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Bishop Challoner's Catherine Myers heads for retirement

PUBLISHED: 19:00 23 July 2010 | UPDATED: 16:16 05 October 2010

Catherine Myers transformed Bishop Challoner into an international success

Catherine Myers transformed Bishop Challoner into an international success

WHEN Catherine Myers took on the job of headteacher at Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School, less than a fifth of pupils were achieving high GCSE grades. Nearly 18 years later the school has transformed into a £47m Learning Village and its pupi

WHEN Catherine Myers took on the job of headteacher at Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School, less than a fifth of pupils were achieving high GCSE grades.

Nearly 18 years later the school has transformed into a £47m 'Learning Village' and its pupils are among the highest performers in the borough.

And the 65-year-old bid a fond farewell to her students this week as with her OBE in hand, she heads for retirement.

Starting at the all girls' Bishop Challoner in Shadwell in 1992, Mrs Myers, who had previously worked as deputy head at St Joseph's in Blackheath, set straight to work to improve exam results.

She brought in a cognitive ability test (CAT) for every pupil and set about "personalising" each child's curriculum.

She said: "It was a change in culture.

"But the staff wanted the children to achieve and the teachers that did not like it left.

"We devised forms to ask the kids what they would like to learn and then we taught it to them. Exam results went up and up.

"I am data driven. I look at what the children need to know and look at the job market. There is no point in education if you are not able to earn a living as a result of it."

By 2001, the nearby Catholic boys' school Blessed John Roach had failed its Ofsted inspection and was closed down and Mrs Myers pushed through the idea with the Diocese to transform Bishop Challoner into the country's first federated school - a girls' school, a boys' school and a sixth-form college, all run separately, but under the control of one executive head.

The new campus, known as the Learning Village in Commercial Road is now almost complete with youth facilities on offer to the wider community.

And as if she were not busy enough, the Glaswegian head has also been fighting in the High Court against plans to open a takeaway near the school and she celebrated a victory last month when a judge eventually declared Tower Hamlets council had "acted unlawfully'' when it gave the go-ahead for Fried & Fabulous to open for business.

In the same week it emerged she had been awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for her services to education but it was the takeaway victory which Mrs Myers said triggered the most interest she had ever had as calls came in from schools across the country and even one in France congratulating her on the school's success.

When she retires officially in August, she admits she may not be able to sit down and watch television all day but she says she plans to spend more time with her retired husband in their home in Waldingham in Surrey and with her three children and four grandchildren.

She added: "You get a buzz from London and I will miss that. But it is time to move on.

"I feel that I have done everything that I wanted to do and I am leaving something that was better that it was originally.

"You can always find things you could have done better but when I reflect back I feel I have been useful and aspiring for young people in Tower Hamlets.

"It has been more than a job but a way of life.

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