BHS teacher 93-2012
Sandra Clements taught at Blackheath High School between 1993 and 2012. She was appointed as a biology teacher by then Headmistress Miss Musgrave, going on to become Head of Sixth Form, Assistant Head, Deputy Head and, for a short period, Acting Head. She lived through the rather disruptive Senior School ‘Big Move’ to Vanbrugh Park, ran the Sixth Form which she describes as “one of the best posts in a school, seeing girls transform from pupils to confident and outgoing young women set to face the future”, and was involved in just about every aspect of school life over her 19 years at Blackheath High. Here she tells us about what she’s been up to since leaving – it has been a very busy retirement so far!
During my time at Blackheath I trained as an Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) inspector and since I retired, that has been put to good use – thanks to Covid, demand for inspectors has gone through the roof so I now inspect schools across the country, focusing on educational quality.
I was really keen to maintain my interest in education, so I joined the charity Kids Company at their Urban Academy in Bermondsey. Young people from the age 16-24 self-referred and we helped them with their education. I delivered science modules in chemistry and biology that were assessed by Open College network modules, where I also became a moderator. Blackheath High kindly gave me some old textbooks and science supplies that I could use with the young people. There were no teaching resources available. In addition I moderated NVQ level 3 Forest School Qualification, which was studied by KC staff to help their delivery of outdoor learning.
These were interesting times and a world apart from my life in schools, and both frustrating and hugely rewarding. Sadly Kids Company failed after I had been there for three years; but I have been able to pursue my interest in governance and am currently a Trustee at a primary phase MAT of six schools in Bromley, where I chair the Assessment and Standards Committee.
Since leaving, I have rediscovered my creative talents! My retirement gift from BHS was art equipment so there was no going back… I attended History of Art lectures at the Courtauld Institute and I now study Art Appreciation classes in adult education; and painting and drawing classes where I use watercolour and acrylics. I often wonder whether all that time I spent on biological drawing during my career sparked this interest, although I have to admit I focus a lot on being realistic and sometimes struggle to be ‘free’. I have also studied photography - though with the sophistication of the iPhone camera, I have become rather lazy!
The rest of my time is more domestic and I enjoy being creative at home - I love sewing and have taught myself to smock garments - a skill I always admired in my mother. I seem to have started a line in making ‘Liberty print’ dresses for my granddaughters and other family children. I also do a good deal of decorating - skills that have been utilised by our daughter over recent times too. I do like to have a design project or idea in mind!
My husband and I love to travel and since 2012 we have ticked many destinations off our bucket list. Our son and his family live in Sydney - we have made two trips and intend to return this November to finally see the Great Barrier Reef. A highlight was enjoying the 2022 New Year's Eve fireworks - the first after Lockdown - from the Botanical Gardens in Sydney. We were allowed into New South Wales as next of kin - but oh my - the paperwork!
It has been great to watch the careers of our children unfold and to see our family grow. We have five grandchildren under 6 years - two in Sydney, one in West Wales where our son is an equine surgeon and owns a smallholding. Our daughter lives in west London and she and her husband are both Senior leaders in schools. She has teaching genes and is a head of Sixth Form in a large school, so I spend a day a week looking after their two children and have found myself back on a school run. I have to say it is easier running a Sixth Form!
I keep in contact with many of my friends and colleagues. One of the benefits of social media is that it has enabled me to follow the lives of both my former BHS students and it is a joy to follow the careers of everyone, including those with celebrity status. It is especially lovely to see their families. So many of our biologists have achieved fantastic careers in science and medicine. It makes me immensely proud. I also joined the Blackheath Book Club, run as part of the then ‘Open Door’ by Lyndsay Lardner, the then school librarian; and I still attend the book club that has evolved, which gives me the opportunity to keep in contact with former staff and parents.
It is interesting how working in schools seems to bring about so many little coincidences. For example, we went to a family wedding in Texas in October 2022. After a Facebook post about our trip, I was invited to a gin bar in Manhattan by an ex-student of BHS; and met up with another from my days as Head of Sixth Form. She is an American who joined us for the Sixth Form and is now a lawyer in Texas - it was amazing to see her.
I was entertained to note that Vernon Kay has taken over the morning show on Radio 2 - Vernon was our guest celebrity at one of our first fashion shows. A young Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen also headed a show - commandeered by one of our students who persuaded him to come when he was shopping in Homebase where she had a Saturday job!
Lindsay Stevens, our current Head of Geography and Duke of Edinburgh Scheme Co-Ordinator says: “Sandra is lovely! She was like a school mum to me, full of awesome advice. My favourite memory was that Sandra and her husband Graham used to help out with all of the Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. She used to deliver homemade dinner to the campsite for all the staff and we all used to descend on her house on the Sunday morning for a massive fry up, once the students were on their walk!”