Neil Strowger – Chair of TESLA Teaching School & CEO Bohunt Education Trust

The driving force behind the inception of Bohunt Education Trust, Neil is absolutely clear that we must have the highest expectations for all; an impoverished background is no reason for an impoverished future. Neil was appointed Headteacher of Bohunt School in 2009 and led it to Ofsted Outstanding in 2013 and the Times Educational Supplement’s Overall School of the Year in 2014. As a National Leader of Education and chair of the TESLA Teaching School Alliance, Neil has worked on numerous school improvement projects mainly supporting schools in challenging circumstances and in areas of deprivation. Prior to joining Bohunt School, Neil held a variety of senior leadership roles in schools across the south east.

Neil was shortlisted as Headteacher of the year in 2014, is a former member of the National Steering Group for Languages and is currently a governor at schools in both the primary and secondary sectors. Influenced by thinkers from Kurt Hahn to Kierkegaard, Neil is ambitious for state education and its beneficiaries.

Neil is a regular contributor to the national debate on education issues; his main areas of interest include:

  • Systems leadership at inter and intra-school levels, including the development of eponymous Change Teams which provide teachers with whole school leadership.
  • Embedding innovation in everyday education to secure whole school improvement and opportunity.
  • Global citizenship including producing students with the skills, attributes and mindset to be self-motivated, resilient and ready to be game-changers and leaders of the future.
  • The development of a global education brand with a strong emphasis on learning beyond the classroom.
  • Closing the gap and maximising the use of Pupil Premium funding (this work was turned in to an Ofsted Case Study).

Father to three young children and avid winter sports fan, Neil is an enthusiastic, if limited, skier who is occasionally found racing down slopes and mountains at home and abroad, preferably the latter!

Sarah Palmer – Chair of TESLA Teaching School & Headteacher of Camelsdale Primary School

Sarah Palmer works as a National Leader of Education (NLE) with Camelsdale also recognised as a National Support School (NSS). Sarah and designated staff within the alliance offer school to school support and have been deployed by the Department of Education and the local Authority to assist schools with particular challenges to overcome.

Sarah has worked across three authorities and is lead Headteacher for the Rother Valley Locality of schools, with strong links with the University of Chichester, she is passionate about being part of schools own “Journeys of Excellence”. Sarah believes we all need to ensure we look beyond our own school gates and support others to help more and more young people and their families get the best start in life. “Outstanding leadership can certainly transform schools”.

Brian Ball

Brian has been a Headteacher for 21 years; he opened his current school 17 years ago and has worked in Secondary, Middle and Primary. Brian is currently an Executive Headteacher and LLE.

He was National College Deputy Lead Associate for the South East leading a team of Associates across the region. His role, along with his team, was supporting Teaching Schools, System Leaders, School Leaders, Governors, Local Authorities, Partnerships and Academies in Succession Planning, developing new leaders and leadership models. More recently, he has supported school based ITT initiatives and the promotion and support of School Direct.

In the past, Brian worked for NCSL as a Researcher and as Regional Leader in the South providing a range of support for Schools, School Leaders and Local Authorities. He has also worked for the NPQH programme, Chichester University, West Sussex and Wiltshire Local Authorities. Brian also spent two years as an Ofsted Inspector.

Summary of experience:

  • Primary, Middle and Secondary
  • Two Headships – Junior and Primary – 21 years
  • Local Authority advisory support
  • Ofsted Inspector 2004 – 05
  • NCSL research Associate NLCs
  • National College Regional Leader
  • Leadership Models & Partnerships Associate
  • Community Cohesion and Parental Engagement Lead Facilitator
  • National College Deputy Lead Associate
  • LLE
  • NCTL Teaching and Leadership Adviser

Rebecca Clark – Director of TESLA

Rebecca’s role in TESLA is to work alongside the Co-Director, Geoff Coulson, to keep a strategic overview of the work of the alliance in relation to the Big 6: Initial Teacher Training (ITT), Continuing Professional Development (CPD), School to School Support (StSS), Identifying and developing leadership potential, Specialist Leaders of Education (SLEs) and Research and Development (R&D).

Rebecca is the strategic lead for ITT across the alliance, working to develop and improve training for School Direct Trainees, PGCE Students and Newly Qualified Teachers. Rebecca liaises with a range of universities to ensure cohesion and quality assures our provision. She also writes bids for the TSA to apply for additional grants and funding.

In addition to her TESLA work, Rebecca is Assistant Headteacher at Bohunt School, and active member of the Expressive Arts department teaching Drama and Music. Formerly she was Head of Expressive Arts and an Advanced Skills Teacher in Portsmouth.

