The Senior Leadership Team consists of the following members of staff. Below you can find out about them and their teams.

Simon Charleton – CEO


I began teaching in South London in 1978 and have worked in mainstream, alternative provision and special schools/colleges in West Sussex, Surrey and Brighton. In these placements I have also worked in residential settings and children’s home settings.  Recently I was working for East Sussex monitoring the quality of independent and non-maintained special schools and colleges, locally and regionally. I have worked as a classroom Teacher and as a Pastoral Leader and Head of Department.  Before starting at St. John’s I had been a Head Teacher of two schools and also a Vice-Principal. I have a special interest  in  developing and validating the professional skills which our multi-disciplinary teams possess and developing evidence-based research practice.  I believe in  partnership working with families, local authorities and other professionals and that investment in young people is an investment in all our futures.   My family and I live locally to St. John’s. I am also a Magistrate.

You can follow me on Twitter here @CharletonSimon

Karen Grist – Principal


I began my career in education in 1981 having qualified with a Bachelor of Education from Sussex University.  I worked initially within the state secondary school system teaching Physical Education in schools within Surrey, and Formby and Ormskirk, West Lancashire.

After six years I moved into Further Education and taught vocational and academic studies to young people aged 16 to 22 yrs.  Having completed a Diploma in Management Studies I then acquired posts in different colleges which held increasing responsibility enabling me to focus more on making a real difference to the learner experience.  Also at that time I developed a particular interest in special needs and in 2006 I commenced work at St Piers College, Young Epilepsy, as a Vocational and Work Based Learning Co-ordinator as part of the Senior Management Team.  As Deputy Principal, then Head of College, I have worked with a large multidisciplinary staff team who have the same passion and vision as I to ensure the best possible outcomes are achieved for our annual cohort of very special young people.

I am married and together we have 4 young adults and a range of wildlife collectively labelled as pets!

Fran Pass – Head Teacher


I am proud to be Head Teacher of St. John’s School and College; a school where every child/ young person is unique and valued for who they are. We aim to work as a family to achieve stretching standards and develop independence. We want our children/ young people to become confident individuals whose unique qualities and SEND diagnosis is seen as a strength not a disability. St. John’s School allows everyone to grow in confidence. We work hard to ensure that our children/young people are actively engaged in a broad balance meaningful and stretching curriculum that challenges them to do their very best.

Our children and young people are at the heart of what we do and through the student council we are able to listen to their views about their education.

As Head Teacher, I am committed to a school that is a learning environment for all.

I aspire to provide inspirational, high quality leadership, where the staff team also feel empowers to also be inspirational leaders at every level.

Lou Harman – Head of Learner Services


I joined St. John’s as a Care Worker in 1998. Since then I have undertaken various roles within the Care Department such as Team Leader, Senior Care Worker, Deputy Care Manager and Care Manager.  As the Head of Learner Services I am responsible for overseeing the Adult Residential Services, the Positive Behaviour Support & Psychology Team and Nursing Team.

I have gained my NVQ level 3 in Caring for Children & Young People, NVQ 4 in Management and LMC level 4 (Registered Managers award). I’m am currently studying a level 5 in Positive Behaviour Support and act as the Deputy Designated Safeguarding Lead for the organisation.

I am further supported by a team of 5 Care Managers who take responsibility for the day to day running of specific houses, a team of Behaviour Support Practitioners, Assistant Psychologists, a Lead Nurse and Health Care Assistants who all work across the education and residential services of the school and college.

Our passion is to offer each individual the best experience of being at St. John’s, we are constantly seeking new ways to enrich the lives of our young people, offer opportunities, encourage independence as well as seeking new ways in which to improve our departments and the outcomes for individuals.

Liz Dollin – Head of HR & Staff Development


I joined St. John’s in January 2012 to head up the HR and Staff Development function.  I’ve been working in HR for nearly 20 years in a variety of sectors and settings.

My team are predominantly there to ensure that each and every colleague works to the best of their ability to support our learners and to ensure that every part of St. John’s is outstanding. So that means we take recruitment incredibly seriously and then support (via training and development) employees right through their career at St. John’s until they are ready to move on to their next exciting venture.


Melanie Muir – Head of Finance and Director of Operations

I started my career in finance when I joined The Body Shop International PLC as Junior Accounts Clerk. On leaving, I had progressed to Assistant Financial Accountant and had achieved a BTEC in Business and Finance as well as the foundation stage of Association of Chartered Certified Accountants’ professional syllabus. I completed the syllabus in December 1998, and have been a fellow member of the association since 2005. I have worked in a number of industries including retail, telecoms, and travel & tourism, however prior to St. John’s my career has predominantly been in manufacturing. In this sector, I held roles including Management Accountant, Financial Controller, and most recently Finance Director. I also enjoyed a brief spell in an accountancy practice, whilst completing a Master of Science (MSc) in Operations and Supply Chain Management.

I joined St. John’s in April 2017 as Head of Finance, to lead the finance function and bring financial expertise to the leadership team. In Autumn 2017, I also assumed leadership of the IT function. My remit at St. John’s is to improve cash flow, financial control and stewardship, and reporting accuracy. Moreover, I was selected to positively influence the financial culture of the organisation, to ensure the service we provide to our learners is value for money. In 2018 I will be embarking on a MSc in Charity Accounting and Financial Management with CASS Business School to build my awareness of the sector’s strategic issues and challenges, best practice strategies and approaches.