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Chief Executive Royal School of Needlework

Following 150 years of remarkable history, the Royal School of Needlework now seeks a new Chief Executive to lead the exciting next chapter of refresh and renewal, enriching lives through the powerful and captivating language and practice of embroidery.

  • Location: Hampton Court Palace / home working
  • Salary: c.£85,000
  • Closing date: 9 a.m. Thursday 30th May

The Wall of Wool" in the RSN Embroidery Studio.

No other single organisation covers the breadth of work undertaken by the Royal School of Needlework. They use 150 years of remarkable history, knowledge and expertise to teach, practise and promote the art of hand embroidery and their endeavours are underpinned by their values of Tradition, Quality and Innovation.

This is an exciting time for the RSN; they are developing a pioneering and transformational programme to extend their reach and diversity through collaborations and partnerships which aim to extend the positive individual benefits of stitching within three main areas: wellbeing and independence, culture and heritage, and sustainability.

They now seek a new CE to help them achieve their mission; to preserve the heritage and lead the development of hand embroidery, enriching lives by inspiring, teaching and innovating to provide the widest access to their knowledge and skills.

About the RSN.

Stitching is an international language. For centuries, embroidery has played a compelling role in helping societies and individuals impart knowledge, tell stories and influence behaviour. The practice of embroidery is also increasingly recognised for its therapeutic and beneficial impact on mental health and wellbeing as well as the pure enjoyment of creating a piece of art.

The RSN was established in 1872 at a small single site in London to revive and teach the art of hand embroidery. Since their humble beginnings, they have expanded their activities and extended their reach worldwide gaining an international reputation for the knowledge, expertise and skills of their tutors and the excellence of work in their professional studio.

Based at Hampton Court Palace, in south-west London, the RSN offers an education programme for everyone; from beginners through to those pursuing hand embroidery as a professional career, and it shares its knowledge, skills and heritage through talks, tours exhibitions and online resources.

About the role.

The RSN is looking for a Chief Executive to help them on their transformational journey to grow, develop and extend the reach and impact of their work. They are committed to ongoing improvement and embracing innovation; the new CE must share a passion for their mission and determination to evolve their operations helping to develop existing relationships and seek out new opportunities for future growth.

Their next CE must have good commercial acumen and proven experience in growing and developing business opportunities and strategic partnerships within either commercial, retail or third sectors.

The CE will positively impact the existing passionate and loyal staff and tutor network, developing an ethos for the RSN, and leading and embodying the values of a positive and inclusive culture, where everyone feels valued and respected.

This is an exciting and rare opportunity to join their team at the most senior level, bringing the experience of organisational regrowth, helping to leverage the many strengths of the RSN and using well-developed organisation leadership and strategic development skills to inspire, motivate and impact future development.

Learn more about the RSN

Applique of Hampton Court Palace by Future Tutor Student Jung Byun

Who we are looking for.

With a keen eye on the horizon, the new CE will actively promote the RSN’s educational and commercial activity, raising its profile amongst national and international communities.  Empowering their approach to leadership and coaching in their managerial style, the next CE will foster a positive and collaborative working culture, track workload, monitor progress and be comfortable in identifying training needs and opportunities. With experience in charity leadership, they will have a proven track record as an exemplary people manager, team builder and visionary leader.

Demonstrating strategic acuity, they will lead on the direction of the organisation, monitoring and implementing business plans and strategies, overseeing and interrogating in mitigating risk and ensuring financial sustainability.

The new Chief Executive should have experience in or understanding of fundraising principles, of generating diverse income streams and of charity fundraising, to drive development in this key area, through collaboration with the Fundraising Manager.

The next Chief Executive will act as an ambassador for the organisation, developing external plans and communications to capitalise on achievements, raise profile and reach new audiences. As the face of the RSN, they will be comfortable acting as the key ambassador, whether that is liaising with Royalty and industry bodies or liveries, important donors and complementary organisations.

The new CE may have prior experience in the art, culture or heritage sector, but more importantly, will believe in the RSN’s mission and appreciate its relevance today.

A self-starter and decision maker with drive and sound judgement and with a pragmatic and resilient outlook, the new CE will have the ability to maintain oversight and control of a multi-faceted operation and evaluate and interrogate financial/budgetary performance through:

  • Strategic thinking and development / out of box thinking.
  • Delivery of improvements and growth through transformational change: maintaining the strengths of the RSN’s history and ethos, being sensitive to existing culture while delivering change, and bringing relevant stakeholders with them on the journey to grow, develop and extend the impact of RSN’s work.
  • Team building across the RSN to support and improve organisational effectiveness, the implementation of agreed strategy and the delivery of key goals.
  • Improving financial and commercial performance and ensuring sustainability.
  • Managing and improving significant stakeholder relationships in support of the RSN’s goals.

