Kathryn Pullen: A Sydenham High legend retires

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Mrs Pullen with past and current Head Girls and students at her farewell party

The end of the Autumn Term 2016 saw the departure of a Sydenham High legend: Mrs Kathryn Pullen retired after 26-year at the school, 14 of them has Headteacher, with a series of events in her honour and many emotional messages.

A Gala Concert was a fitting farewell and ‘thank you’ from the whole school community – a celebration of the exceptional talent amongst the students, which she has tirelessly nurtured and supported in her time at the school.

It was also a very real display of the inspiration that Mrs Pullen has provided to her students – past and present – and a demonstration that her legacy in fostering the performing arts at Sydenham High has a strong and flourishing future.

Gala hosts, ex-Deputy Head Dr Colin Laverick and current Head of Junior School, Claire Boyd, praised Mrs Pullen’s leadership and legacy, not just in buildings but in forging and delivering a school vision which had ‘girls first’ at its heart.

“The influence of Germaine Greer (her tutor at university) has been obvious in her championing of girls and in her philosophy that any barriers to achievement can be overcome with determination, effort and self-belief. That will be her true legacy and there are hundreds of girls who have benefitted from Kathryn’s guidance during her career.

“Even if another dozen photographs (of Heads) appear on the stairs up from the entrance hall, Sydenham will never see your like again.”

Speaking at a reception before the Gala, the Chief Executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust, Cheryl Giovannoni, also paid tribute to Mrs Pullen’s tenure and taking the school to its current strong position.

This sentiment was echoed by the Chair of the PSA, Yvette Nevrkla, who praised Mrs Pullen’s “passion and compassion, her generosity in acknowledging the achievements of each and every girl” and, most of all, “simply being the inspiring example of a leader that she is.”

Messages of thanks and good luck have also poured in, including from her Head Girls over the last fourteen years, many of whom attended a farewell reception with current parents and students (see photo above).

But the message that took everyone by surprise was a video from fellow retiree Strictly judge Len Goodman, who wished Mrs Pullen well and gave her the coveted ‘Ten from Len’ for her long service to the school.

Her final school farewell was, typically, on stage: alongside her students at the school’s annual Crisis review in aid of the charity Crisis UK’s Christmas appeal, channeling her inner ABBA in a rousing version of Mama Mia. Her parting lines were, however, from a different song altogether but just as rousing:  “I’ve had the time of my life: and I owe it all to you.”

You can view Mrs Pullen’s farewell vlog here, and read her final end of term letter here.