Staff Team

Emma Wood

My early career was spent alternating between corporate life, KPMG’s training department, and travelling. I spent two years in Australia before finally missing the rain and settling permanently in the UK. Once I had a family of my own, I decided a lifetime of commuting was not for me, so I redirected my professional life, specialising in English and gaining a first class honours degree in education.

After spending some time at a large local primary school as a Y6 teacher and leading English, I moved to Bronte School. I feel genuinely privileged to spend every day with such bright engaging children. Watching them progress through the school is a pleasure. For me the family atmosphere is what makes Bronte School so very special – each teacher gets to know each child as an individual – and, just like a family, there’s always a great deal of laughter.

Austen Hardwick
Deputy Head

After completing a Theatre Design Degree at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art, my teaching career began as head of Art and PE at Saint Paul’s Cathedral School. This role combined my passions of creativity, sport and music. I then pursued a vocation to work for The Salvation Army as a minister of religion, serving as an Officer in Yorkshire for seven years. I returned to primary education in 2010, working in two Kent schools as a teacher and Religious Education leader, before moving into management as a senior leader and becoming a Specialist Leader of Education for the Ashford Teaching Alliance.

Outside of school, I am a keen runner (completing two London Marathons – so far), guitarist and busy parent. I love being part of the team at Bronte, where I have the opportunity to combine my pastoral and academic qualifications in working with both children and parents. From the first day I arrived, Bronte felt like home.

2248 Nicki Mason

Nicola Mason
PA to Mrs Wood and Mr Clements, Office Manager and Registrar

From an early age I was aware that I wanted to work with children, an ambition I fulfilled after starting a family. I worked as Deputy Supervisor at my sons’ Pre-School for many years, whilst at the same time enjoyed being a childminder to many children. It was such a satisfying and rewarding job. My son joined Bronte School towards the end of his primary education and, as a parent, I could see what a wonderful place Bronte was, and still is.

As well as my role of PA to Mrs Wood, I am also the Office Manager, where I oversee the running of the School office. Based on the front desk, I help with the day-to-day aspects of school as well as helping and engaging with our pupils, answering parents’ queries and helping meet everyone’s needs. I am also School Registrar and deal with all School admissions, so if you have any queries that I can help you with, please let me know!

Susan Allison

The beginning of my career was spent working at The Gravesend Reporter Newspaper as an accounts manager, before moving to work at The Ministry of Defence in Whitehall.

In 1994 I moved to Texas, USA to live and continued working in accounts management. On returning to the UK in 2003 I moved into HR Management at Meopham Secondary School and gained my professional HR qualification with The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. My many responsibilities included payroll, pensions and personnel management – reporting to and advising the Headteacher.

Since joining Bronte School as Bursar in July 2016, I have been able to combine my HR and accounting experience in one role. I oversee the finance, HR and premises management of both the school and Bronte Nursery.

Outside of school I am a keen gardener and having my own allotment keeps me very busy, especially during the summer months. I have one grown-up daughter, who is also an ex-Bronte pupil!

2280 Kate Spain

Kate Spain
Financial Controller

I have a long connection with Bronte School! My mother joined as School Secretary in the mid 1980s and in the 90s my father became Bursar. I have been working behind the scenes for a number of years in my spare time, until April 2014 when I was employed full time. Two of my family are currently students at Bronte. I am in charge of the finance department and I am parents’ first port of call for advice on fees or payments and am always available to help – just ask!

2234 Amanda Prescott

Amanda Prescott
Year 6 Teacher, English Co-ordinator

I began my life in education as a Teaching Assistant when my own daughters were still at primary school. Whilst continuing in this role, I decided to embark on a degree in Education, initially on a part-time basis, and I finally qualified as a teacher in 2004. My time at Bronte began in 2007 and I have been fortunate enough to work with several Year groups – I’ve been a Year 5 teacher since 2009. I thoroughly enjoy supporting the annual residential trip to France and find my own French has also started to improve! As the Head of Learning Support, I enjoy working with my Learning Support Assistant, and all the other teaching staff, to ensure that each child reaches their full potential, whatever their ability or particular gift. I have a real love of reading, drama (in particular Shakespeare) and all things literature-related. I sincerely hope that I pass this passion onto the children in my care.

