Emily Hollis (MBE, FCCT) who graduated from Christ Church with a GTP in Secondary Education in 2009, has just won the SheInspires 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award for her services to education and voluntary contributions.
Emily was also awarded with an MBE from Her Majesty the Queen in the New Year 2021 Honours List.
Emily’s story is truly inspirational. On the edge of homelessness at the age of 17, she was the first member of her family to enter Higher Education and, without other means of substantial support, held down two jobs throughout her studies. When she opted to train for teaching, taking the GTP route was the only way she could finance her studies.
Now a School Headmistress Emily says: “Education for all is what really drives me. It is incredibly difficult to break out of a societal cycle, and so I am passionate about educational equality and social mobility.”
Emily’s drive was evident from her earliest days in teaching. After training in Ashford, she took up a role as a qualified teacher at Spires Academy. A combination of staff shortages and Emily’s evident talent saw her being promoted to Head of Humanities at the end of her NQT year. Relishing the challenge, Emily quickly rose to Assistant Vice-Principal, overseeing teaching and learning across the whole school.
It was during this time that Emily’s passion for social equality led her to become Trustee of Team Tanzania, a charity dedicated to raising money to build wells, schools and educational resources in the country.
Later, Emily founded F is not for Phonics, offering free educational support, leadership coaching and phonics literature. Emily also published two children’s literature books aimed at the early years phase. Emily’s career further developed when she became Assistant Head Teacher and Director of Teaching and Learning at Woodcote High School. In January 2018, Emily was awarded with Founding Fellowship of the Chartered College of Teaching for 10 years of significant contributions to education. Emily supports the Charter through advocacy work and sitting on their journal review panel, reading and reviewing thesis and articles for the magazine Impact.
After Woodcote, Emily moved to a Key Stage 2 to 5 school setting, initially as a Senior Leader, widening her skills and experience by gaining leadership experience also in the primary phase. She arrived in January 2020, only for COVID to hit in March and for the school to go into lockdown learning. Emily is now the School’s Principal and in 2021 received an MBE for her contributions to education in the Croydon Borough, literature, and charity Trustee work. In January 2021, Emily also took on the voluntary position of Regional Coordinator for the National Association of Designated Safeguarding Leads
Emily was also nominated for the National Education 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award and was a Finalist in the GESS Education Awards 2021 for Outstanding Contributions in Education.
So what ambitions does Emily, with a lifetime achievement award and an MBE at the age of just 38 still have? “I’m quite content”, says Emily, “but don’t want to become complacent. Ultimately, what I want for my own children, I want for all children. I want them to be happy, able to access an equitable education and have the opportunity to fulfil their full potential”.
Emily’s advice to others wanting to have the success she has enjoyed is uncompromising. “Teaching needs dedication, perseverance and commitment. It isn’t a job, it’s a vocation. I never stop thinking about how I can use things in teaching, but I try to do it in a positive way so it doesn’t take over my life. Remain grounded and think about what actually matters. Keep the overall vision and goals in mind– what are you doing, why are you doing it, will it make a positive impact? Are you make the best use of your time? Never do something for the sake of it: find the smartest way of working”.
She admits she is driven because of the adversity she has experienced. “I am proof that nothing can hold you back. I grew up on a housing estate, I’m female, with a medical condition, but I can still do this.” And the accolades she has received show that she can!