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Our Committee members

Our current committee is made up of past and present parents of STJTG.  These 5 parents organise and run the events with the much-needed help and commitment of fellow parent volunteers.

Our Co-Chairmen, Dierdre & Bene:

Dierdre joined the Friends Association as Co-Chairman in December 2023.

She was born in Zimbabwe to Irish parents and was educated by German nuns at the Dominican Convent School in Harare, the oldest school in the country. 

After attending university in Minnesota and working in a law firm in Chicago for a year, Deirdre moved to the UK in 2002 and became a financial journalist. She spent nearly a decade at The Times covering property, mergers and acquisitions, and retails before moving to US media organisation Bloomberg News in 2019 where she works full-time running the EMEA healthcare and consumer team and coverage.  

She is married to Laurentiu Chirita and their daughter, Greta joined Reception in 2023.


Benathe studied Law at University, having had an interest in Law from a young age,  After University, Bene became a Civil Servant working at the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal for a few years before moving on to the Employment Tribunal.  Her professional journey took an exciting turn as she delved into various NHS departments, including Quality Assurance, District Nursing, and Dementia.  Currently, Bene is a dedicated full-time mother to twin daughters Ariah and Alexia, and youngest daughter Angel whilst simultaneously pursuing further studies.  Alongside this, Bene joined the Friends as joint Chairman in December 2023 and finds fulfilment in volunteering her time to create lasting memories for the children and families of St James.

Outside of her roles as full-time mother and student, she enjoys socialising and dining out with family and friends, reading and travelling around the world.  

Our Vice Chair, Manuela:

 Manuela is a former pupil of St James the Great and has now returned as a parent to a daughter who started in reception in September 2022. 

After leaving STJTG, Manuela returned to complete her Year 10 work experience in the nursery.  Manuela decided to pursue a career in Early Years and throughout her training, returned to complete her placements.  Manuela has a BA in Early Years and Leadership and also holds her EYTS. She has worked in the Early Years sector for over 16 years. 

Manuela enjoys spending her time with her family and friends, and runs termly parenting courses with EPEC within the Croydon borough.  Before joining the Friends Association as Co-Vice Chair, Manuela volunteered her spare time to helping at events and fundraisers run by the Association.  She became Co-Vice Chair in 2022.

Our Treasurer & Secretary, Tom:

Tom is the proud father of 2 kids at St James the Great. Molly and Oliver. Tom decided to go travelling after university and ended up living and working in Argentina where he met his better-half Victoria. At home they speak Spanish and try to convince the kids to do the same. He also speaks a bit of Polish which he learned from his mother growing up.

After his travels, the travel bug took hold and he ended working as a tour leader taking groups of tourists all round Central and South America. Tom has been a Head of Operations for travel companies for many years before recently taking on a Head of Technology role for a company called Travelopia. He has been lucky enough to visit many exotic places including both Antarctica and the Artic (hence the photo). 

When he is not being a taxi driver for the kids or looking after them, he likes to play golf, tennis and football. He also enjoys good food, getting to the gym when he can and loves a bit of Netflix! He joined the Friends as Secretary in 2021 and also became the association's Treasurer in December 2023. 

Our committee members are helped by both parent and staff volunteers within the school community.  If you would like to join the Friends Association, or would like to help out at one of our events then please get in touch by emailing us at: friendssjtg@gmail.com