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Senior Leadership Team

The senior leadership team identifies priorities for the year, which informs arrangements for staff training, development of curriculum areas, and assessment of learner progress.


Karen Grist
College Principal and Governor

My teaching career path began in secondary schools then further education colleges, specialising in vocational and academic studies. Achieving a postgraduate diploma in Management Studies enabled me to progress into curriculum leadership. Transferring my focus to the independent specialist sector was a very positive move, gaining highly relevant experience in senior management roles at a specialist college in Surrey before working at St. John’s College.

Leading and contributing to the work of a dedicated transdisciplinary team of staff here, where learners achieve significant outcomes that make a real difference to the quality of their lives continues to be an absolute privilege.

Emma Shiel
College Vice-Principal

I joined St. John's College in Nov 2022 and am very pleased to be working with a team of dedicated and skilled professionals across the college. My specialist areas are in safeguarding, mental health, ASC, and quality assurance.  I believe that every learner has the potential to learn and grow. As SEND teachers, it is our responsibility to understand each of our learners, their strengths, interests and challenges so we can nurture and facilitate their growth. 

When I am not at college, I volunteer as a theatre lighting designer and can also sometimes be found in my campervan called Angus, exploring the Sussex Downs.

Mark Stevenson
College Business Manager

I joined ԰ in January 2024 following three years' experience as a Business Manager in education at maintained schools in Brighton, covering finance, HR, premises, estates, health and safety and IT. 

Previously, I was employed by American Express for 30 years in numerous roles, including project management, IT service delivery, incident, problem and change management and contracts management, working with large companies like DELL/ IBM. I worked across international locations, managing teams and individuals. 

Alexandra Harris
Autism Lead and Head of Therapy

I joined St. John’s College in 2005, as a learning support worker, and have since held various roles including teacher, vice principal, and head of therapy. I am now the Autism Lead and Head of Therapy, overseeing autism practice across our education and residential services. I am the Autism Education Trust’s lead trainer for Brighton and Hove, and I am an Intensive Interaction trainer.

I gained a Master of Education in autism from the University of Birmingham. I am now studying for a PhD in psychology at the University of Sussex, investigating the experiences of autistic learners who display extreme demand-avoidant behaviour.

Lou Harman
Head of Learner Services and Designated Safeguarding Lead

I have worked at St. John’s College for over 25 years with my main roles being within the children and adult residential care services. I joined St. John’s College in 1998 as a care worker, and have since held various roles including team leader, care manager and behaviour lead. I am now the head of learner services, overseeing the residential provision and nursing team at St. John’s College. 

As well as providing consistently high-quality care and support for young people, one of my passions is to support young people who may display behaviours of distress, supporting teams to gain a greater understanding of these behaviours, their functions, and each young person as an individual and ensuring an improved quality of life for each young person who attends St. John’s College.