Heads of Educational Provisions
Brunel Academies Trust (Brunel) are proud to have an inspiring and dedicated team of Head Teachers of our schools, Manager of our Nursery and Principal of our College that lead our teams.
Heads of Educational Provisions (ID 1141)
Liz FewingsActing Headteacher, Brimble Hill School
I have worked in education now for twenty-five years. Ever since my early days, I have always had an interest in supporting children and young people with SEND. Whilst studying for a Psychology and Philosophy Degree at University, I specialised in Child Development and I volunteered in a primary school, supporting a child with SEND.
Before studying for my PGCE, I worked for a year as a Teaching Assistant in both a mainstream primary and a secondary school. I worked with children and young people with a wide range of needs. This cemented my desire to become a Teacher and my passion in particular for supporting children and young people with SEND.
After completing my PGCE, I worked in several mainstream primary schools as a Class Teacher and I always found that my greatest pleasure and sense of achievement came from working with children with SEND, enabling them to access learning and seeing them make progress.
After taking several years out of work to raise my two children, I returned to teaching and after a year, secured a role as a SENCO at Shaw Ridge Primary School in Swindon. I completed my National Award for SEN Coordination and worked in the role of SENCO for nearly eight years. I learned so much during this time and had the pleasure of supporting some wonderful children with a range of SEND and their families through their primary school journey and their transition to secondary school. As I became a more experienced SENCO, I joined the Local Authority SENCO Champions group and became more involved in Borough wide work related to SEND.
When a job came up to work for Swindon Borough Council within the SEND Team, leading on the implementation of actions from the High Needs Review, I saw an opportunity to broaden my understanding of SEND and to learn more about the wider workings of the system. I very much enjoyed this one-year role and particularly enjoyed leading a multi-agency working group of professionals and parents/carers of children and young people with SEND.
I love to learn and develop new skills and thrive on seeing things from different perspectives and growing my knowledge base. On finishing my contract with Swindon Borough Council, I set up my own business as a SENCO and SEND Consultant. In this role, I took on a variety of different challenges, including mentoring SENCOs who were new to role, delivering SEND related training, working as SENCO for the Swindon Virtual School and working as SENCO for Swindon EOTAS. I thrived on the variety and challenge that this offered me. Unfortunately, when the COVID Pandemic struck, this made it difficult for external consultants to continue working in school settings. However, I was offered a Fixed Term Contract working as SENCO for Swindon EOTAS, so I continued doing this role, working across the different sites within EOTAS, with secondary aged children with Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs, Autism and a variety of other SEND.
In April 2021, I moved to Brimble Hill School as Assistant Head Teacher. I have loved my time so far at Brimble Hill and have enjoyed the new challenge of learning more about the needs of children with Severe Learning Difficulties and Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties and the workings of a special school. In March 2023, I was promoted to the role of Deputy Head Teacher. It has been a pleasure getting to know our wonderful children and their families and I look forward to continuing to work within Brimble and the Brunel MAT from September 2023 in my new role as Acting Head Teacher.
In my spare time, I enjoy sailing, which has been a passion of mine since childhood due to growing up on an island surrounded by water! I love to spend time on or in the water - this is my therapy! I also enjoy spending time with my family and my dog and escaping with a good book.
Helena KnightHeadteacher, The Chalet School
My multi-cultural upbringing and educational background has definitely helped to shape the person and the professional I am today. My early years and primary education took place across schools in Malta and London.
I completed my secondary education at a mixed state school in West Yorkshire before emigrating with my family to South Africa in the early 80’s, where I attended a private girls school and learnt to speak Afrikaans. I experienced first-hand the human injustice of the apartheid system and my time there has left an indelible mark on my conscience and outlook to treat all humans equally regardless of their differences and stand up for those overlooked by society.
I returned to the UK to complete my A levels & BA honours degree in English and Inter Arts at Bretton Hall College, West Yorkshire with the view to become a broadcast journalist. However, fate took me in another direction and I went on to work as a residential social worker and teaching assistant at a residential school for CYP in care where I also studied to gain a PGCE in Primary Education at Christchurch College, Canterbury. It was during my time at the Coldecott Community Childrens Home and School; that I found my vocation to teach and after gaining teaching experience at home and abroad while travelling in India and Nepal; I settled into a teaching post at The Chalet School in 1999 as an SEN classroom teacher.
I said I would probably only stay a few years and here I am 21 years later after progressing into senior management and now privileged to be the Headteacher since 2017, of this very special school community for pupils with autism and additional learning needs.
I am a child-centred, person-centred leader and have actively equipped myself with the necessarily skills to help others by gaining a Level 2 in Counselling and attending training to be the school MHWB Lead- a title & role I am proud to hold.