Geoff Coulson – Director of TESLA

Geoff is an educational consultant. His role in TESLA is to work alongside the Co-Director, Rebecca Clark, to keep a strategic overview of the work of the alliance in relation to the Big 6: Initial Teacher Training (ITT), Continuing Professional Development (CPD), School to School Support (StSS), Identifying and developing leadership potential, Specialist Leaders of Education (SLEs) and Research and Development (R&D).

He also writes bids for the TSA to apply for additional grants and funding and advises on National and Regional Teaching School developments. In addition to his TESLA work Geoff is a Teaching and Leadership Adviser (TLA) with the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL). In this role he liaises with Teaching Schools in the South East, working predominantly in Kent and the Pan Berkshire areas, and brings this experience to his work for TESLA. He was also a registered Ofsted inspector and is Chair of Governors at a primary school within the alliance.

Formerly he was a primary Headteacher in West Sussex, of both small rural and large urban schools, a co-leader of a networked learning community, a Senior Primary Adviser in Surrey and a leadership programme facilitator.

He has an MA in School Effectiveness from the University of Sussex.

Collins Fleischner – Support Manager, TESLA Teaching School Alliance

Collins works with Geoff and Rebecca to support the smooth operation of work for the Teaching School. She is involved in the new teacher, School Direct, recruitment process; the School to School Support Administration; the professional development for all teachers across schools in the alliance and collating the  research and development across the alliance.

Gary Green – TESLA SLE

Areas of expertise:

  • Leadership of CPD
  • Leadership of Curriculum
  • Closing the Gap

Chris Sheldrick – TESLA SLE

Areas of Expertise:

  • Behaviour
  • Attendance
  • ITT & NQT Development

I applied to become a Teacher of PE on the GTP 12 years ago as I wanted to continue to work with children helping them to fulfil their potential. Before that I had been working as a sports coach in schools and at a representative level but I had not been using my degree.

What path has your career taken thus far?

After completing my GTP year I was fortunate enough to get the first position I applied for at Bohunt. Within my first 3yrs we had experienced huge success as a school within my specialism (basketball) with Bohunt teams enjoying national success.   After 3 years of being at Bohunt I was encouraged to apply for the pastoral post of Senior Tutor (Head of House) as it was known then. This role at Bohunt was renamed Achievement Coordinator approximately 6 years ago and I was given the opportunity to become a Senior Achievement Coordinator 3 years ago. As a Senior Achievement Coordinator here at Bohunt I line manage two further Achievement Coordinators in addition to continuing to oversee my own House.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge is prioritising tasks and managing my time whilst maintaining a healthy work/life balance. I have the privilege of having considerable responsibility in school however I still enjoy teaching and coaching to the highest possible standard. The challenge for me is ensuring that all facets of my role in school are completed to a standard I am happy with.

What’s been the biggest achievement?

As a teacher and sports coach I enjoy contributing to the success of an outstanding department in an exceptional school. One of my most significant achievements to date whilst at Bohunt is that I coached a team to the National Premier Basketball Final two years in succession. I was extremely proud of the achievements of that team whilst they were students here and continue to enjoy hearing about their continued success in their chosen pathways in life.

Esther Jewitt – TESLA SLE

Areas of expertise:

  • Early Years
  • Phonics

Why did you want to become a teacher?

I had worked as a school secretary for three years and was starting to get restless. I was becoming more and more involved within the school community and decided I wanted to make the move into the classroom.

What path has your career taken thus far?

I trained in Hereford, looking closely at the similarities and differences between how teaching of the Early Years is structured in Wales and England. I knew I wanted a job in a small village school and having looked around Rake I applied immediately and was fortunate enough to get the job. I started with just 11 children in my first class but as the school has become more popular my class has grown and included children from Year 1. I have recently become the Literacy Co-ordinator for the school, am leading an Early Years Hub and have also been appointed as a SLE for TESLA TSA.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

My first year in the classroom was a baptism of fire in SEN, and it continues to be something I find challenging, as often learning difficulties are not flagged up until children start school and then there is a lot of work identifying how best to help each individual child.

What’s been the biggest achievement?

Every September we start with a cohort of children, most of whom cannot read or write their own name, and I am enormously proud to say that every child I have taught has moved into the next year with these skills.

Nikki Senior – TESLA SLE

Areas of expertise:

  • SEN
  • SENCo
  • Behaviour & Discipline

Why did you want to become a teacher?

I became a teacher because I wanted to work with children, to have an impact on their lives and to inspire, enthuse and teach them. In my own life I have had a selection of very good teachers and I greatly appreciate the impact that they have had on my life. Thanks to their hard work they have instilled in me a love of learning, the ability to question and enquire, as well as the ability to constructively argue. This I wanted to replicate in others. I wanted to be part of a profession that made a difference, that lifted confidence and that celebrated positives, no matter how small.