FMP Eliza Gmersall Degree

Location and working practice

Reporting to the Board of Trustees, the Chief Executive is a full-time permanent position based at Hampton Court Palace, with an expectation to attend networking and other events outside of office hours as the face of the organisation. We understand that flexible working is an attractive proposition for many candidates, including the opportunity to work from home on occasions, and this is currently in practice at the RSN.

For further information about the role, or to arrange a confidential discussion, please contact our advising consultants at Peridot Partners:

If you would like to know more about this role please contact Clare Chesworth

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Welcome from Pip Wood, Chair of the RSN

Thank you for your interest in the Royal School of Needlework.

The RSN is 150 years old and was originally set up to make sure the techniques and practise of hand embroidery did not die out and in doing so provide employment for those in need. Over the years we have continued to practise, promote and teach the art of hand embroidery and through online activities now reach people worldwide through a diverse range of activities.

Following the retirement of our long-standing Chief Executive, the Board of Trustees is now looking for a new Chief Executive to improve our effectiveness and efficiency and work with us on the next stage of our development. Embroidery has become a much-loved recreational activity with many people gaining significant mental health and well-being benefits from its practice as well as the sheer pleasure of producing a creative piece of work.

Through a wide range of courses aimed at complete beginners through to keen leisure stitchers and to those wanting a career in hand embroidery, we teach around 2000 people each year. At our Hampton Court Palace base, we also run a commercial studio which has a different selection of projects being worked on every time you visit (and which last year included nine high-profile items for the King’s coronation) and a shop and online retail operation. We undertake tours, talks, exhibitions and offer the largest (free) online stitch bank resource and have started digitising our Archive to allow greater access. However, we want to continue to innovate and grow, reaching a broader range of individuals and using our knowledge and skills to extend the benefits and enjoyment to many more people.

We are developing a pioneering programme to widen our reach and diversity through a range of collaborations. Our new Chief Executive will work with us to further develop and implement strategic initiatives, utilising the many strengths of our unique history and the incredible talent, passion and expertise of our staff and tutors to deliver activities that are relevant, inspiring, and accessible.

We look forward to meeting you.

Pip Wood

RSN Tutor Rachel Doyle teaching a Day Class

About the Royal School of Needlework

To ensure hand embroidery continues to be enjoyed by a broad range of people, the RSN strive to ensure their activities are accessible, attractive and add value to society. In the wake of the global pandemic, they have reviewed operations, explored their social purpose and challenged themselves to understand better the broader benefits people derive from their activities today.

This is an exciting time for the RSN as they develop a pioneering and transformational programme to increase reach and diversity through collaborations and partnerships to extend the positive individual benefits of stitching within three main areas: wellbeing and independence, culture and heritage and sustainability.

Validated by Kingston University, they run a BA Honours degree course and plan to introduce an MA in 2025. Their one-day or weekly leisure courses are taught online and onsite across the UK, as well as in the USA and Japan, and offer pre-recorded video courses for people to study at their own pace.

A Certificate and Diploma accreditation for more serious stitchers comprises several modules on different techniques, each with around 40 hours of tuition, and they also host an annual international summer school.

The recently redesigned tutor course better prepares graduates for a modern career in professional embroidery. The new Professional Embroidery and Tutor Programme will start in September 2024, and it hopes to fulfil a long-held aim to offer a scholarship place for one student each year.

Tutors play an important role in delivering the RSN mission and recognising and investing in their participation is critical; research shows that customers choose to learn with the RSN because of the depth and breadth of their tutors’ knowledge and expertise. The RSN Fellowship programme was launched this Spring to recognise the significant training and talent of tutors and support their future careers and development. Fellows will all be graduates of previous Apprenticeship schemes or three-year Tutor programmes.

In total around 2,000 people undertake a course with the RSN each year.

The professional studio specialises in creating bespoke commissions for fashion, art and royalty as well as restoring and conserving valuable historic textiles and bringing heirlooms back to life. All work is undertaken in the UK to a consistent and high standard by RSN trained professional embroiderers and is the only such UK studio with access to such a pool of highly skilled stitchers for large and specialist commissions.