Sammi Walters
Year 5 Teacher, History & Geography Co-Ordinator

From a young age I knew I wanted to be a primary school teacher.

It therefore seemed obvious when I left Mayfield Grammar School in 2012, that I should study Primary Education with English at the University of Reading. After achieving a first class honours degree, I could not wait to get into the classroom!

Since qualifying as a teacher, I have taught both Year 5 and Year 6. Whilst I am very familiar with the academic demands of the upper school, I am equally committed to overall excellence across the curriculum and aspire to nurture each child’s learning, growth and development. I aim to teach an engaging, balanced curriculum as I believe that the most effective classroom is one where individuality and difference are celebrated.

Outside of school, I enjoy reading, cooking and spending time with my family and friends. I also love to travel and explore the beauty of different countries and their cultures.

Rummy Singh
Head of Upper School, Year 4 Teacher, Computer Science Co-ordinator

Born and bred in Gravesend, my entire life seems to have been set on a path to teach especially in our community. I attended local schools where my passion for teaching was ignited. After completing my Honours degree in Education, I began and developed my career over 17 years in a local school, learning the skills that allowed me to welcome the challenge of a move to Bronte School. Since joining the school I have been rewarded with experiences, colleagues and parents that make this career choice and path seem one of the best professional decisions I have made. The enthusiasm and thirst for learning shown by the children of Bronte, never ceases to amaze me and ensuring the curriculum is alive and engaging for them is extremely rewarding.

When I am not teaching, I am a mother of two gorgeous children, and wife of a photographer. I am also a self-taught hair and makeup artist – another passion in my life!

Annette Durkin
Year 3 Teacher, Mathematics Co-ordinator

I grew up in the Gravesend area and attended Mayfield Grammar School. Upon leaving school, I spent a short while travelling America, then worked for two years in London for Mitsubishi before I had a complete change of mind and decided to pursue a career in teaching. After graduating from the University of Greenwich, I joined a local primary school where I worked for twenty years teaching every year group from Foundation to year 6 as well as leading maths. I was delighted to be selected to work at Bronte and I love absolutely everything about the school.

I am mother to two beautiful children; a son and a daughter and I am very happily married to my husband who is a diver. We spend a lot of time together as a family, enjoying days out and great holidays abroad.

2333 Rachel Lonergan

Rachel Lonergan
Year 2 Teacher, Science Co-ordinator

Before becoming directly involved in education I enjoyed a career in theatre production and development, including stage management on a number of West End shows such as Les Miserables and Me and My Girl. Ultimately, a love of writing and my theatre experience led to a position at the National Theatre, London, where I was tasked specifically with developing new writing. I retrained to teach after starting a family. My daughter joined Bronte as a pupil in 2011 and I was thrilled to join the staff shortly afterwards. I love the variety of my current role and I am reminded every day that teaching is a privilege. Beyond school I enjoy spending time with my family, thinking really hard about running and threatening to write that novel.

Navneet Dhillon
Year 1 Teacher, RE Co-ordinator

During my time at University studying English Literature I volunteered in schools running small intervention groups. I always knew I wanted to work with young children and had the opportunity to train with Schools Direct. I passed with a final grade of ‘Outstanding’.

I began my teaching career working in a special education school which gave me an opportunity to learn about the many different ways children learn and how we can support this by using creative and engaging techniques. I have a passion for promoting each individual child’s learning, growth and development.

Since, I have continued teaching in schools in Gravesend and outer London. I have worked in Reception, Year 1, Years 3 and 4. Outside of school life I have a passion for football! I play for a Gravesend Ladies football team and also assist with coaching. When there’s time, I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends.

Sharon Kybert
Head of Lower School, Reception Teacher, EYFS Co-ordinator

An interesting career journey has led to my current post as Reception class teacher at Bronte. This has included working with physically disabled children in a special school and as part of a busy innercity Speech and Language Therapy Department. My teaching career began as my own children embarked upon their own journeys into primary school. I have enjoyed working in Early Years for the best part of my teaching career. I recognise the enormous impact that a high quality Early Years experience can have on our youngest children and strive to ensure the children with whom we work are engaged as learners, are confident, well-motivated and importantly, have as much fun as possible! When not making play dough or experimenting with slime recipes I tend to find my time taken up with my own family commitments. I have three daughters, the youngest herself a pupil at Bronte School. I also enjoy a large and ever growing extended family.

