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 of Schools – Nikki Purcell (BEd Hons),  NPQSL

Nikki has been the Head Teacher of R.E.A.L Independent School since 2013.  She was appointed to Head of Schools for all four Independent in September 2020.  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.

Nikki has completed her level 2 course for Autism as well as multiple other SEND courses including PACE training, ADHD and has her BSL level 1 qualification.

Nikki is also the school SENCO, Designated Teacher and Designated Safeguarding Lead. (DSL)

Heads of Quality of Education
Chris Newman and Michelle Farr

Following graduation from a Criminology Degree at Nottingham Trent University, Chris took up a role working as a coach at West Bromwich Albion Football Club in their community hub, working predominantly in schools.  This role then turned into an academic coaching position and one of the schools he worked in presented an opportunity to complete his teacher training in their History Department.  After his Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT)  year, Chris was given the opportunity to be the Head of year 10 learners to cover maternity leave.


Chris then moved onto the Second in Department role at a large secondary school just outside of Birmingham, where he became the Head of Department a few years later.  After completing five years in this job, he moved on to an Assistant Headteacher role, with responsibility for the curriculum.  After five years in this role, Chris wanted a new challenge in a completely different setting, away from mainstream schools, and took a job at R.E.A.L. education in October 2019.   Initially Chris was employed as the Deputy Head on the Hinckley site but started his new role in September 2020 as Head of Quality of Education alongside Michelle Farr. Chris is also a trained Designated 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 and 5 learners. Michelle was appointed as Key Stage 4 and 5 Learning and Achievement Lead for R.E.A.L Independent School in 2013. Michelle has gained her level 3 qualification in Autism as well as attending other SEND courses.  She is currently undertaking her NPQSL. (National Professional Qualification for Senior Leaders)

Michelle and Chris were appointed Joint Heads of Quality of Education for all four of R.E.A.L Independent Schools  in September 2020.  Michelle and Chris will ensure that all learners have the opportunity to access a bespoke and high quality of educational package during their time with us. They are also trained Designated Safeguarding Leads.

Sophie Gascoyne – Head of Personal Development

Sophie graduated with a BSc Hons in Dance from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2012 and that same year she began her career working as a cover supervisor in a challenging inner city secondary school. She then completed the Schools Direct course in 2013, where she qualified with a PGDE to teach Dance before going on to become a successful Head of Year, managing Year 7-11.

In September 2019 Sophie joined the senior leadership team as Assistant Head Teacher at another challenging inner-city school in Nottingham where she oversaw the KS3 pastoral team, behaviour, attendance, safeguarding and Personal Development. Sophie was responsible for ensuring a smooth transition for students in Year 7, monitoring and tracking students with a Special Educational Need, safeguarding all pupils and ensuring they had access to an engaging Personal Development curriculum. She has delivered at the L.E.A.D Equate National Teacher Conference for RSE and written whole school PSHE/RSE curriculums.

R.E.A.L’s core values of trust, innovation and achievement is something Sophie believes in and values; her background and passion for inspiring students, regardless of their starting points and backgrounds, to reach their maximum potential empowers her to significantly impact learners progress and overall success. Sophie will go above and beyond to ensure that all learners are fully supported throughout school and leave R.E.A.L as successful citizens of society.

Alison Wellings (BEd Hons) – Head of Behaviour and Attitudes

Alison began working for R.E.A.L. Education in 2010 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 in addition to many other courses in the area of SEND including PACE training and attachment.  Alison was a qualified MAPA trainer from 2006 – 2009 and is currently undertaking her NPQSL. (National Professional Qualification for Senior Leaders)

Alison was appointed as Head of Behaviour and Attitudes for all four of R.E.A.L Independent Schools in September 2020.  Alison is responsible for monitoring and supporting attendance and behaviour across the schools. Alison is also a trained designated Safeguarding Lead.

Stacey Edwards –  (Primary Teaching and Learning BA with QTS)
Deputy Head, R.E.A.L. Independent Schools, Blidworth
Key Stage 2 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.  Stacey has completed many courses and qualifications in SEND including PACE training, Attachment and Autism.  She is currently undertaking her NPQSL. (National Professional Qualification for Senior Leaders)

Stacey was appointed as Deputy Head of Blidworth and Key stage 2 Lead in September 2020.  She is also a trained Designated Safeguarding Lead.

Sian Bullen – (BA Hons Drama and Education Studies. GTP Drama and Citizenship. QTS.)
Deputy Head, R.E.A.L. Alternative Provision Schools, Mansfield

Sian began working for REAL Education in September 2010. Initially working at the Ilkeston Sports group, she then moved on to personalised programmes and spent a year as a 1:1 tutor, progressing to Key Stage 4 Learning Manager role in 2012. Sian worked as Curriculum Lead and exams Lead for R.E.A.L Alternative Provision School between 2014 and 2020. 

