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The academy boss who ‘totally disagrees with academies’

Caroline Whalley isn’t your typical leader of an academy chain. In fact, the academy chain that she founded is more like an anti-academy trust. Here, she tells Martin George how she created the Elliot Foundation to take schools out of an environment in which they were being taken over by ‘people who didn’t understand what teachers feel’

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For most people, receiving a lifetime achievement award would provide a moment to look back with satisfaction on a career filled with work well done. But Caroline Whalley is not “most people”.

It was July 2011, and she was the chair of British Council for School Environments. At an evening school design awards reception, she started to hear “things being said, and I thought, ‘I sort of know that life’ – and then it was my life”. She realised that was being given a prestigious award.

“I just thought, ‘I have got this lifetime achievement award for what? I’m going to do something now.’

“I woke ...

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