The Recess College was established in 1988 by Elisabeth Henderson, an internationally respected Organisational Development consultant and psychotherapist.  Her vision was of healthy leadership based on strengthened understanding of self and of one’s place in the community of the organisation.  This led her to design an unusual programme.

The Recess College is a form of 360-degree environment.  It is structured for highly achieving people to experience taking risks safely, work on new forms of collaboration and accept supportive yet penetrating critique and feedback.

Specifically, The College programme is designed around the concept of a sabbatical to give participants the space and time needed to reflect, review and develop.

The origins that the programme was founded on are:

  • Recess – taking time out in the midst of the hurly-burly of life and work to stand back and take stock
  • A College – in the old fashioned sense of a community of persons, engaged in their own learning yet with support in the company of others
  • A Sabbatical – as a form of investment in an individual which enables them to use their time strategically to explore and develop their focus on their life’s journey
  • Renewal as an alternative to Burnout – not leaving the need to reflect and develop personal and professional renewal too late

The programme was originally set up for women.  Later the groups of senior women participants strongly recommended that we adapted the same programme for men.  Now both the Men and Women’s Colleges are enthusiastically attended.

The rationale for continuing to have single gender groups is – rather surprisingly – that this unusual design stimulates new thinking about quality in terms of leadership, community and co-working for both groups.  The whole programme is designed to look at questions of leadership, authority and self.  Leadership depends on clarity of action.


‘You have to face the pain of your limitations – if you do, you have energy to move forward in immensely creative and refreshing ways.’

Architect, Entrepreneur, UK