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News > Profiles > Sarah Beeching

Sarah Beeching

SARAH BEECHING (1981-1988) on climbing a mountain, the Africa Climate Summit and being Chair of The Tiffin Girls’ School Board of Governors
16 Jan 2024

“If you want something done, ask a busy person,” goes the maxim. Which may be one of the reasons why Sarah Beeching was asked to be Chair of Governors of The Tiffin Girls’ School. By anyone’s standards, Sarah is a busy person.

In September, Sarah led the Africa Climate Summit for the President of Kenya, with 10,000 delegates including 20 Heads of African States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and President of the European Commission, the summit saw 26 billion US dollars pledged for climate investments across the continent.

This came after she had spent a week climbing 5,895 metres to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro earlier in the summer, smashing her target to raise money for a sensory room for Yorda Adventures, a local charity.

Sarah runs her own consultancy company, Oshun Partnership, which she founded in 2011 to focus on bringing diplomacy to international development. Since then, she has led many international policy negotiations including delivering campaigns for the Global Partnership for Education, rabies elimination, sanitation and water for all, the Commonwealth Malaria Summit in London, and leading the G8 Nutrition for Growth Summit. She is a member of the Fellowship council (Advisory Board) for the Royal Society of Arts, an active campaigner on local and global issues and has lived and worked in over 70 countries. And is a mother of two! A typical Tiffin Girl!

Despite her busy schedule, Sarah gave up some time to be interviewed to talk about life at Tiffin Girls’, her career, and being Chair of Governors.

What do you remember about being at school?

I found school challenging. My parents left school without exams, and whilst they studied later in life, I had few early role models. I ended up failing my A levels which was a huge shock to the system but probably the best thing that could have happened to me. I’d got a job working as Manager of Bentalls’ Customer services at 16, so I didn’t really have time to work for my exams.

Failing them taught me a very important lesson: I never wanted to fail again. I never didn’t work hard for an exam again; I went to London Guildhall University for an undergraduate degree in Financial Economics and Birkbeck university for my Masters in Economics and came top in my degree!

What attracted you to work in international development?

After university, I travelled across Asia, lived in Australia for a year and drove 22,000km around the country. My eyes were opened to the world for the first time. There was a lot going on globally at the time. It coincided with the end of the Cold War, Ceausescu’s fall from power, events in Rwanda and the genocide, post-apartheid South Africa to name a few big events. It was pre-internet, so I didn’t know anyone who’d even been to Africa. But I was inspired by reading Dervla Murphy, the Irish travel writer, who travelled round Ethiopia on a mule. It was the first country I visited on the continent.

I spent 15 years working for the Department for International Development and Cabinet Office, and worked with four Prime Ministers - it was a phenomenal training ground!

I left when the coalition government came in. As a civil servant you’re anonymous and I felt I had something to say. I set up my consultancy company Oshun to work with the Global Partnership for Education, part of the World Bank, and the only global fund solely dedicated to education in developing countries. I was asked to join by Carol Bellamy, my mentor and former Head of UNICEF and then worked for Julia Gillard, the first female Prime Minister of Australia. Over the seven years I worked for them we raised over $100 billion for education globally.

What are you most proud of?

I think what we achieved at G20 London Summit, when I was the lead negotiator for low income countries was incredible: new social protection and trade facilities that averted further crisis for the poorest. Addressing maternal health in Sierra Leone was another highlight, millions of lives were saved. We delivered a lot on education and reset the discourse around girls’ education but this has been set back since Covid. Also, I set up a charity called ‘Out of the Box Partnerships’ which built playgrounds in Ethiopia, a lovely and fun local project which was shortlisted for an architectural award.

What made you want to be a Governor at TTGS?

Through my work I’ve been very involved with education on the global stage but not in the context of UK. I started to reflect on how my education gave me a spring board and that I wouldn’t be where I am now without the education I had. Even though I hated school at the time, it gave me confidence, resilience and the belief I could do something if I wanted to do it. So when a governor vacancy was advertised at TTGS I applied.

How has your first year as Chair been? And how do you manage to fit it in with all your other commitments?

It’s been fantastic; I’ve really enjoyed it and the opportunity to see the holistic view of everything in the governing board. The governors are an amazing team with many talents and skills - we all bonded through the pandemic and saw each other more online. I can only do this job because they have all stepped up and because of the governance support I get from Rosemary (governance and compliance lead) and from the leadership team. We’ve reviewed and updated the school’s vision and five-year strategic plan, and I’m excited about what the future holds for the school.

Tell me about your fundraising climb of Kilimanjaro in July for Yorda Adventures.

It was quite unbelievable in so many ways. There were nine of us doing it including an amazing 14 year-old firl. Of course I had underestimated just how hard it would be hiking through rainforest, across lava flows, alpine tundra, high altitude desert, sleeping in sub-zero temperatures and traversing rocky ridges with steep drops. For our final ascent, we started to climb at 11pm for almost 11 hours to get to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro (5895m) where it was about minus 10-15 degrees!!

It took us three hours to slide down volcanic scree to basecamp… and an hour later we had to hike a further 2 hours to a lower altitude camp to overnight. To say we were a tad tired doesn’t begin to describe it! But it was truly AMAZING, EXHILARATING, UNFORGETTABLE! We had a great team with us, both friends, porters and guides, without which it wouldn’t have been possible.

I’m extremely grateful for everyone’s support which meant we were able to raise over £4,000 to purchase a new sensory room for Yorda Playhouse.

What message do you have for current students starting at Tiffin Girls’?

Be brave, challenge yourself, take risks. Explore the world, it’s an amazing place. Finally don’t be frightened to fail, but make sure you learn from the experience!


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