Sue Marks, the new headmistress of Withington Girls School

Withington Girls' School headmistress Janet Pickering retires after ten outstanding years and Sue Marks picks up the baton at one of the highest achieving schools in the country.

Wilmslow-educated Sue Marks, new headmistress at Withington Girls’ School, was always destined to become a teacher. Several members of her family were in the profession at top institutions, including her uncle Maldwyn Jones who was Professor of American History at Manchester University and later took up the Chair at University College, London.

Yet when the former Wilmslow Grammar School pupil left Jesus College, Oxford, with a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, teaching was something she was determined not to pursue.

Back in the 1980s, St Asaph born Sue was a high-flier in international finance, becoming a vice president of the Bank of America and heading the bank’s airline lending division for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. But after taking maternity leave in 1991 to have her third child, she decided to give it up.

She said: ‘I started lecturing and discovered how much I loved to teach. There came a point where I was enjoying teaching in the evening more than the day job.’

After training, she joined St George’s College, Weybridge, before moving to Tormead School in Guildford. Just 12 months later, in 2001, she was promoted to headmistress just six years into her teaching career.

Sue Marks’ family life has been touched by tragedy - her eldest daughter died aged 17 from complications arising from her diabetes - but Sue strives to accentuate the positive. The Stephanie Marks Appeal, dedicated to improving the quality of diabetic care in Surrey and East Middlesex, raised over �1m. A resource centre bearing her name was opened in the grounds of St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey, in May by cricketer Sir Ian Botham, the appeal’s patron, whose daughter Becky also suffers from the condition.

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Many of Sue’s family still live in Wilmslow so she regards her move north as a homecoming.

‘My heart soars when I see the Cheshire county sign when I drive up,’ said Sue. I have always wanted to live in the country and the area is beautiful.’

This month she will succeed Janet Pickering at the helm at Withington Girls’ School, currently Sunday Times’ Parent Power Independent Secondary School of the Year.

She enthused: ‘I feel enormous excitement at the thought of coming into Withington - it’s the chance of a lifetime. It is quite an exceptional school. There is a buzz about the place; the girls are very sparky, very welcoming.’

Things finished on a high note for Sue’s predecessor, Janet, who said: ‘To have been head of such a wonderful, outstanding school has been a privilege and a real joy.

‘Withington has provided indelible memories including being reduced to tears by the Senior’s Choir singing in St Mark’s Cathedral, Venice, ‘running for life’ alongside girls and colleagues, helping with community projects in Gambia, wearing a tutu in the staff pantomime and so much more.’

A life changing visit to Uganda in 2007 to establish a link school has given Janet a post retirement mission. In 2011 she will do six months voluntary work with her husband in Jinja. She is also looking forward to the birth of her first grandchild. 

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