Their vast range of clients includes royalty; in 2023 they undertook the embroidery for nine items for the coronation of King Charles III, including the design and embroidering of the Robe of Estate for her Majesty Queen Camilla, (patron of the RSN since 2017), as well as the Anointing Screen for the most sacred moment of the coronation ceremony behind which his Majesty was anointed King.

FMP Lizzie Gray Degree

Hand embroidery is further promoted through activities such as exhibitions, talks (live and on demand), introductory taster sessions and schools’ projects. Their extensive Archive and Collection helps inform and inspire students and hand embroidery enthusiasts, comprising more than thousands of embroidered items and designs collected and donated from all over the world.

Access to the Archive is currently limited but forms part of a project to catalogue items to make them available online; the first 100 items to be digitised went live online in April 2024.

The RSN Stitch Bank was introduced in 2021 to mark RSN’s 150th anniversary. Currently containing nearly 400 stitches, it is a free online resource that aims to digitally conserve a record of every stitch worldwide. It is the largest free database of stitches in the world and is used by embroiderers as well as a wide variety of people such as, curators, and historians of stitch.

An online retail operation and physical store are based at Hampton Court Palace. Every purchase helps support the RSN. The RSN is a registered charity and does not receive government funding. It must earn or raise every penny it spends and is very grateful to the Livery Companies, Charitable Trusts and individuals who support its work.

RSN Degree Students at Hampton Court Palace

The Royal School of Needlework is a tenant within Hampton Court Palace, a Grade I Listed Historic building.  The School is spread over a number of separate areas within the Palace, some of which are not available via step free access, with limited lift access available.  Also due to the age of the Palace there are some uneven and cobbled surfaces throughout the Palace itself.

An extract from the RSN EDI Policy (June 2022)

The RSN is committed to providing a learning, working and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its Workforce and students are respected and which is free from discrimination, prejudice, intimidation and all forms of harassment including bullying.

This RSN EDI policy sets out that types of unlawful discrimination include the failure to make reasonable adjustments where a rule or policy or way of doing things has a worse impact on someone with a protected characteristic compared with someone who does not have that protected characteristic and the employer has failed to make a reasonable adjustment. Whilst the Equality Act refers to reasonable adjustments with regards to disability, it may also be discriminatory to ignore making reasonable adjustments for people with other protected characteristics (for example, to enable someone to respect a religious belief, providing gender-neutral toilets, making adjustments for a woman experiencing severe menopausal symptoms etc).

Reasonable adjustments

A ‘reasonable adjustment’ is a change to remove or reduce the effect of:

  • a member of the Workforce or student’s disability so they can do their job
  • a job applicant’s requests regarding their disability when applying for a job

What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of each case, but adjustments could be to:

  • the workplace (making changes to overcome barriers created by the physical workplace)
  • the ways things are done (where the disabled job member of the Workforce is put at a substantial disadvantage by a provision, criterion or practice).
  • providing extra equipment or getting someone to assist the member of the Workforce, student or job applicant

When deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable we will consider:

  • how effective the change will be in avoiding the disadvantage to the member of the Workforce or student would otherwise experience
  • its practicality
  • the cost
  • our resources and size
  • the availability of financial support.

Silk Shaded Magnolias from RSN Collection

The overall aim will be, as far as possible, to remove or reduce any substantial disadvantage faced by a member of the Workforce, student or job applicant which would not be faced by a non-disabled person.

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    Thank you for your interest in this role. Please download the Job Description and Person Specification.

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    For further information about the role, or to arrange a confidential discussion, please contact our advising consultants at Peridot Partners:

    Clare Chesworth clarec@peridotpartners.co.uk| 07904 158737, or

    Rebekah Abbott | rebekah@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07538 270749

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    Closing date: 9 a.m. Thursday 30th May 2024
    Candidates informed of outcome: Friday 7th June 2024
    First stage interviews: Thursday 13th and Friday 14th June 2024
    Second stage interviews: Friday 28th June 2024

    Equal Opportunities Monitoring

    Peridot and Royal School of Needlework are committed to promoting equality and diversity. To help us raise awareness and support a culture that is diverse and recognises and develops the potential of all, we need to appreciate the profile of candidates who apply for positions. We will send you an equality monitoring survey at the point of receiving your application, in the interview phase and at the time of placement. This ensures that our processes remain inclusive and equitable throughout, and provides us with important data to help us showcase our impact. The information will be treated confidentially and anonymously and will help us to support our commitment to fair recruitment practices. All information provided will be held in the strictest confidence and will not be shared with anyone, in line with the Data Protection Act 2018. The information provided does not form part of the decision-making process and will not affect your application.

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