School business leader up for prestigious award

A WOKING school is celebrating its first nomination to the national Tes awards, formerly known as the Times Educational Supplement.

Winston Churchill’s Stuart Phillips is on a shortlist of eight for the Tes School Business Leader of the Year Award, with the winner to be announced at an online ceremony on 13 November.

RECOGNITION – Stuart Phillips, representing Winston Churchill School, is on the shortlist for the Tes School Business Leader of the Year

Stuart, who has held the post of School Business Leader at Winston Churchill for 19 years, was keen to play down the accolade, preferring to see it more as a recognition for his team and the school.

“I feel really humble about it,” he said. “I have a group of five key managers and about 40 staff overall, and they are the ones that make you look good.

“My role here is covering anything that is not directly teaching, to support the headteacher and the leadership team. It’s broadly about finance, the buildings, investment and developing business opportunities.

“That said, I do ask teachers about their lessons, and if there is something that will help them I’ll try to release the funds to make that happen.

“If I have a strength it’s that I want to encourage my team to feel that they can take responsibility, not to be afraid to make mistakes. All I ask is that if something goes wrong they tell me about it.”

Headteacher Zoë Johnson-Walker has seen Stuart’s qualities at first hand.

“He is so much more than a business leader, he is passionate about providing life chances for young people in every aspect of school life,” she said. “He values every student in the school.

“When I was appointed headteacher I was dismayed at the tiny, dated library. I set Stuart the challenge of finding £1 million to build a new facility and he maximised the income from our businesses to build a reserve of £1.6 million to build the library.

“Then I wanted something unique for our students, and the concept of the planetarium was born. Stuart worked with our architect and consultant to ensure that the project became a reality.  No other state school has a planetarium.”

Outside of work, Stuart is a Luton Town fan, and even there applies his passion for football to coaching the school’s Year 7 boys’ team. 

“He leads by example,” Zoë added.  “As a bone marrow donor, he helped to save the life of Celia Hutchinson, from Massachusetts, and they appeared in a CNN documentary.”

“I love it here,” Stuart said. “I can’t imagine leaving.”

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