What path has your career taken thus far?

Having taught in a variety of different school both in Portsmouth and West Sussex, I became an advisory teacher for behaviour working for West Sussex County Council. In my work as a member of the Inclusion Support Team I advised, supported or mentored school staff, governors and parents on a wide range of additional needs, primarily regarding behaviour. I modelled behaviour strategies to class teachers and teaching assistants and worked closely with them to explore ways that they could support and include pupils with additional educational needs. I modelled 1:1 work with pupils as well as group work, circle time and whole class lessons, as well as formulating action plans to support pupils’ additional needs in and out of the classroom. I delivered whole school generic trainings for Emotional Literacy and Team Teach, as well as tailor made trainings to meet specific needs of schools and trainings on behalf of the county for NQTs and Learning Mentors. I was involved in the TaMHS (Targeted Mental Health in Schools) project which required me to co-lead and co-manage the planning, delivery and evaluation of 3 INSET days and twilight sessions in every primary school in one locality, the aim being to develop children’s resilience skills, enabling them to begin to embrace learning.

Following the restructuring of county services I returned to teaching, working at Southwater Junior Academy before becoming SENCo and Class Teacher at Bury CE Primary School.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

Every day in teaching brings challenges, both great and small, from engaging ‘hard to reach’ parents to developing independence in young children. My biggest challenge in the classroom has been adapting my planning and my teaching so that every child can access the curriculum and reach their full potential. This means that I have had to work with support staff, other professionals, parents and children in close partnership.

As an advisory teacher I was frequently faced with challenging situations such as dealing with aggressive children, defensive parents and school staff as well as systems that did not support the inclusion of certain children.

What’s been the biggest achievement?

As an advisory teacher my biggest achievements were preventing exclusions, empowering staff to deal with problem behaviours and promoting inclusion in previously difficult schools.

As a class teacher there is no bigger achievement than seeing a child develop the confidence and the ability to tackle new challenges, however big or small they may be. These include providing security and support for a child who had an attachment disorder, planning a successful phased entry for an emotional based school refuser and seeing the successful impact of a reading programme on the SEN children.

Lauren Pestell – TESLA SLE

Area of expertise:

  • PE (KS2, 3 & 4)

Why did you want to become a teacher?

To inspire children to want to be physically active and enjoy taking part in sport and physical activity for life. Through PE I wanted to help children to develop social skills such as team work, communication, determination and resilience which they can then transfer in other subjects and parts of their life.

What path has your career taken thus far?

My career started in Halifax, West Yorkshire in a challenging school but a school and department which taught me and supported a lot as I grew as a teacher and developed my own style. Whilst at this school I became a School Sports Coordinator which was a role I relished as I was able to greater inspire and support students within my school and those in surrounding primary schools to participate in physical activity and remove some of the barriers the students from low-socio economic background, minority ethnic groups, and student with disabilities faced when it came to participation in sport and physical activity. After three years in Halifax I took a year long break from teaching to travel around the world visiting, South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and South America which was an amazing experience and one which helped me to develop greatly as a person from my ability to adapt quickly, demonstrate resilience and empathy to being able to communicate with people in many different ways all skills and qualities which I believe have made me a better teacher.

On my return home I relocated to Hampshire where I took on a number of temporary teaching posts in Surrey over the next two years, this provided me the opportunity to work with a number of different departments and absorb different ideas and practises but also develop new ideas which would leave my mark on the departments.

Two years ago I started at Bohunt and in this short time I have been able to develop rapidly gaining new skills both within and outside the classroom. I have been able to take on a number of new responsibilities within the PE department including taking charge of the Bohunt Primary School Partnership and across the wider school as an ITT and NQT mentor and co-leadership of the partnership change team. Finally this year I was appointed as an SLE with a specialism in PE which is a role I am looking forward to taking on, developing in and learning from.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

Developing my career when I was moving schools every couple of terms and trying to make my mark in each school in a short space of time. It was difficult adapting to a new school and students each time and frustrating not being able to see projects through and continue to support students through their school career. Although I found it a challenge I can look back at the period and take a lot form each experience and channel that into improving my own teaching and help the PE department at Bohunt to continue to develop and evolve.

What’s been the biggest achievement?

Taking on the Bohunt Primary School Partnership and expanding it from four schools to seven schools. This process required me to learn a number of new skills and improve on existing ones such as my communication and presentations skills. It is a role I really enjoy, especially the process of building relationships with local primary schools and helping them to develop their own school sport and physical activity provision and providing them with regular competition opportunities.