I am an experienced Yogi and bring mindfulness into my daily life to help me ‘ride the waves’ and stay strong for others around me inside and outside of work. I am a keen gardener and find it very satisfying to watch my plants grow from my own seed collection. Both of these hobbies have found their way onto the school curriculum to the benefit of the whole school community.
My greatest professional achievement is to see the pupils that I taught in reception, grow and develop and thrive into valued young people and to know I have played an active role in supporting them and their families along the way in my various roles. I don’t have any children of my own, so I live out my parenting vicariously through the pupils in my care.
In more recent years, my greatest personal achievement is to become the proud owner of a husband, a cat and a motorhome.
Im excited to see what the future holds for me personally & professionally and if the clock stops tomorrow my headstone will read Non je ne regrette rien (Song by Edith Piaf).
Dave DearlseyHeadteacher, Churchward School
Having completed a degree in sport and physical education, Dave started working as a teaching assistant in a specialist provision for students with emotional and behavioural difficulties.Dave found working with hard to reach children incredibly rewarding and decided that he wanted to complete his teacher training whilst continuing to work in special education. From there Dave has worked in a range of special school settings including pupil referral units, SEMH provisions and independent autism specialist schools fulfilling a range of roles through to his current position of Head Teacher at Churchward School.
As a teacher, Dave specialised in PE and Maths but also taught a range of other subjects including Science and English to a range of students. Throughout his career he has encouraged students to believe in themselves and has used outdoor education as a key part of this, using the countryside as a vehicle to build confidence and self-esteem. He has set up and run Forest School programmes and taken students climbing, mountain biking and kayaking as well as completing a residential sailing trip to the Channel Islands.
Whilst in various Senior Leadership positions Dave has been responsible for pastoral, safeguarding, teaching & learning and assessment as well as always taking responsibility for developing new areas whether that be introducing a range of therapeutic interventions or supporting the growth of a school and ensuring consistency and high standards.
Always looking to challenge himself and the team around him, Dave has relished the chance to set a new school up from scratch and is looking forward to whatever the future holds for Churchward School.
Outside of school Dave looks forward to spending time with his partner and their new son whilst also continuing with his enjoyment of being outdoors including taking care of their horses.
David StevensHeadteacher, Uplands School
I grew up in Somerset where I began my career as anEngineering apprentice which led me in to studying Engineering at University. Engineering, as interesting as it is didn’t feel like the right direction that I wanted to progress my career into post graduation. I always had an interest in people and teaching so made the decision to train to become a Design and Technology teacher. I undertook my initial teacher training in Exeter before moving to Swindon to take up my first teaching post.
I thoroughly enjoyed my mainstream experience teaching Design and Technology, I found it hugely rewarding. Whilst working in a main stream setting I took on additional responsibility for careers and work related learning, which included organising work experience for the whole of Yr10 as well as whole school training. As part of my teaching committment I taught a group of students who were following a preparation for work pathway where I gave them lots of opportunities to visit local employers and work with them on getting them work ready. So, from an early stage in my career I was drawn to support students who needed some additional support. After six great years I made the decision to look at what other teaching opportunities there were where I could focus more on working with students who needed additional support, which brought me to Uplands in 2011.
Starting work in a special school was instantly rewarding, I enjoyed the challenges and rewards in equal measures, the staff and students were, and always have been genuinely inspirational. Over time I took on additional responsibility and moved into Middle leadership, Senior leadership and from September 2022 was very proud to be made substantive Headteacher.Prior to Headship my areas of responsibility have mainly been around behaviour, attainment and Safeguarding, although being part of a leadership team is a very diverse role which has drawn me into a whole array of different activities.
Out of school I enjoy spending time with my partner and young family. I enjoy the outdoors, running andwalking and when I get the chance I play the trumpet in a local Orchestra.
Sarah SumnerHeadteacher, Westlea Primary School
I am married with 3 grown up children and a wonderful ‘woof’ called Coco. Two of my passions are outdoor learning and horses, which I am able to indulge by spending time with my horse called ‘Kiwi’. Since I was a child, I have been involved in my local church and music has always played a key aspect of my life.
My childhood was spent in Gloucester and North Wales. Both of my parents were teachers and my father was a Headteacher. I attended Ribston Hall Grammar School, where my interests in music were significantly enhanced. Despite wanting to attend Music or Teacher Training College, I was encouraged to complete something ‘academic’ and ended up at Birmingham University.
When I graduated from University I initially trained as a Stock-Taker for ‘Moorland Brewery’ and then moved into Internal Audit, ending up at Swindon Borough Council. Finally, in 2003 I handed in ‘my calculator’ and completed a PGCE in Middle Years with Music at Bath Spa University College.
