We converted because historically we were connected to the local authority - although we'd moved on and were working across London and Surrey, we still felt tied. We felt charitable status would broaden our ability to work with different partners in different areas and to be flexible about it, while meeting student needs.
I just got hooked on teaching special educational needs when I was researching for my undergraduate dissertation at a special school in north London - I learned so much about how to teach and how to draw out the very best from individuals.
One student, a big chap who had learning difficulties and was both visually and hearing impaired, had extremely challenging behaviour. I worked with him for months, using touch to communicate non-verbally - when he was able to understand that if he was calm I would "listen", it was such a breakthrough.
I graduated and went to teach English in Hong Kong for a few years. I started at Orchard Hill in 1987 as a lecturer, and later became the principal. As a charity we're strong because we bring the experience of many years of working in the education sector.
I hope in future we're able to respond to the changing needs of the environment in which we're working, and can build a strong community presence where our students are recognised for what they can offer to the local community.