Our Team

Staffing in the school includes qualified teachers, teaching assistants, administrative staff and business directors. We all work to achieve positive outcomes for our learners.

Head Teacher

Nikki Purcell (B.Ed Hons)
Head Teacher and SENCO

Nikki has been appointed as the first Headteacher of R.E.A.L. Independent Schools. She has a wealth of experience of teaching across all four key stages, both within mainstream and Special school education, and has successfully completed the Leadership Pathways Programme with the National College for Teaching and Leadership. Her previous experience includes working in mainstream schools, a residential special school for learners with speech and communication difficulties and a Pupil Referral Unit, where she was Acting Headteacher for several years before moving to R.E.A.L. Education in 2010.

The Headteacher is the designated SENCO at R.E.A.L. Independent School. To make contact with the Headteacher (SENCO), please find the contact information on our Get in Touch page here.

School Leadership Team

Michelle Farr
Key Stage 4 Learning & Achievement Lead and Safeguarding Lead

A trained teacher in Primary Education with a particular interest in safeguarding children and young people, Michelle has gained most of her experience working with young people who are hard to reach between the ages of 12 and 25 in a variety of settings. Michelle has previously worked with young people within youth and support services, the homelessness sector and within education. Since joining R.E.A.L. Education in 2010 Michelle has been involved in running the girls nurture group as well as being the Learning Manager for a cohort of Key Stage 4 learners. Michelle has experience in delivering a wide range of qualifications to learners with additional needs and supporting learners to make successful transitions to post-16 learning. Since being appointed as Key Stage 4 Learning & Achievement Lead within the R.E.A.L. Independent School, Michelle is now developing the curriculum at Key Stage 4. Michelle will ensure that all learners have the opportunity to engage in a bespoke and relevant curriculum that is tailored toward their individual needs and interests. All learners will have the opportunity to gain recognised qualifications that will prepare them for further learning and life. Michelle is Level 3 qualified through The Autism Education Trust, is Level 2 qualified in Safeguarding and is the designated teacher for safeguarding. Michelle has a Train the Trainer qualification and takes a special interest in the CPD of staff. Michelle has undertaken lots of additional training including CAF training, C-Card, sexual health and mental health awareness training which support her in her role working with young people and their families.

Alison Wellings (B.Ed Hons)
Key Stage 2/ 3 Pastoral & Engagement Lead

Alison began working for R.E.A.L. Education in 2009 as a tutor, progressing to the learning manager role in 2010 before her recent appointment as KS2/3 Pastoral and Engagement Lead for the Independent school in 2013. As a qualified primary teacher she has many years experience in a mainstream and pupil referral environment. Her management experience began in 2007 when she successfully managed the M2M provision in Nottinghamshire, a team responsible for delivering individualised education programmes to Key Stage 2, 3 and 4 pupils. Alison has completed her level 2 Autism course and was a qualified MAPA trainer from 2006 – 2009. Presently, Alison is the designated safeguarding officer for Key Stage 2/3 of the Independent School.

Dawn Hembrow
Data Management & External Quality Assurance Lead

Dawn has worked for R.E.A.L. since September 2015 as a Learning Manager and is the Data Collection & External Quality Assurance Lead for R.E.A.L. Independent School. Prior to working at R.E.A.L. she worked within mainstream education for 12 years as a Head of Year, Teaching Assistant and Behaviour Unit Manager. Dawn has a Level 3 Youth Work qualification and is a Level 3 trained Mediator. She has extensive experience of supporting young people with emotional health and wellbeing – self harm, eating disorders and has worked closely with CAHMs and Bereavement support services.

Stacey Edwards (Primary Teaching and Learning BA with QTS) 
Key Stage 2 and 3 Curriculum Lead

Stacey began working at R.E.A.L. Independent School as the referral and assessment co-ordinator within a team to assess new learners within R.E.A.L. to ensure an appropriate educational package was put into place. During this time she completed her BA Primary Teaching with QTS which she completed in June 2017 and began her role as the Key stage 2 and curriculum lead in September 2017. Her previous experience was within a Nottinghamshire pupil referral unit, where she supported many learners to achieve their full potential.

