02 May 2024

Interview with the Head of Prep

Amelia (4KB), Younes (5CE) and Aiza (6JS) had the unique opportunity to interview our Head of Prep, Mrs Sonal Chatrath (SC). Here’s what they discovered.

Aiza: Why did you decide to join John Lyon?
I was keen to work in a diverse school and one which was part of a senior school. John Lyon’s values align very well with mine, and it felt like the natural and perfect fit.

Aiza: What do you like about our Prep School?
I particularly like how kind the children can be to each other. I like how the size of the School enables me to get to know all the children.

I also like that we are an all-through school where children can start their educational journey at three years old and continue until they are 18! This enables building strong relationships and bonds with peers and teachers alike. The facilities that come with being an all-through school are hugely advantageous and you have also experienced this when you go to the Senior School and Sudbury Fields weekly for sports and lunch. We have access to three outstanding John Lyon School campuses and the prestigious Harrow School for key events in our School calendar.

Aiza: What would you change about the school?
Whilst John Lyon School is a wonderful place to learn and teach, like anywhere else, there are always elements we wish to improve to become an even better place for all in our community.

There are some areas that need modernising, but we have already started work on that. For example, our recently refurbished lovely new library space. Next, our focus is going to be the science lab over the summer holidays. It’s an exciting time to be part of the John Lyon School!

Aiza: If you could teach any subject, what subject would you teach and why?
English. I am fascinated with words and how one uses them. I have taught English as a subject, including classes to children for whom it is not their first language. I enjoyed that and found it most rewarding when a child who initially had no English language, is able to communicate in it.

Aiza: What advice would you give young girls wanting to become a leader like you?
Most important is believing in your own abilities. Know that you have the potential to lead and make a difference. Be resilient. Leadership is not always easy and along the way, you will face setbacks so learn to bounce back and remain focussed on the goals you have set for yourself. Be authentic and embrace your unique strengths. Always believe in yourself and support other women in their leadership journeys. Remember, leadership is a lifelong journey of growth and development. Stay curious and continually learn from new opportunities and experiences. Above all, lead by example. Always demonstrate integrity, empathy and courage.

Amelia: What was your childhood like? What were you like growing up?
My childhood was very different to yours! I was born and brought up in Kenya and, whilst we had termly exams, there wasn’t the pressure of 11+. A lot of my childhood was spent outdoors as we did not have access to all the technology that the children have now. I enjoyed school, was on the school swimming team so started each day at 7.00am with swimming training. I spent all my spare time in the pool.

Growing up, I was quite a stubborn child, and this got me into trouble on occasions. I remember at the age of six or seven years old, a girl who sat in front of me in class had two bunches in her hair. I cut one of them off one day!

Amelia: How was your journey to becoming a teacher and working in education?
I had a very interesting journey! I trained in Kenya where I taught for seven years after graduating before emigrating to the UK. I had a break from teaching for five years, during which time I had my first child. I owned and ran a nursery in Muswell Hill and ultimately returned to my teaching roots once again.

Amelia: What is the favourite part of your job?
This is the favourite part of my job. Talking to the children here at our School and getting to know them better! I enjoy listening to their thoughts, getting to know children and also on some occasions, learning from them. I particularly like going to pre-prep to read stories to the young ones.

Amelia: What has impressed you about the school so far?
How hard the children work. They are ambitious for themselves, and I like to see them working towards reaching their goals. I have also been struck by the creativity of the children here.

Younes: If you were to describe yourself as an animal, which one would you be?
I guess I would be an elephant. They are known for their resilience and empathy. They also exhibit deep appreciation for the importance of family and community bonds. They are gentle and compassionate.

Younes: We have a lot of activities like sport, music, art, drama and Forest School. What are your passions outside of lessons and outside School?
I enjoy swimming and continue to swim regularly. I also love cricket and follow India in international matches avidly. My favourite cricketer of all time is MS Dhoni, the former captain of the Indian cricket team! I played a pivotal role in starting girls cricket at my previous school and had also registered to do an umpiring course with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), but unfortunately was not able to due to the lockdown.

Younes: If you had a superpower, which one would it be and why?
Having the ability to read people’s mind. It would be so interesting to know what everyone is thinking about!

Younes: How would you define success?
Continuous learning and becoming the best version of yourself.

Younes: Describe yourself in one word