2375 Carole Lakha

Carole Lakha
Kindergarten Teacher

I trained and worked as an Approved Driving Instructor for many years until family commitments became too demanding! My four children attended Bronte School, and having regularly volunteered at the school, I formally joined as a Teaching Assistant in 2011 after gaining my Diploma. I then went on to be awarded a Special Educational Needs Diploma in 2012. Having recently been awarded, with distinction, the Foundation degree, I am currently working towards gaining my BA(Hons).
Having worked in Reception Class for many years I was very excited to be appointed Kindergarten Teacher in 2016 and have enjoyed helping to educate, nurture and guide our youngest children in the school as they embark on their educational journey.
Outside of work I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, reading and driving.

Luke Johnson
Head of PE

After studying Sports Science at the University of Roehampton, I started my Sports Teaching career in America. I spent 6 months of 2006 Coaching Soccer on the East Coast, from Baltimore to South Carolina. For the past 9 years I have been Teaching Primary School PE in Lambeth, Lewisham, Bromley, Dartford, Greenwich and parts of Kent.

I currently sit on the All Party Parliamentary Group for a Fit and Healthy Childhood and am a huge believer in the power of Sport and PE to improve each and every child’s school experience. I am incredibly excited to be working at Bronte and will make time to get to know every parent and explain my visions for School Sport at our school.

Katharine Barwell
Language teacher

Having completed a degree in French and German at the University of Nottingham, I began my teaching career at Highsted Grammar School where I had the pleasure of teaching both languages to A-Level standard.

After six years at the school, I decided to take a career break and focus on raising my own family. However, I found that I really missed the buzz of teaching and consequently I began to volunteer at my children’s primary school. I was soon asked by the school to teach German from Year 3 to Year 6 and I quickly discovered that I loved working with primary age children who were so full of enthusiasm and joie de vivre.

Bronte School is, in my mind, a very special school in that it places true value on languages. I am delighted to be working in such a setting and see each day as a privilege and an opportunity to pass on my own love of languages.

Outside of school, I am at my happiest spending time with my beautiful family and I am currently embarking on a new challenge of teaching myself a new language, Mandarin. It reminds me how tricky learning a new language can be and just how talented the Bronte children are!

Mark Dickins
Year 5 Teaching Assistant

I was born and brought up in the Potteries but later moved to the South East to pursue a career in the construction industry as a Consultant for a land reclamation company. I was involved in many projects, including a marina in Suffolk and Stockley Park in West London. A change of direction saw me spend some time in the animal feeds industry, before eventually joining the education sector some twenty years ago while my daughters were small and I was a stay at home Dad. I have worked in primary schools since, progressing to become an HLTA in 2007. I have really enjoyed the varied roles and challenges I’ve encountered whilst gaining a wealth of experience from years 2 to 6.

Outside of work I have a passion for sport having played competitive football for 30+ years and tennis on a weekly basis. Time permitting, cycling and walking challenges have been a ‘pleasant’ distraction.

I am now really looking forward to using my skills and knowledge to further support, develop and extend the children of Bronte School. I’m excited by the challenge.

2483 Natasha Kitsell

Natasha Kitsell
Year 4 Teaching Assistant

After my youngest child started school I volunteered as a parent helper at his school. It was during this time that I decided that a career in education was something I wanted to pursue.

I completed several courses to better equip me for such a role and started work as a Teaching Assistant, supporting Gifted and Talented pupils in Key Stage 1. During my time as a TA I have also undertaken studies with the Open University, leading me to fulfil my ambition to undertake a university degree course! Whilst continuing to work as a TA, I attended Canterbury Christchurch University and graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in Childhood Studies in addition to gaining Higher Level Teaching Assistant status, enabling me to perform a variety of roles within school.

Nikky Botley
Year 3 Teaching Assistant

On leaving school, I completed a three year course in Child Welfare and Education and was then successful in securing a job with the National Autistic Society as a residential support worker. This fantastic role taught me so much about children as individuals and established my interest in additional needs. I continued in this role for 9 years and moved between residential care, the main school site and further education.

