Interviewing the Headmistress

An Interview with the Headmistress, Mrs Nicola Botterill, with questions asked by Sixth Form students

1) Outside of the classroom what do you enjoy doing?

I enjoy spending time with friends and family, and love cooking for them, especially Indian cookery from scratch. In the holidays travel is my ‘big thing’ – I am re-energised by experiencing different cultures and environments; it must be the Geographer in me. I was encouraged in this by my family; one summer when I was about 8, we exchanged houses with a family in America and I remember vividly how very different everything was. I had never thought about people ‘living differently’ before (we didn’t have travel programmes on TV when I was a child….!). The following summer my father spent 6 weeks in China on a trade mission and came back with really interesting stories and artefacts…. I have been hooked ever since! I also love getting away; last summer I took my RYA Powerboat licence, this summer I walked some of the Santiago de Compostela route…great fun! Since moving to Bruton I’ve spent more time in the countryside exploring the lanes and footpaths, and I also enjoy art galleries, as well as the theatre and cinema. Basically if someone suggests doing something adventurous and relaxing then I’m up for it – carpe diem!

2) Apart from the natural beauty and bags of personality that girls at Sunny Hill possess, what attracted you to the school?

As soon as I walked through the door I got a great feeling. There is such a positive and welcoming energy from the girls and staff alike, and this has been completely backed up by my experience of moving here – I feel privileged to be part of the community. Coupled with the inspiring environment to work in (perhaps that is why everyone is so positive and wonderfully down-to-earth?), and great links to London and the South West - what’s not to love about everyone and everything at BSG?

3) At the age of 8, how would the phrase "When I grow up I want to be…" have ended for you?

Hmmm, at 8, that’s difficult, but I do remember a careers fair at school when I was 11, and being most interested in careers in either the RAF, meteorology, IT or… teaching. Amusing that I enjoy flying (apart from stalling – see below), am a Geographer and am passionate about the use of technology to enhance learning. I went to a girls’ school until I was 14. There, I was encouraged to think anything was possible, and although I know I’m not going to be an astronaut anymore, I do still have the belief that much more than you thought is actually possible, if you put your mind to it.

4) You seem to be a sensible person, but what crazy/exciting things have you done in the past?

Tandem sky dive in New Zealand (fantastic aerial photography – sorry the Geography coming through again…), learned to fly (until we got to the stalling bit and it made me feel sick – though I loved the views of course), travelled round the world on my own for 10 months – I started in St Petersburg and ended up next getting a flight from Bangkok 7 months later – I love train travel and the Trans-Mongolian experience was amazing, one day I’d love to travel through the Silk Route countries. Perhaps I should stop there, as it is beginning to look as if I’m not as sensible as it seems….

5) The Euro millions jackpot currently stands at £42,000,000. If you won what would you do with the money?

Goodness, so much could be done. After paying off the mortgage, making sure the family are comfortable, and possibly planning the Silk Route journey, I’d then look at some good causes. For example, when I was trekking in the Himalayas I came across a women’s group helping local women benefit from tourism by providing solar powered UV water filters so they could sell water to the trekkers. This project had helped them to eradicate plastic waste from the valley as none of the tea tents sold bottled water as a result. The women also sold knitted animals and other handicrafts as well as providing food and lodging to the tourists. A very powerful project. But, also as the gift of education is one which can change someone’s life forever, and then they can be powerful agents for change in the world, what I’d really like to do is set up a Foundation with the sole purpose of providing education for girls at BSG who would not otherwise be able to afford it. That would be really amazing.

6) There are some things at BSG that will never change (such as the green uniform), but where do you see the school being in 10 years time?

It is really important that the focus upon the key values at BSG doesn’t change, so that every girl leaving the school is confident but not arrogant, having had the best possible rounded education and having made the most of herself – truly ‘blossoming at Bruton’ and ‘following the gleam’. If, in 10 years time we also have state of the art boarding houses and Nursery, a new community based sports centre with indoor pool, and a new classroom block then I’ll be very happy. But the ethos is the most important thing – good people make all the difference, and I see the school being even more vibrant than it already is, giving girls an amazing 21st century education in a fantastic, beautiful and inspiring environment.

7) In your highly educated opinion, why are manhole covers round?

Erm, am I right in thinking that some of them aren’t…..? but anyway, a highly interesting question and one which I think we should debate over tea and cake one afternoon when the sun is out and we can draw inspiration from the Tor, as there are so many different philosophical explanations………