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Introducing Sophie Crofton, Associate Consultant – Education

Sophie joins GS with a wealth of experience as a development professional in secondary and higher education, as well as the charitable sector, spanning the past 15 years. This has equipped her with the skills key to delivering a first-class service in executive search for our education practice.  She’ll be working alongside Julia Roberts, Partner in our Education team, placing leaders into Independent Schools and Higher Education.

Career history:
  • Director of Development and Alumni Relations at University College School (UCS) where she helped raise of £10m in support of bursaries and improved facilities four years ahead of her 10 year schedule
  • Principal Gift Officer at University of Oxford where she was instrumental in securing major gifts both at home and abroad
  • Assistant Director & Acting Director of Development for Eton College where she worked across the UK and Internationally to raise funds to underpin the school’s philanthropic mission
  • Director of Development at Chelsea Academy where she experienced first-hand the establishment of a new Academy whilst establishing a trust to ensure further resources for each and every pupil
What’s brought you to GS?

Julia Roberts! Julia and I have known each other for about 15 years. She placed me in my second role in fundraising at Eton College and then again when I moved to the University of Oxford. I have a lot of respect for her professionally and we’ve come to know each other through those placements and keeping in touch.

When I was looking for my next move after delivering our fundraising target for UCS Julia suggested I come and work for GatenbySanderson and transfer my education fundraising skills to executive search in the Education sector.

So, executive search is a new territory for you?

Yes, but there’s so much that’s familiar. I’m used to devising and leading a wide range of campaigns and projects at any one time, managing stakeholders, creating innovating approaches to strategic challenges and delivering on them, fast!

You need to be a really good listener and interpret and assimilate information fast. I’ll be supporting our Independent Schools clients as I am so familiar with their unique challenges and needs, having worked in some of the top independents in the UK. I’ll be working with placing leaders for our clients across higher education as well, which I’m excited to get stuck into.

What about the education sector are you passionate about?

Widening access. They are able to offer anyone a place who asks for it. That requires funding and I think we should.

What do you think the priorities are for leaders in education today?

In relation to Independent Schools, I’ve seen how transformational it can be when leaders dedicate a good portion of their time to development/ advancement, not only for the school or university, but for it’s pupils and students too.  These days leaders need to stay apace of commercial opportunities – they need to be entrepreneurial and balance this with providing an education. You’re no longer solely the educator, you’re the CEO. Your remit is across the educational offering of a school as well as and commercially. Independent schools must work much harder on many more levels than they ever had to in order to thrive.

I’ve also seen first hand how important well appointed governing bodies are for Head Teachers and leaders within Independent Schools.  They are so critical in supporting leadership, making timely decisions and ultimately, steering schools towards a relevant and secure future.

What else are you passionate about?

I am currently lending my expertise to The Happiness Foundation as an advisory Development Officer. They’re a charity focussed on prioritising well-being, fulfilment and happiness in the design of our future technological and economic systems. They are researching how tech influences your mental wellbeing and how we can develop tech of the future to have a positive rather than negative impact.

Tell us a little about you outside of work?

Thanks to my parents my love of the outdoors and being in nature is deeply rooted. I grew up in rural Oxfordshire – farming country – and spent almost every school holiday in Austria, where my father is from. My father was a real ecowarrior of his time, challenging outdated farming practices such as stubble burning – an outdated farming practice that unnecessarily decimates hedgerows – and disrupting and re-thinking best practices in forestry . And thanks to my mother, a woman who has dedicated her life to the rural environment around her, preserving it, improving it and protecting it.  With such strong role-models I too hope that I will play my part, in any way, to challenge the status quo if needed and champion the deserving.

If you’d like to speak to Sophie about your executive search needs, you can contact her at or on LinkedIn

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