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Ex-grammar school principal becomes latest head of West London Free School

Clare Wagner brings experience from state and independent sectors to new role at prominent free school

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Clare Wagner brings experience from state and independent sectors to new role at prominent free school

A flagship free school has appointed its fourth leader since it opened in September 2011.

Clare Wagner, who has experience in the state and independent sectors, will take over at the West London Free School in Hammersmith in January 2018.

The school was co-founded by journalist Toby Young, and according to its website “aims to be one of the best schools in the country, renowned for academic excellence, and capable of giving all children a classical liberal education, no matter what their background”.

The school has often been under intense scrutiny, attracting press coverage over its location and turnover of headteachers, and praise from free school supporters for its knowledge-based curriculum.

Ms Wagner, who grew up in Fulham, told Tes she had been following coverage of the school closely since it first opened, and said that taking over such a high-profile school “is a little daunting, but any new role is daunting, I would say”.

The history graduate entered teaching in her early thirties after having children, and trained at what was then the Slough Grammar School.

She taught in the independent sector, at Southampton High School and North London Collegiate School, a top performing girls’ school where she was inspired by the headmistress at the time, Bernice McCabe.

“It is very easy to assume that in the independent sector you get talented bright kids from families who really understand and value academic education, but huge amounts of work go in to keep these schools really inspiring these children and encouraging them to aim high, so I learned a lot from her,” she said.

'Ambitious curriculum'

She then moved back into the state sector, where she had her first headship at Watford Grammar School for Girls, before taking the job at the West London Free School.

Asked what attracted her to the West London Free School role, she said: “I think it’s the ambitious curriculum, and being ambitious for the children, and wanting to give them all the advantages of a really good education, and that’s an all-round education.

“I think it’s great they all learn Latin, I think that’s very important, but all the subjects are very strong there. Also, the competitive sports are brilliant – it’s so good for kids to be out there playing and playing hard."

Ms Wagner said it was too early to say if there was anything she wanted to change at the school.

She succeeds Hywel Jones, who left to become primary director at the Norfolk-based Inspiration Trust.

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