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Surrey schools - Susan Willman, head teacher at Therfield School in Leatherhead

PUBLISHED: 13:58 11 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:51 20 February 2013

Head teacher at Leatherhead's Therfield School, Susan Willman shares the startling revelation that is blue custard – and how any desert island stay would be incomplete without singing along to Ella Fitzgerald

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2010


Head teacher at Leatherheads Therfield School, Susan Willman shares the startling revelation that is blue custard and how any desert island stay would be incomplete without singing along to Ella Fitzgerald



Therfield School in Dilston Road, Leatherhead, is a mixed, comprehensive for students aged 11 to 18. For more information, call 01372 818123.



If you hadnt become a teacher, what would you have done instead?
I studied English at university and have a love of language and debate, so I considered law or journalism. However, when teaching careers lessons, I usually complete a profile assessment myself and teaching has always been the top suggestion. Clearly, there was no escape, and it has certainly been an excellent choice so far.

Was there any type of school dinner that you couldnt stand?
Generally, I liked school dinners and the range and quality offered by the Therfield canteen now is excellent. I do have vague memories of blue custard from when I was a pupil at school, which was somewhat startling as well as off-putting.

What were your favourite lessons?
English, English Literature and Latin; I loved language, literature and debate. My teachers in these subjects were inspirational. They showed me what I was capable of achieving and the lessons were challenging and fun just what they ought to be.

So, your Desert Island Disc?
Its so difficult to choose just one it depends on my mood. Schuberts Unfinished Symphony is wonderful, but since there would be no one around to hear me I could enjoy myself singing along to Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook.

What is your favourite film of all time?
One that would be right up there with the best is In The Heat of the Night: superb acting, thrilling plot and cultural tension.


If you were to have a meal in your honour and there was one space still available, who would you like to fill it?
On the basis that my family would already be there, the Queen. Just think of the experiences she has had, the people she has met, the political situations she has dealt with over the years it would be fascinating!


How do you like to relax away from your work?
Spending time with my family, looking after my chickens and gardening. Double digging a raised bed and battling with slugs over seedlings present a different set of challenges to my day-to-day work, which makes them absorbing and relaxing.

If you were prime minister for one day, whats the first thing youd do?
Probably unsurprisingly, I would increase spending on education. It may be a clich, but children are the future and it must be a priority to ensure that they have the knowledge, understanding and skills to make the future happy and successful for us all. We have world-class potential in our children that can be realised through world-class teaching and facilities in our schools.

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