As a qualified Drama and Citizenship Teacher, Sian has several years teaching experience in a variety of educational settings and a solid understanding of different exam boards and assessment requirements.

Sian has completed a Level 2 AIM Awards Course in Understanding Autism, is First Aid trained and has been MAPA trained. Sian is also a trained Designated Safeguarding Lead.

Claire Bishop – (MEd in Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, BA in Educational Studies)
Deputy Head, R.E.A.L. Independent Schools, Blidworth

Claire has worked for R.E.A.L. Education since November 2013. Claire originally started as a Learning Manager for both KS3 & KS4 learners. She joined the leadership team of  R.E.A.L. Independent school as the Transitions Lead in 2017. Claire has worked with children and young people with complex needs for the past 16 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.

Claire is due to undertake her Designated Safeguarding Lead training.

Victoria Meikle
Deputy Head, R.E.A.L. Independent Schools, Concorde House

Victoria has worked in education since 2013 and taught KS4 Art in a small Independent school for young people with a range of different learning barriers. This allowed her to focus on using Art as a tool to engage and reflect as well as gain soft skills and qualifications towards young people’s next steps in their futures. Victoria then began to manage the provision as a deputy and then as the centre manager where she was able to gain an OFSTED Outstanding for leadership and management and personal development, behaviour and welfare. Victoria’s target within this role was to improve the quality of education for all students, maintain high expectations and ensure that all students move onto appropriate and sustainable post-16 placements.

Victoria joined REAL in 2019 and worked as a part of the Real Alternative Provision School senior leadership team.  In September 2020 she was appointed to the position of Deputy of Concorde House.  Victoria is also a trained Designated Safeguarding Lead.

Margret Maramba – Deputy Head, R.E.A.L. Independent Schools, Hinckley

Margret joined the team at R.E.A.L. in August 2021. Margret had experience of using R.E.A.L. through the personalised educational provision it offers as a commissioner before becoming the Deputy Head of the Hinckley School. Prior to this she has worked as a youth worker in Peckham, London with young people aged 16-25 who struggled with complex issues and struggled to engage in mainstream education. Margret joined mainstream education as a volunteer Teaching Assistant over 12 years ago and has enjoyed working with children who needed 1:1 support. Upon qualifying as a Teacher, she has worked in a variety of roles, including; KS1 Manager; STEM Coordinator; Curriculum lead and then a Primary Deputy Head teacher in Leicester.

Margret is passionate about children with additional needs and is excited by her work at R.E.A.L. as the R.E.A.L Education values of Trust, Innovation and Achievement are deeply embedded within all that she does.

Dawn Hembrow – Schools Leadership Team Learning Manager

Dawn has worked for R.E.A.L. Education since September 2015 as a Learning Manager and then became a member of the R.E.A.L Independent School Leadership Team in 2017, where she was in charge of data collation and external provider Quality Assurance. Prior to working at R.E.A.L., Dawn 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.

Ellen Longmate – Schools Leadership Team Learning Manager

Ellen started working for REAL Education in October 2011.  Initially working as 1-1 tutor on the personalised programmes, then moved into the life skills group.  From there Ellen moved into the Referral and Intervention Team and spent two years working with young people who are new to REAL and engaging them into their programmes of support.

Ellen started working as a school Learning Manager for R.E.A.L Alternative provision School in 2019.  She now works across all four schools as a Learning Manager.

Ellen previously worked in mainstream school settings as an Emotional Literacy Support worker.  Working to support young people in education settings to understand and regulate their own emotions whilst respecting the feelings of those around them

Ellen has studied Criminology and Psychology at Open University.  She also has Level 2 AIM Awards in Understanding Autism, Level 3 in Education and Training, First Aid trained, and MAPPA trained.

Michele Fowler – Schools Leadership Team Learning Manager

Michele Fowler has worked in the education and training sector since 2000.  Initially a College Lecturer teaching vulnerable adults in homeless hostels, probation hostels and women’s refuges then moving onto management. 

Michele has managed Training and Learning Centres across the East Midlands, has worked with a range of Awarding Bodies and developed the curriculum to enable access for all learners. Michele began working for REAL Education in 2012 as a Key Stage 4 Learning Manager and AIM Award Co-ordinator. Michele transitioned to the Leadership Team at R.E.A.L Alternative Provision School  in June 2018 and is currently a School Learning Manager based at R.E.A.L Independent School Ilkeston.

R.E.A.L. Independent School