The opportunity to teach at Westlea was destined to be and really was ‘fate’. I had two job interviews on the same day, so the interview at Westlea was moved forward and the rest is history. For the first 10 years I predominantly taught Year 6 and was recognized as a Lead Teacher for Music and KS2 Maths, by Swindon Borough Council.
I have completed both the National Qualification in Senior Leadership and The National Qualification in Headship, including being a mentor for both qualifications. Following another deliberate career change, in 2016 I moved into KS1 to immerse myself in Early Years and formative education.
Throughout my career I have always championed the children that find school difficult and am committed to providing ‘inclusion for all’. I led the school to achieve the Gold Healthy School Award on three separate occasions, by connecting outdoor learning, positive engagement and the primary curriculum. My Master’s Dissertation was based on my Healthy Schools work and in 2018 I was awarded the Postgraduate Health and Education scholarship from Middlesex University.
I am privileged to be the Headteacher at Westlea and have watched the school grow and develop into a wonderful community school. In 2021, I opened the Nursery class and in September 2022, the Commissioned Unit for Complex Needs.
Genti MullaliuPrincipal, Horizons College
I was born in Albania and lived there for 24 years prior to moving to United Kingdom, I studied Medicine and graduated in 1997 from the University of Tirana. Due to meeting my future wife, I moved to the United Kingdom where we were married and have lived in the UK since.
My experience in education and training developed after success with training in the FE and secondary school sector. I have always been ambitious for the learners and staff which allowed me to focus my energy and commitment into my future in the education arena and as a result develop learners with many different skills in different curriculums.
During this time, I completed my studies in Post Compulsory Education with Oxford Brookes University. I have also successfully completed the Senior Management and Leadership Development programme delivered by the Association of Colleges, an outstanding programme of study designed for Principals and aspiring Principals.
Previous to this position, I taught for 16 years within a General Further Education College working primarily with learners with special educational needs and complex behavioural difficulties within the Vocational Studies and Foundation Learning Department. I joined Uplands Educational Trust in 2014 and became Head of College in 2015 and subsequently appointed as Principal in 2017.
My journey to this point has been one presented with amazing opportunities and of striving to achieve my best potential despite challenges. Therefore, I have made it my aim to provide an inclusive and innovative learning environment for all our learners, giving them the opportunities to excel to their full potential in developing their independence despite the barriers presented to them.
Outside of work I like keeping a healthy active lifestyle. I enjoy running, cycling, paddle boarding and sea fishing. I love camping and driving therefore enjoy taking long road trips in the summer with my family in our campervan. I also lead a small local church and my faith it is very important to me and through this I have been able to support charitable educational projects in Burkina Faso, Albania and Nagaland (India).
Penny SeymourBASIS Head of Service
My route into a teaching career was delayed as I initially embarked on a career in retail with Waitrose as an A Level Management Trainee. It was not until a few years as a Department Manager that I realised I wanted to do something which I considered was more worthwhile.
I had always been keen on teaching but never quite taken the plunge. After a year working in the family business, I decided to apply to do my degree course at Bath Spa in education. Following my four years of studying I moved to Suffolk for my first teaching position in a Junior School in Felixstowe. It was in this school that my journey with Autism started. I then went on to work in Ipswich in a very large primary school in a deprived area, as a year 5/6 teacher and soon became SENCO and a member of the Senior Leadership Team.
After a few years in my post a great opportunity to be part of a brand-new concept arose, developing an Outreach Service for South Suffolk based at a special school. I stayed in this role for nine years and developed my love of training school staff at all levels. This included conference Leading Edge work. The Outreach Service expanded with satellites across the whole of Suffolk and I was appointed as Assistant Leader of the service.
In 2010 I relocated to Oxfordshire and did various roles in special schools and Early Years settings until I joined Swindon Autism Support Service in 2013 as an Advisory Teacher. I later became Senior Advisory Teacher with a focus on Early Years and training/consultancy. In 2022 I was seconded to ARC Services and in December 2022 was appointed Head of Service for BASIS which covers several different parts of the service including the traded and commissioned elements. I am very passionate about my role and I am able to use my skills developed throughout my career to support the development of new provisions to meet the increasing needs of our Children and Young People across Swindon.
In my spare time I like to socialise with family and friends often live music or theatre/ballet events. I love to travel exploring new places and I am my happiest by the sea. I am a fan of swimming and walk when possible. I like to entertain and cook healthy meals – I have an interest in nutrition and well-being. I am known for always having a remedy or suggestion!
Jo-Ann Nicol CobbAll Aboard Nursery Manager
Jo-Ann Nicol Cobb