Women ‘only as safe as male partner allows’, head of girls’ school body says after Emma Pattison death
The head of a group of leading girls’ schools has warned women are “only as safe as your male partner allows you to be” in the wake of the suspected murder of Epsom College headmistress Emma Pattison.
In a chilling statement, Cheryl Giovannoni, chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST), said having a successful career does not protect women from domestic violence.
“It doesn’t matter how successful or accomplished or brilliant you are as a woman, you are only as safe as your male partner allows you to be,” Ms Giovannini told the BBC.
Mrs Pattison, 45, was a widely respected school leader who was found dead in the early hours of Sunday morning alongside her seven-year-old daughter, Lettie, and husband, George, 39.
She had only started as head of Epsom in September, after six years as head teacher of Croydon High School, a girls’ school in South London.
Mr Pattison, a licensed gun owner, is suspected to have killed his wife and daughter. A firearm was found at the property on school grounds where the three bodies were also found.
Struck by the words of friend & colleague of Emma Pattison, the head shot by her husband. “Emma’s loss reminds us it doesn’t matter how successful or accomplished or brilliant you are as a woman. You are only as safe as your male partner allows you to be.” CEO of @GDST pic.twitter.com/HqsGP0jovH
— lucy manning (@lucymanning) February 8, 2023
In a blog post Cathy Walker, head of education development at GDST, also spoke out against violence against women.
She said: “Her death shows that domestic abuse and violence against women and girls is not reserved for those who have no voice, no platform, few opportunities.
“It shows that you can be a female leader, empowered, successful, admired, looked up to: and still only as safe as the men in your life allow you to be.”
Mrs Pattison grew up on a farm in Lincolnshire in a close-knit farming community, where she would feed chickens at 6.30am as a child.
She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA Hons in French and English literature and turned to teaching after an unhappy stint on Thomas Cook’s graduate scheme.
Her teaching career began in 2002 at Lutterworth College, a state school in Harborough, South Leicestershire, where she taught French and Spanish.
In 2005, she joined Caterham School, a private, co-educational day and boarding school in Surrey, where she also taught French and Spanish and became head of Year Eight.
From there, she went to Guildford High School, a top-performing independent girls’ day school, where she was head of modern foreign languages for four years. She married Mr Pattison, a chartered accountant, around 2011. In 2012, she moved to St John’s School, Leatherhead, where she rose to deputy head in 2013.
Three years later, she was appointed to her first headship at Croydon High School, an independent school for girls in south London, where she remained until joining Epsom College last year.
Jacob Thorpe, a history teacher who worked with Mrs Pattison at Croydon High, said: “Emma Pattison gave me my first teaching job. At Croydon High she created a work environment that felt so safe and encouraging. She was an exceptional leader. She supported me as I became the teacher I am proud to be today. I am endlessly grateful.”
In a statement, Croydon High School said: “Emma was a hugely respected and much loved head of Croydon High. She was a warm, energetic, compassionate leader, dedicated teacher and generous, insightful colleague and friend.”