Claire Bishop (MEd in Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, BA in Educational Studies)
Learning Manager and Transitions Lead

Claire has worked for R.E.A.L. Education since November 2013. Claire originally started as a Learning Manager for both KS3 & KS4. Recently joining the R.E.A.L. Independent school as the Transitions Lead. Claire has worked with children and young people with complex needs for the past 13 years – nine years working in a mainstream secondary school, five of these managing the Inclusion room. Claire has experienced many challenges which have enabled her to grow and become an experienced practitioner. Claire has a passion for working with children and young people, enjoying the challenge, and the benefits, of working with young people, and their families, in order to support their education and provide them with the necessary skills to grow successfully, so that they have a solid platform on which to build in the future.

Lauren Scott
Referral & Assessment Lead

(Bio coming soon!)

Subject Leads

Linda Rigley
PSHCE (Personal, Social, Health, and Citizen Education) Curriculum Lead

Linda has worked in education for over seventeen years, after qualifying as an English teacher at Nottingham Trent University. For the first 10 years of her career Linda was employed by a Nottingham – based college where she delivered English, art and personal development programmes in the community to vulnerable adults with complex needs. Linda has also delivered bespoke programmes in youth offending centres and in a pupil referral unit. Her roles, over the years, have included additional support lecturer, art lead, personal development coordinator and one-to-one/group tutor. Linda has been working for R.E.A.L. Education since November 2012 and now, in addition to the above, she delivers GCSE courses to include Citizenship and Art and Design. Linda became Subject Lead for PHSCE in 2013.

Joanne Whitby (BA (Hons) English, PGCE Secondary English, QTS)
English Subject Lead

Joanne has taught English Language and Literature to Key Stage 3 and 4 students for over ten years. During her teaching career Joanne has taught in both mainstream schools and alternative provisions including teaching GCSE English in a Nottingham City Pupil Referral Unit for five years. Joanne started working for R.E.A.L. Education at the beginning of 2015 as an English Teacher where she taught both Functional Skills and GCSE to both groups and 1:1 learners. Joanne was appointed as Key Stage 4 English Lead in September 2017 and she now teaches a majority of the GCSE English groups and supports other tutors in their delivery of literacy.

Richard Williams (BSc (Hons) Environmental Science, PGCE Geography)
Computing & ICT Lead

Richard has over 20 years teaching experience in a wide range of secondary schools, having taught Computing, ICT, Geography and History. He joined R.E.A.L. Education in 2014, having been a faculty lead in a large comprehensive school before then moving into senior leadership; working with the curriculum, timetable and student data.


Jane Harvey (PhD Juvenile Crime, BA (Hons) International Finance and Law, PGCE (3-7 years), Equine Assisted Learning – Introduction and Advanced)
Key Stage 2/3 Teacher

Jane has been working as a teacher for R.E.A.L. since January 2017. Prior to this, Jane has taught a vast range of learners from undergraduates in History to all curriculum areas in EYFS and Key Stage 1. Jane has particular expertise in Phonics. Jane has also been a support worker for Include, working with disengaged learners in the community. Jane currently delivers 1:1 sessions to R.E.A.L. learners with a focus on Maths and English across Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4. Jane is also developing her practice with working with her horses to facilitate learning in young learners.

Lindsey Philips (BA (Hons) Business Management, GTP (Primary Teaching)

Following a 10 year career in international business development, Lindsey completed her teacher training and now has over 8 years teaching experience. This experience spans mainstream and alternative provision, across Key Stages 1-4. Lindsey has lead curriculum subject areas (English) and mentored newly qualified teachers.

