Polegate Teaching School
Oakleaf Drive
East Sussex BN26 6PT
Tel: 01323 482404
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National leaders of education (NLEs) are strong school leaders, who have experience of effectively supporting schools in challenging circumstances. NLEs work alongside teaching schools and other system leaders to provide high quality support to those who need it most.

Claire Martin-O’Donoghue

Headteacher at Polegate School
Executive Director of Polegate Teaching School

I am Polegate through and through! I have worked at the school since being an NQT (I don’t want to disclose how long that has been!). I have taught across all key stages and lead the school through many changes not least expanding to become a 3 form entry, creating an onsite nursery and becoming a Teaching School. I have extensive senior management experience in schools and have worked within the local authority to support schools in challenging circumstances.

Our SLEs

SLEs are outstanding middle and senior leaders in positions below the headteacher, with at least two years’ leadership experience. They have a particular area of expertise (such as a subject area, early years, math, phonics, reading, writing , PSHE and SEN) and a successful track record of school improvement.

SLEs support leaders in other schools. They have excellent interpersonal skills, are able to work sensitively and collaboratively with others and have a commitment to outreach work. They understand what outstanding leadership practice in their area of specialism looks like and can help other leaders to achieve it in their own context.

Debbie Jones

I came into the profession to make a positive impact on children's learning, increase their desire to learn and enable them to become independent lifelong learners. Throughout my career I have enjoyed working with colleagues to improve on best practice and reflect on my own. I feel I have a variety of skills, which can be shared and further developed by working alongside others.

SLE Specialism: Early Years, data, NQT support, leadership, quality teaching and learning.

Leadership Experience: I am an experienced foundation stage and KS1 teacher having taught in primary school for 11 years. During that time I have been a curriculum lead for early years, PE and maths. I have been a member of the school leadership team for 8 years becoming Deputy Head teacher and Director of Teaching School two years ago. Within school my responsibilities include assessment manager, EVC, DSL and NQT tutor. My early years work has steered me to leading the Eastbourne Hub for Early Excellence group supporting all early years settings across the Eastbourne area.

Clare Marsh

I am currently a year 3 teacher. I have been a PSHE leader at Polegate for four years and during this time have developed our PSHE curriculum to be progressive and meaningful for our pupils whilst preparing them for living in an ever –changing world. I enjoy working in a team and have supported all staff across the school from nursery to year 6 leading staff training. I have developed the promotion of mindfulness and resilience with innovative approaches such as: yoga.

Specialism: Quality of teaching and learning, PSHE, NQT support.

Sally Barnard

During my time at Polegate, I have been lead moderator, Science lead, French Lead as well as completing my middle leader training course (NPQML).

Leadership Experience: I have proudly worked at Polegate for over ten years. For 6 of those years I have been a part of our leadership and have recently been promoted to assistant head. Throughout my ten years I have taught across the school and I have an extensive range of experience in teaching, learning and assessment across Key Stages 1 and 2. It has always been my passion in teaching, to model outstanding practise and work alongside colleagues to ensure all children have access to a high quality, engaging education which inspires, challenges and motivates them.

SLE Specialism: Supporting NQTs and Behaviour I have fortunate enough to have supported many Newly Qualified teachers from Polegate and beyond. Most recently working alongside an NQT in a local school to improve classroom practise including planning and questioning.

Feedback I’ve received: ‘I observed a science lesson after both SLE visits had taken place. Children were more engaged and NQT said he felt more confident and energetic due to SLE meetings. The lesson was a risk that paid off.’ ‘No improvements. I only wish I’d sought SLE support earlier. Sally has done an excellent job.’ 

Vanessa Wilson-Best

Current position: Music Teacher at Willingdon Community School

A creative catalyst in both education and as an artist, with twenty years in music education and twenty-five years as a performing musician, presided for 2 years as Local Authority Music Curriculum Manager and Singing for 69 primary schools at THAMES (Tower Hamlets Arts and Music Education Service). Before relocating to the South Coast, I enjoyed five successful years with my own company, building and delivering innovative curriculums based around music, singing, drama and performance across London and Suffolk. I moved to the South Coast summer 2018 and it is my passion to share good practice to ensure every child has the best possible experience of school. Children need music and stories and art as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play, it is part of what makes us human. Songs give words to feelings that may not be otherwise expressed. I believe in educating the whole child and giving a whole palette of emotional colours to draw on in life.

SLE Specialism: Music curriculum and singing from EYFS to 16+, the emotional classroom and curriculum design and planning.

Leadership Experience: As a Local Authority Manager between 2009 and 2012, I provided Tower Hamlets primary schools with a well-received, full program of music curriculum training for non-specialist classroom teachers. Prior to this 8 years as Assistant Director of Music at Morpeth Secondary School, a Musical Futures flagship secondary school in East London, working on Musical Futures pilots and training staff nationally, project development with The Barbican and British Council Schools. Worked in a creative team with Guildhall School of Music and Barbican Education and Drum Works culminating in large musical performances in Brooklyn, Madrid and Paris. Mentor to Newly Qualified teachers for the Institute of Education.

Aimee Ashdown

I have also been teaching at Polegate School since I was an NQT! I have experience of teaching all ages in the primary phase and currently teach in year 2. I have a particular interest in meeting the needs for our vulnerable groups of children and sharing this practise. I have led Art across the school and now have responsibility for Science. I have successfully completed the PQSM. I am also a Leader of Learning for years 1 and 2. I have trained staff in many schools to embed effective phonics teaching and have introduced a range of strategies to close the gap.

SLE Specialism: Phonics, quality teaching and learning incorporating assessment for learning, Science.

Una Holbrook

I have been teaching for more years than I like to admit! I have led the school through the Inclusion Quality Mark process to achieve the Flagship Status. We can proudly say we are the only school in East Sussex to hold this award. My passion is inclusion and supporting children to ensure their needs are met within mainstream school. I have introduced P4C to the pupils at Polegate. I am an assistant headteacher with Inclusion and behaviour responsibilities. I have experience of working with SENCO new to role beyond East Sussex to support their systems and processes.

Specialism: SEND

Healthy Schools
Sports Partnership Mark
Eco Schools
Arts Council England Gold Award
IQM Centre of Excellence
QiSS Award
Quality Mark
Investors in People
International School Award
Primary Science Quality Mark
Real Training
School Games Gold Award
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