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Farewell to our CEO, Dr Caroline Allen

Alongside the end-of-year festivities across OHC&AT celebrating students’ and pupils’ achievements, we’ve been holding special celebrations to say farewell to our CEO, Dr Caroline Allen, who retires in August.  

Students and pupils at each school and college centre planned unique celebrations, including a talent show, a rooftop afternoon tea party, a live theatre production, and a beach-themed summer party!

St Philip’s School recorded a Desert Island Discs-style podcast, titled ‘For the Record’, to look back on Caroline’s time at OHC&AT.

Here is a (slightly shortened!) transcript from the podcast:

“I started as a teacher at Orchard Hill 32 years ago. We were on the old Queen Mary’s Hospital site – we only had 4 classrooms then! It was called Orchard Hill ‘unit’, and one of my students, Carmello, liked Bob Marley.

My first song is for Carmello: Bob Marley, No Woman No Cry.

I wanted to give our students a chance to get off the hospital site where they lived, so we found
a new building – Old Town Hall, Wallington. We started to learn about how to arrange things on a limited budget and we learnt about not giving up!

Song 2 is about fighting to get what we needed for our students: Fight Song, Rachel Platten.

As soon as we moved to Wallington, the students from the community wanted to come too, so demand for college places tripled. Students were travelling all across London to get to us. I saw a student getting out of transport very frazzled one day and I thought, ‘we need to be closer to where the students live’ so we ended up with college centres in different locations, and we’ve continued to grow.

Song 3 reminds me of the way we had to work together in the same rhythm and with determination: Queen, We Will Rock You

I did a lot of work with the government to try to get them to have a better understanding of what our students can achieve and to get support and funding.

Song 4: This is about all the work we have done to try to get funding for our students: The Rolling Stones, Money (That’s What I Want).

In 2012 the Department for Education and Sutton Council asked me to set up an academy trust. After that, lots of other schools joined us and now we’ve got 14 schools. We all help each other out to make our schools the best for our pupils. We call it ‘the family’.

Song 5: Sister Sledge, We Are Family.

One of my best moments, and there have been loads, is when St Philip’s surprised me by naming a boat after me and invited me to launch it! I enjoyed being rowed down the river by the school team.

Song 6: The Skye Boat Song (lyrics) – Outlander (theme song)

And now, I’m so very happy that I am leaving OHC&AT in very safe hands. The Principals are very talented and skilled and the new CEO, John Prior, has worked with us for a few years and he is the best person imaginable to lead OHC&AT into the future. But, most of all, I know that the pupils and students will continue to make us all very proud.”

Final song: Aint No Stopping Us Now, McFadden and Whitehead

Caroline has had a wonderful time visiting everyone and said: “Thank you, everyone, for all your cards, gifts, fun events and my lovely ‘This is your life’ red book of messages and photos!”

 We wish you all the best, Caroline!

This is a very exciting and pivotal moment in the lives of St Dominic’s, Brantridge and Grafham Grange schools.  Academy conversion under the sponsorship of Orchard Hill College Academy Trust will help secure their futures and, no doubt, lead to better outcomes for pupils and students, families and carers, staff and all stakeholders.

Ken Cowdery, Chair of Governors

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