Get to Know the Head

I am delighted and honoured to be joining Farnborough Hill as Head in 2024: I am a passionate supporter of all-girls’ education and leading a faith school is very important to me.  From my first encounter with the pupils and staff, I felt the wholehearted warmth of this happy and inclusive community.  I was impressed by the spirit of the pupils and by their eloquence as they spoke proudly about their school.  I am very much looking forward to working with, and getting to know, the whole Farnborough Hill community.

I was fortunate to benefit from an all girls’ education and I know that this gave me unique opportunities to develop myself, to find my spark and truly to achieve my personal best.  The legacy of this is my continuing commitment to girls’ education: I believe that it can transform a young person, in an environment that is mercifully free from some of the unwanted pressures girls experience today and which provides enhanced opportunities to participate fully and to take a lead in all areas of school life.

I began my teaching career in the Music Department at Bryanston School, was Director of Music in Kent girls’ grammar schools for many years, and have been a boarding Housemistress, Deputy Head and Head in both co-ed and girls’ schools.  Alongside my pastoral and academic work, I love getting involved in the wider school community, coaching rowing, team sports and leading DofE Expedition training.  I’ve trekked the Inca trail with a school group, walked the Camino de Santiago with friends and I enjoy running at the weekends.  I hugely enjoyed my career as a Director of Music, taking choir tours, writing and directing many musical theatre productions, and building participation in a rich variety of ensembles, from symphony orchestras to a 100-piece girls’ swing band.  I’m looking forward to finding a new choir or orchestra to join when I move to Farnborough!

The post-COVID generations face a whole new range of challenges and so wellbeing is something I very much want to promote at Farnborough Hill, continuing the excellent work that is already underway.  I’m also looking forward to enriching and developing the coaching approach across the whole school community.  I am ambitious for the girls at Farnborough Hill and look forward to working with each pupil to help her achieve her personal best in all that she does.  It’s a beautiful school, in a stunning setting, with a strong set of values and a philosophy that is truly lived in a rich and powerful way.  I’m looking forward to getting to know you all and becoming part of your very warm and welcoming community.

Maria Young

We are really looking forward to Maria Young taking on the headship of Farnborough Hill in April 2024.  She has taken some time to answer some of your questions to allow us all to get to know her a little better... read on to discover more!

What was the last good book that you read? / What is your favourite book?

My most recent author discovery is Ruta Sepetys – Her The Fountains of Silence is a YA book, offering a sharply-observed window into Spain under Franco’s regime in the 1950s. The story is told through several disparate but interconnecting lives and there is an unlikely epic romance underpinning the whole thing! I loved it because it delved into a world that I had only glimpsed through scattered conversations with family and friends, drawing all the conflicting historical threads together into a convincing whole.

And, for something completely different, I recently devoured a non-fiction book: Jon Nichol’s Eject! Eject! I’m fascinated by technological developments in aviation and within the military, so this was a heady mix for me: the complete history of the ejector seat in aircraft, with plenty of exciting action narratives, brilliant illustrations and detailed science. Loved it, and learned so much!


What book would you recommend to sixth formers to read before leaving Farnborough Hill?

Zadie Smith – White Teeth – written when she was still at university and a life-enhancing novel that draws deeply upon the immigrant experience in contemporary Britain, producing a dazzling array of characters that confound expectations at every turn. Follow it up with her On Beauty. I would also point you to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Emma, but if you have to read just one, make it ‘White Teeth’.

I also recommend that you read George Orwell’s essay Politics and the English Language. Your future writing will thank you for it.


As a linguist yourself, how has speaking a language benefited you or enhanced your experiences?

Obvious, really, but it’s always helped me to feel at home when travelling. When leading choir tours abroad, I’ve always aimed to introduce the concerts in the home language, with Czech definitely being my biggest linguistic challenge so far! I love discovering how each language ‘works’, finding connections, appreciating the differences and learning how a culture reveals itself in its literature. Most importantly, it has given me the great privilege of connecting with people at a deeper level than tourism might typically allow, something that is particularly true of my experiences in Peru and also walking the Camino de Santiago.


Why did you want to join Farnborough Hill? / Why did you want to teach here?

I’m always interested in the formation of character - how people come to be who they are - and I believe that schools play a huge and sometimes underestimated role in that. I have met some wonderful, creative and very lovely old FH girls over the years, all of whom have been a great advertisement for what this school is about. Therefore, I jumped at the chance to become part of this distinctive and very special community.


What are you most looking forward to bringing to Farnborough Hill?

I will bring my love of music, creativity, sport and a mission to help the whole community to live life to the full. I will bring plenty of experience in Catholic leadership and all-girls’ education, and I’m keen to make the most of this.

I’m keen to develop partnerships with some local businesses, working on some projects that will genuinely benefit the businesses and give our students an insightful taste of the kind of challenges that await them in the world of work.


What inspired you to become a headteacher?

I really didn’t consider it until I joined Worth School. There I met several very influential Benedictine leaders – both within the monastery and also in the Catholic educational community - who inspired and also convinced me that this was the right path for me. Experiencing Senior Leadership at Worth offered me the opportunity to use my love for working with young people in a new and more strategic way, which I thoroughly enjoyed.


What instrument(s) do you play?

My main instrument is the piano / organ, but since COVID-19 I’ve rekindled my love for the oboe, cor anglais and viola. I also play the viol, the lute, tenor sax, trombone and can crack out a decent rhythm on a drum kit – however, there is just not the time to keep all these in practice at present! I’ve never had vocal lessons, but singing in choirs was my initial way ‘in’ to music: singing in and directing all kinds of choirs has been a major feature of my musical life, since the age of five.


Where did you work previously?

I’ve been very blessed with a long career in education, and I’ve loved it all, so I’ll just pick out a few highlights! I began my teaching career at Bryanston, an inspirational school both musically and educationally, which also gave me the opportunity for some serious rowing coaching! As Director of Music at Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar, I became an Advanced Skills Teacher (a sadly short-lived government initiative), which was an exciting and transformational job, allowing me to work with many schools across Kent on their improvement journeys. Becoming a boarding Housemistress then Deputy Head at Worth School was a milestone in my professional career and was enormously enjoyable. My first Headship was at St Mary’s Shaftesbury, in many ways a smaller version of Farnborough Hill: that experience meant I felt instantly ‘at home’ when I stepped through the front door here.


And on a more light-hearted note, some quick-fire questions:

A weekend in the country or a city break?

With family and friends, a weekend walking in Spanish mountains! Or a city break in Madrid…

Dogs or cats?

Cats. (Or a beagle!)

Theatre or ballet?

Both, definitely (for ballet also read contemporary dance).

Fish and chips or pizza (or neither!)

Fish and chips, sitting on the seawall in Seaview, Isle of Wight.