What does a School Principal do in her spare time?

As Principal at Underley Garden School I, like all of the staff here, work tirelessly to ensure the place is somewhere young people love to live and learn. It is a complex environment, the young people have complex needs, and we run three schools, a children’s home and two adult service care homes. This means we work to three different sets of regulations, standards and inspection frameworks.

Leading complexity is rewarding, but means that I work under pressure quite a lot of the time. I do manage to keep smiling! Partly because the children and the staff make me so proud. The other reason is my secret passion which I share with you today.

From a young age I have been a swimmer. Swimming is in my family DNA. My Dad was a swimming coach into his 80s. My daughter swam in the GB schools team and my mother still manages to swim a mile each time she enters the pool even though she is heading for 90!

When I moved to Cumbria there were not many pools which opened at the right hours to enable me to swim as often as I liked, so I started trying to swim in open water – it is open all the time.

15 years later and it is now my passion. I also manage a modicum of success. I have won quite a few major titles in open water races over the last few years when competing in my age group. I also competed in the world open water championships last summer.

When I am not racing I practice endurance, long distance swims. I have swum the length of Coniston – two ways, the length of Windermere, and an extreme swim across the Corryvreckan whirlpool in the Highlands of Scotland.

The swims I am most proud of are those I do for my nominated charity- Children with Cancer – over the last few years a group of us who call ourselves Highland Open Water Swimmers have raised tens of thousands for the charity through a variety of endurance swims in the Highlands of Scotland.

The latest of our swims last Saturday (12/05/18) took us on the ferry from mainland Scotland to the Island of Mull. We then swam in the path of the ferry back to the mainland across the Sound of Mull where the tides are very strong!

This was an amazing experience, and even though I was most definitely not the youngest of the 50 swimmers who took part, I am proud to say I was third person out of the water at the end.

If anyone reading this article wants to know more, or donate to our cause please visit our website


Also watch out for more news on our school website. Our Vocational and Humanities Teacher Evan Shanks is poised ready to run the Edinburgh Marathon for the same children’s charity very soon…..

Ann Henderson