CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

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


The spookiest time of the year is fast approaching! We pick some of the best events to celebrate Halloween in Surrey

Read more

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

Read more

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (26, 27 and 28 October): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Friday, October 19, 2018

We round up 10 of the most beautiful photos of Surrey shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Thursday, October 18, 2018

To mark the appointment of Peter Estlin, a former head boy at King Edward’s Witley, as new Lord Mayor of the City of London, Surrey Life has joined forces with the 400-pupil school to give away two tickets to the Lord Mayor’s Show on 10 November plus an overnight stay in London

Read more
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

With The Great British Bake Off back on our screens the nation is falling in love with baking once again. Head pastry chef at Pennyhill Park, Sarah Frankland, tells us about what it takes to make it as a professional

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Wrap up in your favourite coat and scarf, grab your sparklers and a warming drink, and enjoy one of these fantastic firework displays taking place in Surrey for bonfire night

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Home to outstanding architecture, ambitious community projects and arts ventures that are putting these villages firmly on the map, East and West Horsley are among our county’s most desirable addresses

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Chertsey’s best-kept secret, the Great Cockcrow Railway, steamed into a half-century this year

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A taste of Korea has swept into the beautiful market town of Godalming as Bada sets out its stall with a tapas-style fusion of seafood, traditional dishes and spice

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

With friendship as the central theme in Adele Parks’ new book, Zoe Richards met up with the bestselling author and her publisher, Kate Mills, to find out how these two Surrey dwellers have discovered a successful working relationship, and become firm friends too

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

As the twilight falls, the magic begins… There’s something for everyone at Christmas at Kew – and we’re giving you the chance to win one of five family tickets for two adults and two children to the Preview Night of Christmas at Kew on Wednesday 21 November 2018

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Good table manners have long been a source of national pride but in this modern age of social media are our longstanding traditions being left behind? Rebecca Younger visits the stately Beaverbrook estate for a lesson in British etiquette

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

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

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