Five minutes with Deborah Loades, Business Development Manager at St Marylebone C of E School

Each month, we spend five minutes with one of the impressive professionals that call Harley Street home. This month, it's over to St Marylebone C of E School to meet Deborah Loades, Business Development Manager

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at St Marylebone C of E School?

The St Marylebone C of E School is an ‘Outstanding’ comprehensive secondary school, sitting in the heart of the Marylebone community, with around 1200 students and 140 staff spread over two sites at either end of Marylebone High Street.

My role as Business Development Manager is varied, often challenging, but consistently rewarding.  My primary responsibility is to identify funding opportunities, not only to supplement the School’s state-funded income for the everyday running of the school, but also to finance ongoing improvements to the teaching and learning environment that enable the School to be at the forefront of modern teaching practices. It involves making grant applications, developing partnerships with local businesses, creating fundraising campaigns and managing hire of the School’s facilities.  We are extremely fortunate to benefit from the ongoing support of both The Howard de Walden Estate as well as The Portman Estate.


Describe your average day.

During term time my days are spent discussing the current and future facilities-related needs of the School and exploring ways to address them. Modern teaching methods and the increasingly important focus on children’s health and well-being often involve larger space requirements; however as an inner-city, central London school, located in a Conservation Area and with a grade II listed building in the mix, this presents a considerable challenge.  Luckily the School’s motto is “An opportunity to excel” and coupled with a strong reputation for creativity there is vision and resilience in abundance!

In the school holidays my focus is on managing the large premises improvement projects within the short windows of opportunity we have to deliver them. It is a high priority of the school to maintain its excellent track record of academic performance, therefore there is no scope for projects to overrun as this would impact our students’ education. 


How did you get to where you are today?

In my early career I was an investment banker and spent ten years helping clients to raise financing through the international capital markets, experience which has proved invaluable in my role today.  After a career break to raise my children and return to university to study an Environmental degree, I joined St Marylebone five years ago. Initially, I was only expecting to stay a short while, however, it’s a school that gets under your skin.  The staff and students are a joy to work with and the School’s ethos of inclusivity, creativity, achievement and excelling is incredibly inspiring.  Personally I love being able to make a tangible difference to the educational environment of the next generation and this is my daily reward.  We all talk about job satisfaction but I can honestly say I now understand what that really means. 


How has Covid-19 impacted your organisation? 

As you can imagine, Covid 19 presented huge challenges to the education sector; switching to online learning, supporting vulnerable children, providing testing facilities and adapting the premises to ensure the school remained open and to provide a safe and secure environment. In the course of the last two years, we have run eight different versions of “school” in order to sustain education, on and off-site, adapting to ever-changing covid-contexts and rules. The teaching and support staff approached this with the usual can-do mentality that is so prevalent at St Marylebone and we have emerged with an even stronger realisation of the importance of team work as a result.


What do you like most about being based in the Harley Street area? 

It has to be the sense of community! The widespread level of support the School receives is incredible and we are always so grateful for it. This includes large institutions who donate their technology, expertise or work experience opportunities to our pupils, as well as small local businesses who provide prizes or food for fundraising events and of course our parents who willingly contribute their time at our events.  The power of a strong and diverse community is invaluable and it’s hard to believe it can be found in the middle of one of the world’s busiest cities.


How does the Harley Street Business Improvement District support your business?

The Harley Street BID recognises the important contribution that a school of St Marylebone’s calibre provides to the local area and is extremely supportive. As a state-funded school we have limited resources so the Harley Street BID  provides an invaluable way to access the network of local businesses that are happy to support the School. 


How could a visitor to the area spend their time here? 

By nature of its central location the area has much to offer visitors including some of the best healthcare, shopping and dining in the capital as well as lots of great celebrity spotting opportunities! The glory of central London however, is sometimes found in those locations that offer a moment to rest and reflect.  We are blessed with the glorious St Marylebone Parish Church next to the School which is open year round for worship or for those interested in its many literary associations, fascinating architecture or simply seeking a place to stop and take stock.  


Any particular recommendations or hidden gems?

Marylebone is an oasis of calm and luxury in the heart of central London with a plethora of shops and restaurants.  As an avid reader Daunts bookshop is my go to, Ortigia for those luxury toiletries and Rococo chocolates to satisfy my sweet tooth or when I  need to buy a gift in a hurry.  Buzzy Marylebone High Street is home to an impressive number of clothing brands, but also caters for those keen to find a bargain with some of the best stocked charity shops in London.  In comparison,  nearby Marylebone Lane is a peaceful enclave. If you love Italian food, Caldesi restaurant should be your destination. You could also try one of their popular cookery courses and learn to cook like a pro.


If you could describe the Harley Street area in three words, what would they be?  

Vibrant, eclectic, supportive.