Julie was inspired to follow in the footsteps of her primary school headteacher

Julie McDonald
Julie McDonald

After being inspired by her own primary school headteacher, Julie McDonald decided at age five that she wanted to follow in her footsteps.

And Julie, 51, has now been headteacher at Hillcrest Early Years Academy in Gainsborough for 18 years.

She said: “I started in September 1998 as acting headteacher and was only booked to stay for one term.

“My task was to guide the school through OFSTED and ensure that a clear action plan was implemented.

“The school had been through a bad time as the headteacher had been dismissed for stealing so it needed some care and support to get it back on its feet.

“The staff were lovely, the children amazing and I ended up staying as there was so much to do to support the community.”

Julie says her early decision to take up teaching was thanks to a great example.

She said: “I went to an infant school in Scunthorpe and my headteacher, Mrs Powell, was my true inspiration.

“She cared about all of her pupils and wanted us all to do well. And I just wanted to be like her. I had a great headteacher at the junior school called Mr Lowe and he had the same philosophy so I had two excellent role models.

“My dad was a chair of governors for more than 18 years and my mum worked in school so I had education influences all around me. I also had an amazing mentor in Professor Leonard Marsh, who was the principal of Bishop Grosseteste College and he followed and guided me in my career.

“It was wonderful when he could come and see Hillcrest, and he opened it when it became an academy in July 2012.”

Julie says the biggest challenge in her job is when children come to school who are not ready to learn and need extra support.

She said: “I have some great staff who work so hard with these children to help them. When a family are supported and their children become ready to learn, it is the best feeling. It is wonderful when a child brings their work to show you how well they are doing.”

There are big plans at Hillcrest Early Years Academy over the next few years, with it becoming part of a multi-academy trust and a possible swimming pool being built.

Julie said: “I want every child who attends Hillcrest to have an outstanding education and have a solid start to their learning journey so they then can follow their dreams.

“My biggest achievement was relaunching the old Heapham Road Infant School and turning it into Hillcrest.

“Heapham Road Infants had been a wonderful little school but needed a new start and I was very privileged to set it back on track and turn it into the outstanding academy it is today.

“I am also honoured to have been named Headteacher of the Year at the Gainsborough Standard Community Awards 2016.”

Julie was born and brought up in Scunthorpe. Her dad was a foreman at British Steel and her mum worked at Lincoln Gardens Infants in Scunthorpe.

Julie said: “I have a sister who is four years younger than myself and who is profoundly deaf. I was lucky to have an amazing extended family and was encouraged to achieve my goals at every step of the way.”

Julie married Mick in 1987 and they lived in Hong Kong for their first year of married life. They have a daughter, Laura, who was born in Hong Kong. Looking to the future Julie wants to stay as healthy as she can. She said: “I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and have enlarged ventricles in my brain which cause Parkinson’s in 2011. I now have to use a wheelchair on a daily basis and it is a daily battle.

“I am extremely lucky as my staff, pupils and governors give me so much support to help me continue my role.”

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