Thomas’s Academy Trust - Company number: 09635397

Registered office: Thomas’s Academy, New King’s Road, London SW6 4LY

Sam Merullo

Sam works in Venture Capital having founded, run and exited successful businesses in the UK and USA. Amongst a number of roles, he is currently a Mentor at the Founder Institute and a Venture Scout at Backed VC. He started his career as a lawyer for the magic circle law firm, Allen & Overy LLP, having been educated at Durham University, BPP Law School and the College of Law. Sam joined as a Governor of New King’s in 2012 and has continued as a Trustee of Thomas’s Academy.

Tobyn Thomas

Tobyn was born in Calcutta, lives in London, was educated at Wellington College and attended Grenoble University. Tobyn has worked in publishing, theatre production, public relations and media management. He ran the media operation of the XVI Universiade in Sheffield and then the Rugby World Cup in France in 1991. He joined Thomas’s as Director of Administration in 1992, became Partner in 1995 and joint Executive Principal in 1999 on the retirement of the Founding Principals from executive management. He is married to Samantha and has three daughters, Isobel, Alice and Matilda, who are all former pupils of Thomas’s Clapham. He also has two dogs. 

Tia Goldsmith

I joined Thomas's Academy as a class teacher and Digital Lead in 2023 and am thrilled to have been elected as the staff trustee. I grew up in the London Borough of Brent and have a BA in politics. I studied for my PGCE at the UCL Institute of Education and have just recently begun a National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership. As the Digital Lead at the Academy, I am passionate about opportunities to create curriculum that encourages and supports the use of technology in all areas of learning.

Alka Bali

Alka was born in Mumbai and grew up in India. She moved to London with her husband and worked in Investment Banking in London for over 30 years. In 2014, she became Governor of a secondary school in Ealing which grew into a multi-academy trust of which she was also a trustee until 2023. In 2017, Alka decided to leave Investment Banking, to train as a maths teacher and completed her Post Graduate Certificate in Education. She is currently a volunteer maths tutor and works with students who need help with their GCSE exams. She is also a director of their family-owned hotel management business. She has two grown-up sons and has lived in Fulham for more than 25 years.

Cem Dedeaga

Cem Dedeaga is a Partner at Oliver Wyman, a leading global management consulting firm. Born in Cyprus and educated in the United States, Cem has built his career in the United Kingdom, starting at Goldman Sachs before joining Oliver Wyman. With a deep commitment to education as a catalyst for social mobility, Cem is passionate about creating equal opportunities for all students. Outside of his professional endeavours, Cem is the proud father of two daughters and resides in the vibrant neighborhood of South Kensington. Cem's personal experiences and values shape his unwavering dedication to fostering an inclusive and enriching educational environment for all students. As a newly elected governor in 2023, Cem brings his extensive expertise in finance and his passion for education to the school community.

Dr Charlotte Vidal-Hall

I joined the governing of Thomas’s Academy board in May 2023. I have been a governor at a primary school in Hammersmith and Fulham for 15 years and was chair of governors for 5 years. I have lived in Hammersmith and Fulham since 1979 and have 4 grown up children who attended primary school in the borough. I was an early years and primary school teacher in nursery and primary schools in Hammersmith for 15 years before becoming an educational researcher.

Deborah Oyelakin

My name is Deborah Oyelakin and I am delighted to have been coopted to the board of governors. I look forward to supporting the board in the strategic leadership of Thomas’s Academy. My daughter Ifetayo, who is nearing the end of Year 3, joined the school in October 22’ and has flourished since then. I am a long-time resident of Hammersmith and Fulham with extensive knowledge of my local area and the needs of the community which Thomas’s academy serves. I have over 25+ plus years of supporting families and wider communities, I have worked in the Voluntary, statutory and private sectors. Leading specialist services for young people and families experiencing domestic and sexual violence, for Solace women’s aid, across four diverse London boroughs this included work in schools, PRU’s and residential settings with students and staff in both Camden and Islington. I have coordinated and delivered successful services for young people disengaged from education and training in addition to working in Youth participation in Kensington & Chelsea. I have a BSc. Social Sciences from Birkbeck University and I currently work as an Outreach & involvement officer for a SpecialistDomestic Abuse charity. I trust that my professional and firsthand experiences will benefit the board and the school, I am a fair and balanced person with lived experience of advocating and amplifying the needs of marginalised and diverse groups. I believe that my contributions align with the core values of the Academy and I look forward to my role.

Pat Bunche

Pat has a long-term involvement with, firstly New King's, and then Thomas’s. Her working career has primarily been in the Early Years field, and she maintains a passion for ensuring that children get the best start both in life and on their educational journey. She is a parent and now a grandparent of primary school-aged children. Before retirement, Pat was the Head of Early Years and Childcare Services in Hammersmith and Fulham, and has worked extensively in the private and voluntary early years sectors.

She is currently the Safeguarding Governor and GDPR Lead as well as the Chair of the Education Subcommittee.

Ben Thomas

Ben is Head of Thomas’s Battersea and a Principal of Thomas’s London Day Schools. He was educated at Eton and Durham University, and holds a Master’s degree in Education from the UCL Institute of Education. Ben has 22  years’ experience as a school Head. For eight years until 2020, he also served on the board of St Paul’s School, where he was a member of the Education Committee, Chair of the Safeguarding Committee and Deputy Chairman of Governors. He is Chairman of the Katherine Low Settlement, a community centre in Battersea, and a trustee of Thomas’s Foundation. Ben is married to Katie and they have a son and two daughters, now in their 20s, who were all pupils at Thomas’s Battersea.

Chi-pa Choi

Chi-pa is a Co-Founder of Calimere Point Risk Advisory, a consultancy focused on data analytics. Prior to this, he was a credit derivative structurer at JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley. He read Natural Sciences at Cambridge and joined Thomas's Academy as a Parent Governor in 2020. He was made Chair of the Finance Committee in 2021.

Sean Goorah

Sean is a secondary school teacher and has lived in Fulham for 10+ years. He has an interest in education and social mobility as well as the introduction of new policies/systems which seek to enable this. Sean has two children, who are both at Thomas’s Academy.

Thomas's Academy Members

Stuart Ritchie KC

Stuart is married with two children and lives around the corner from the Academy. He is a barrister practising from Fountain Court Chambers in London, specialising in commercial law and civil fraud. He was appointed Q.C. in 2012 and has, since 2018, sat part-time as a Judge of the Crown Court. He is a member of Chambers' management committee, was its Equality and Diversity Officer and currently has responsibility for Wellbeing. He is a Master of the Bench of the Middle Temple and a Commercial Mediator. Outside the law, he was a governor of a prep school for 10 years, and music is his principal hobby. He is Chair of the Bar Choral Society and Chair Elect of the Gerald Finzi Trust.

Sarah-Jane Bales

Sarah-Jane is a mother of four boys. She went to Edinburgh University and has a degree in Sociology. She qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2001 with Arthur Andersen after which she worked for a period of time at Deloitte. Sarah-Jane is the owner of “Pure Baby”, an infant clothes business. Sarah-Jane is involved with the Daisy Trust Charity and helps run a choir in SW London which raises money for local charities. Sarah-Jane is a proud mother of many boys and spinner of many plates.



I joined Thomas's Academy as a class teacher and Digital Lead in 2023 and am thrilled to have been elected as the staff trustee. I grew up in the London Borough of Brent and have a BA in politics. I studied for my PGCE at the UCL Institute of Education and have just recently begun a National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership. As the Digital Lead at the Academy, I am passionate about opportunities to create curriculum that encourages and supports the use of technology in all areas of learning.