Surval Principal from Autumn 2021

20 January 2021

Dear All,

I am writing to inform you that Patricia Wooodhouse will retire from Surval at the end of this academic year. Mrs Woodhouse has been an excellent Principal providing passion, drive and energy for the past five years and has overseen continuous improvement in Surval’s academic and pastoral provision for girls as they make their way in the world. This term’s thorough US accreditation visit from Cognia rightly recognises the huge strides that have been made in the classroom as well as the high levels of personal care in which Mrs Woodhouse champions so wholeheartedly. All this has of course been achieved with the recent backdrop and challenges of a global pandemic and Mrs Woodhouse’s determination to minimise disruption to the girls’ education in this difficult time has been truly admirable, and hugely appreciated.

To build on these excellent foundations, I am delighted to announce that Ms Nicola Dudley is to become the school’s next Principal from September 2021. Ms Dudley is currently Deputy Head of Malvern College Hong Kong, and has been instrumental in the rapid success of this brand new school in the far east. Prior to this, she enjoyed a successful career in Scottish independent education in both day and boarding education. She has a first class degree in Modern Languages from Jesus College, Oxford and is very much looking forward to coupling her love of European languages with that of the outdoor education that are both such a feature of the international Surval community.

Ms Dudley was appointed following a rigorous selection process and she will bring diverse experience in an international context, coupled with great leadership and a genuine commitment to girls’ education and the boarding ethos. We believe that she will fully grasp the sense and defining elements of Surval but also bring new ideas in what will be an exciting time for the school. We, at Bellevue Education, are very much looking forward to working with her in providing a truly unique offering among Swiss boarding schools.

Ms Dudley is already in full communication with Mrs Woodhouse to ensure a smooth handover and we are planning for a visit to the school in the new year where she can meet all members of the community. We will also provide an opportunity for parents to meet her virtually prior to her moving to Switzerland in the summer.

I know that you will join me in thanking Mrs Woodhouse for all her work and effort over the last few years and wish her well on a well-earned retirement as she takes up full-time residency in her beloved Canary Islands.

Yours sincerely,
David Williams
Education Director, Bellevue Education

What attracted you to Surval?

"I am drawn to the truly holistic and personalised approach to education at Surval Montreux where, within the nurturing, international environment, girls are supported and challenged in equal measure. The natural beauty and multi-lingual environment of Switzerland provides a magnificent backdrop and context to the school’s education and enable a very special blend of formal learning and other developmental opportunities.

A Surval education clearly has the power to transform girls’ lives, providing them with lifelong skills, interests, memories and friendships and setting them up to embrace future opportunities. It will be a privilege to lead Surval through the next stage of its development and play an important part in enabling the girls to grow and flourish in its inspiring and aspirational

What skills and experience do you bring with you as the new Principal of Surval Montreux?

"As my experience and insight have grown during my professional and wider life, so too has my appreciation of the strong foundations established during my school years at an all girls’ boarding school in England. I have come to recognise that it is precisely because of my school experience that I have never questioned any limits to what path I could follow or opportunities I could take. I appreciate the inner confidence, resilience and independence, alongside the values, strong work ethic and breadth of interests which the enriched curricular and co-curricular programmes and supportive boarding environment instilled in me. To me, this is the true value of an all girls’ boarding education and remains as relevant in the 21st century, albeit with the added pressure to ensure education supports the development of skills and attitudes fit for an increasingly technological, inter-connected and fast-changing world.

Language learning has played an important part in my life since I was inspired by my French, German and Italian teachers at school, moving onto a degree and teaching career in French and German. I am excited to be moving to a school with such a rich multi-lingual identity where students can enjoy the rewards of being able to develop their communication skills and cultural awareness across languages and cultures.

My experience is grounded in British boarding schools and enriched through recent years working internationally. In between senior leadership roles in schools in the UK and Hong Kong, I have worked in a variety of wider educational leadership roles supporting the development of new international schools, quality-assuring educational provision in schools and facilitating programmes to support the professional development of staff. These fascinating roles have given me a breadth of perspective on which to draw in joining Surval."

What are you most looking forward to about the role?

"First and foremost, I look forward to getting to know all members of the Surval family. Whilst current restrictions have regrettably prevented me from visiting in person, I have enjoyed a warm virtual welcome and I greatly look forward to meeting students and staff as soon as travel restrictions allow, and to working closely with Mrs Woodhouse and the team in the coming months to ensure a smooth transition.

I am excited by the opportunity to deliver an education which empowers young women from around the world to become courageous and compassionate leaders of the future with an understanding of the world about them and their place and responsibility within it. By developing in the girls a strong sense of their own identity and self-confidence, and providing them with opportunities to develop and explore their personal leadership style and skills, we are empowering them, in turn, to go on to make a difference to the lives of others."

What has been your proudest moment in teaching?

"My passion for promoting the outdoors as an authentic environment for challenge and personal development has led to my involvement in school expeditions which have brought some of the most memorable moments in my teaching career. When students are taken far out of their comfort zones and overcome significant physical and personal challenges to reach their destination, it is rewarding to see their pride and sense of achievement when they realise they have achieved beyond their expectations. The confidence and resilience they draw from such experiences help set them up with the mindset to face challenges in the future."

What are your future ambitions for the school?

"My most recent leadership roles within a growing family of international schools have focused on combining the traditional heritage of a long-established UK school with new international contexts and outward-looking, innovative approaches. Drawing on this experience, I am excited by the potential in Surval to blend the traditional ethos of the school with a modern twist, to ensure that it provides an educational experience which prepares girls to be internationally competitive in tomorrow’s world.

I remain committed to the school’s identity as an educator of girls with a particular focus on developing ambitious, globally competent young women who are entrepreneurial and adventurous in spirit. We will continue to nurture and challenge each girl’s potential through personalised attention, breadth and rigour of learning opportunities and creative approaches to teaching and learning."

What do you enjoy doing outside of school?

"Scotland is home and my love of the outdoors developed during time spent hill walking, cycling and running in the Scottish Highlands. As an outdoors enthusiast, my most recent visits to Switzerland have naturally involved enjoying the outdoors when I have hiked the beautiful Tour du Mont Blanc and competed in a long-distance triathlon in Zürich. I am always up for a challenge and have completed marathons in cities around the world including New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Dublin and at home in Edinburgh. I enjoy skiing and am looking forward to improving with practice! 

As a keen traveller, I appreciate the importance of travel experiences within a Surval education. Of course, travelling is hugely enjoyable, but it is so much more: it encourages independence and confidence; it inspires a sense of adventure and enjoyment of exploration; it broadens horizons, making us more appreciative of our cultural individuality and differences.

In quieter moments I am a music lover. A keen pianist, flautist and singer in younger years, I confess to now being a more regular audience member!"

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