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Roger Leighton has been the headteacher of Sydney Russell Comprehensive School in Parsloes Avenue, Dagenham, for 15 years. Roger was born in Kendal, Cumbria, brought up in Brighton and now lives in Lewisham, south-east London.

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It had always been my plan to live and work in London, because I loved the pace and variety of city life.

I moved here in 1977 and have stayed ever since.

I like to think of myself, therefore, as an “honorary” Londoner.

Lewisham has been my home for the last 23 years, where I have brought up two children who have now pretty much “flown the nest”.

In my spare time I am a season ticket holder at Charlton – sorry, Daggers – and enjoy cinema, theatre, jazz, opera, travel and walking.

After working as a teacher, head of department and deputy head in Lewisham, Balham, Clapham and Redbridge, I was given the fantastic opportunity of leading Sydney Russell in 1996.

It has been a privilege and a pleasure for me to have worked in the borough for 15 years as headteacher of Sydney Russell School.

This has been an eventful, at times exhausting, but always rewarding experience.

Back in 1996, Sydney Russell was not popular among parents, the buildings were neglected and exam results put it at the bottom of the borough league table.

Now, the school’s exam results put it in the top three in Barking and Dagenham, we are over-subscribed for Year 7 pupils and we have just begun a £25million rebuilding project, which will give us the best classrooms in the country by 2012.

In my time here, I have grown to love the borough and its increasingly diverse community, to appreciate the pride which Barking and Dagenham quite rightly has in its past and traditions and to understand the buzz about the exciting possibilities for the future.

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