The Whitgift Foundation has named a new head for Old Palace School: Jane Burton, who will take over the independent girls’ school from September 1.
Burton succeeds Carol Jewell, who has been head at the 900-pupil nursery, prep and secondary since 2011, in a 22-year career at Old Palace.
The appointment means that all three of the Foundation’s independent schools – the others being Whitgift and Trinity – will have changed their headteachers since 2016.
That the role of head at the £15,000 per year fee-paying school is more akin to that of a CEO managing a medium-sized business, rather than that of a educator, is perhaps reinforced by Burton’s CV, which shows 13 years’ senior level experience working for retailers Marks and Spencer and one of their suppliers.
Over the past 15 years, Burton has worked as head at Wallington Girls’ Grammar in Sutton, and most recently as the chief executive of the Girls’ Learning Trust, where she managed the merger of Wallington with Nonsuch High and Carshalton High, making the country’s first all-girls multi-academy trust. She has also been a governor at another Croydon independent, Royal Russell School, and is the joint president of the Association of State Girls’ Schools.
The Foundation said that Burton “was selected from a field of outstanding candidates due to her significant strategic, leadership and collaborative experience within the girls’ education sector”.
The Foundation added: “As a strong advocate for girls’ education, she is deeply motivated by the opportunity to raise the School’s profile across London and the South East, and ultimately, continuing to ensure that students leave school as confident, courageous and resilient young women who are well prepared for the rigours of the 21st century.”
Among the school’s former pupils is Sarah Jones, the Labour MP for Croydon Central, whose mother taught at the school and is among Burton’s predecessors as head.
Old Palace, which opened as a girls’ school in 1889, occupies some of the oldest buildings in the borough, dating back to the 12th century, and includes a classroom that was once Elizabeth I’s bedroom; the Queen was visiting the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose summer palace home was in Croydon.
Christopher Houlding, the chairman of the Whitgift Foundation, said: “As Governors, we were totally committed to ensuring that we appointed someone who genuinely identified with Old Palace’s highly regarded traditions, ethos and academic rigour.
“We believe that Mrs Burton has the expertise, passion and commitment to build on the outstanding work of Mrs Jewell and continue the School’s journey as a leader in modern girls’ education.
“With Croydon set for imminent redevelopment and regeneration, this is an immensely exciting time in the history and future of the school.”
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