A hard act to follow

If Simon Rodway OBE had followed his childhood dream he may well
be known for a very different reason. At the age of 14 he was
determined to be an actor and dragged his father around the stage
doors of London’s theatres collecting autographs. But after a
change of direction, during which he considered entering the
church, Rodway took a different route and, aged 18, became a social

Last November, Rodway stepped down from being chairperson of
children’s charity the Caldecott Foundation. The Kent-based
organisation was founded in 1911 by Leila Rendel to provide
residential care to vulnerable children. Rodway initially joined
Caldecott in 1952 as a housemaster and has held various paid and
voluntary positions there since.

To an extent, Rodway’s entry into social care was shaped by his
family background. He was born in East Sheen, London, in 1932. His
father was a fur trader and his mother was one of the first women
to receive an Oxford University degree. After this she ran a
nursery from their home for 40 years. His older brother, Anthony,
who died two years ago, was head of a school for very disturbed
children for 30 years.

As a teenager, Rodway’s Christian beliefs led him to refuse
military service as a conscientious objector. Instead he went to a
family service unit in east London to work with deprived families.
He and colleagues shared a house with an outside toilet and a metal
bath which hung on the back door. It was this work that convinced
him to devote his career to helping others.

So why step down from Caldecott now? After eight years in the role,
he – and the organisation – felt it was time to move on. In future,
all chairpersons will serve for six years only. He has no regrets
about handing over the reins to Amanda Ellingworth and becoming her
deputy for a year.

By moving with the times, Caldecott has transformed itself into a
21st century operation. “It is seen as a blueprint for how things
should be,” says Rodway. His time at Caldecott has been the most
rewarding of a career, culminating with an OBE in 1997 for his Red
Cross work.

Rodway is a believer in multi-agency working and has seen vast
changes to practice in his working life. When he first worked at
Caldecott he looked after 16 boys alone and welcomes the lower
staff-children ratio of today. He also admires the professionalism
of the modern workforce: “There is much more consultancy now and we
use advisers, such as psychiatrists and educational

He remains passionate about improving services for children and
supports the children’s green paper proposal for every local
authority to have a director responsible for children’s social
services and education. He says this would help avoid the
“conflict” between the two and believes social workers and teachers
have enough of a common aim to ensure they work together

Rodway’s faith is very important to him and he is involved with his
local church in Chiswick, west London. Other parishioners have
dubbed him and his friend Tony Inwood the “Two Ronnies” because of
the skits they perform. Given his childhood ambition this
description is not lost on Rodway. Acting’s loss is clearly social
care’s gain.

Curriculum Vitae


Deputy chairperson of the Caldecott Foundation


  • Chief social services adviser, British Red Cross
  • Director of social services, Merton Council (1976-85).
  • Assistant director of social services, Barnet Council
  • Deputy children’s officer, Barnet Council (1970-71).
  • Lecturer in child care, North West Polytechnic (1968-70).
  • Senior child care officer, Kensington and Chelsea Council
  • Child care officer, Kensington and Chelsea Council
  • Senior housemaster, Caldecott Community (1958-63).
  • Housemaster, The Crescent School, Canada (1955-56).
  • Housemaster, Caldecott Community (1952-55).
  • Social worker, Stepney Family Service Unit (1950-51).   

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