Lucy Elphinstone – Head Mistress of Francis Holland School

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What motivates you?  

Love of children, a desire to help them find confidence, fulfilment, happiness. A sense of privilege and honour in being in such an influential position, and a desire to give something back after a life of much blessing as well as hardship. Fathoms of energy and the sheer joy of working with young people and dedicated teachers.

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career?

My life has been a pattern of taking on jobs for which I’m completely unequipped and unqualified so most things have been a big learning curve. My first teaching job was as Head of Montessori Nursery School. There are several words there I knew nothing about.

What matters more: ambition or talent?

Determination and courage matter much more than ambition. Talent is overrated. I’m with Matthew Syed.

What advice would you give your 30-year-old self?

There is never a right time or a good time. Seize every opportunity and you can make it work. Fortune favours the brave. And never, ever, worry about the future.

Who do you admire?

I’m not much into role models. I meet many women who inspire me with their energy, creativity and passion. I seldom see the same combination in men as they are more self-regarding and less spontaneous.

In what place are you happiest?

Emotionally, when I’m with all my children and their partners.  Physically, when I finally get to bed (without my children).

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Spending thousands, I mean thousands, on an oil painting. One painting! But it’s given me great joy. Generally, though, a simple life means that even small things can seem luxurious. Like a very deep, hot bath with masses of oil or bubbles and a very big white towel.

How would you change government policy to help women in the workplace?

Not interested. I don’t agree with political interference and I’ve never really experienced a problem. But then I enjoy working with men and women often do themselves no favours.

Do you believe in quotas?

No.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Happy, generous, focused.

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