupils at The Hawthorns School in Bletchingley collected over 5,800 items of food for the Loveworks foodbanks in Reigate and Merstham

Read more
Friday, November 30, 2018

We’ve teamed up with Grand Illusions to give one lucky reader the opportunity to win a £250 gift card with the stylish homeware brand

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Celebrating its 25 anniversary, Kinghams restaurant is found at the heart of one of Surrey’s most iconic villages. Matthew Williams visits to discover the secrets of its longevity

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

This edition of Surrey Life features all the local ingredients to make this month special

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search