Specialist Teaching Assistants

Beth Farnsworth (BA hons Children and Playwork) 
Specialist Teaching Assistant

Beth has worked for R.E.A.L. since 2014 before joining the R.E.A.L. Independent School Team as a Specialist Teaching Assistant in 2016. Beth delivers a variety of subjects at all levels to different Key Stage students across R.E.A.L. and has years of experience working with children with mild to complex SEN. Beth has completed many online training courses beneficial to working with children and is also safeguarding and MAPA trained. Beth also works for the R.E.A.L. befriending service.

Kate Storrs (CACHE Level 2 Diploma in Child Care and Education, Apprenticeship – Level 3 Diploma for the Children and Young People’s Workforce)
Specialist Teaching Assistant

Kate started work for R.E.A.L. Education in 2012 as a 1:1 tutor and befriender. She has worked across all key stages and delivered a variety of subjects to her learners, as well as supporting learners to transition back into schools. She started her position as Specialist Teaching Assistant with the R.E.A.L. Independent School in September 2013. Kate has a younger brother with Asperger’s so can empathise and relate to parent/carers of children with ASD. Kate has undertaken Level 3 Autism Trust training , Safeguarding training, First Aid training, MAPA and Level 2 Food safety Hygiene.
Specialist Teaching Assistant

Alex Edwards
Specialist Teaching Assistant

Alex has been working for R.E.A.L. since August 2015. She is a Specialist Teaching Assistant at R.E.A.L. Independent School. Alex has a Level 3 Qualification in teaching and supporting young adults, Level 2 Autism, First aid training. She has worked across all Key Stages and delivered a variety of subjects to her learners, as well as supporting learners to transition back into schools. During her time at R.E.A.L. she has completed several courses including sexual health, mental health and drug awareness courses, Safeguarding training, MAPA, Her previous experience was within a Nottinghamshire pupil referral unit, where she supported many learners with behavioural and special needs to achieve their full potential.

Amanda Sharp
Specialist Teaching Assistant

Amanda has been working for R.E.A.L. since April 2013. She became a specialist teaching assistant at R.E.A.L. Independent School in September 2016. Amanda is the BTEC Home Cooking Lead as well as a befriender. Amanda has completed various Safeguarding courses, food hygiene, Level 2 Autism Trust Training, secure attachment training and various other training courses relating to working with young people who have SEND.

Catherine Connolly
Specialist Teaching Assistant

Catherine specialises in English and has been working for R.E.A.L. since 2012. She is currently studying for a PGCE qualification at the University of Derby. Catherine is also a professional puppeteer and creative practitioner and loves going to festivals! Catherine enjoys working with our young people very much. She feels that seeing them progress and achieve is very rewarding.

Matthew Bird (BA Hons, BSL Level 1, Autism Awareness Level 2)
Specialist Teaching Assistant

Matthew started working for R.E.A.L. in 2014 and he has over 10 years experience working with SEND students across the county and beyond. In the past he has been responsible for running the LEXIA
reading programme for students who have difficulty with reading and reading comprehension. He also has vast experience working with young people who are hard of hearing and deaf.

Jo McGonigle (BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies)
Specialist Teaching Assistant

Jo joined the team in 2013 having previously worked for R.E.A.L. Education for a year. Jo works as one of our KS2/KS3 specialist teaching assistants, who has many years of experience of working with children in a variety of different settings. Jo has a passion for working with children with complex needs to provide the education they deserve to give them the best opportunities possible.

Gemma Underwood
Specialist Teaching Assistant

Gemma is a specialist teaching assistant who joined R.E.A.L. Independent School in 2018 from R.E.A.L. Education. Gemma was a qualified swimming teacher for 20 years and is also a qualified first aider. She also previously managed a family entertainment centre; working with the public and putting on events for all ages.

Jordan Ward
Specialist Teaching Assistant

Bio coming soon!

Administration Team

Karan Coleman
Business Support R.I.S.


Mandy Sharpe
Business Support R.I.S.


R.E.A.L. Independent School