I then took a career break when I had my children, two energetic sporty boys. Once both my sons were in full time education I returned to work in a specialist education provision for children with ASD, based within a mainstream secondary school, but soon moved to a mainstream primary to work in a nurture/support class for children with additional needs. During this time, I continued my studying to complete a three year course in Therapeutic Play, as well as achieving my HLTA status.

In December 2015 I was pleased to become a part of the Bronte family – working in Year 3 as well as providing specialist interventions. When not at school I enjoy spending time with family and friends, travelling and reading.

Anita Ellis
Year 2 Teaching Assistant

After leaving school I started work at Nat West Bank, enjoying the variety of many different roles. However once I had my first daughter I decided that commuting to London wasn’t for me and began child minding my nephew. Once I had my second daughter I became a parent helper at their school and realised that this was really an enjoyable and fulfilling role.

Shortly afterwards I began working at my children’s Pre-School gaining qualifications in Early Years child care and Education and became the Deputy Supervisor at the Pre-School.

In 2012 an opportunity arose to work with older children and I left to become a Teaching assistant at a local school, a role which I love. I am looking forward to a new challenge, supporting the children at Bronte School.

Julie Hilditch
Year 1 Teaching Assistant

Having my own children made me realise that I wanted to be more involved in the nurturing and education of children. I have worked in several schools as a Pre-School Assistant, Lunchtime Supervisor, volunteer and member of the PTA.

I joined Bronte School in 2014 and completed my Teaching Assistant qualification and am now very excited to be working as the Year 1 Teaching Assistant. Outside school I enjoy spending time with my family, going to the theatre, travelling and arts and crafts.

2424 Marianne Eggleton

Marianne Eggleton
Kindergarten Teaching Assistant

Following a travel and tourism course I spent a year working in Germany before deciding a life abroad was not for me. I returned to work in London for a few years before starting a family. It was when my children first started at their primary school I got my first taste of working with children. I signed up as a volunteer to help out in their classes and loved it so much I continued for the next 12years. This was an experience I have never looked back from. I set my heart on working with children from that moment and was delighted to join Bronte in the spring of 2015. In my spare time I enjoy taking my dog for long walks through the countryside and also watch a lot of football as both my boys are keen players.

Zoe Taylor
Reception Class Teaching Assistant

Having worked for Coutts & Co, London, in International Private Banking for many years, I left to start a family. Once my youngest son started school, I regularly volunteered to help in class and soon realised I loved working with children. I took up a position as Teaching Assistant at my local primary school and began specialising in Speech and Language, progressing to become the Speech and Language Mentor on the Pastoral Support Team.

I left after several happy years and moved on to another local school in order to support a fantastic little boy with additional needs on a 1:1 basis, which I found enormously rewarding. I have also recently gained experience working in a local specialist unit supporting children with Speech, Language and Communication difficulties.

In my spare time I enjoy gardening, DIY and spending time with my husband and two sons.

Shisho Basra
Reception Class Teaching Assistant

I started my career working as a Bilingual teaching assistant at Kent Language Support. After starting a family and returning from maternity leave, my role took me into a local nursery where I realised my passion for early years. I consequently undertook specific early years training, receiving a Distinction in BTEC Nursery Nursing, before taking a position where I worked across a group of five schools. Due to the extensive travelling required for the role, I decided to move to a school close to home where I spent 19 years in the Foundation Stage. During this time I kept my skills and knowledge up-to-date through a variety of courses and training as I am passionate about supporting the children I work with, to the very best of my ability.

Outside of school, my spare time is spent with my family and friends. I am also a qualified weight management leader and run classes in the evening. I am looking forward to beginning a new chapter in my career at Bronte School, everyone has made me feel very welcome and I am impressed by the wonderfully caring and nurturing ethos the school has.

Susan Cochrane
Head of Learning Support

I began my teaching career at thirty-six achieving a life-long ambition to become a teacher. I have always been fascinated with how children learn and taught in two local primary schools for about twelve years taking classes from Reception to Y6. However, I found that during my time teaching I became increasingly fascinated with what can prevent children from learning effectively and this led me to become the Inclusion Manager and Assistant Head at a local primary school but this meant I had no time for teaching. I’m really looking forward to the SENCO role at Bronte School as I will not only be managing the learning support provision but will also be teaching small groups.

I am married to Ralph and have four sons and two grandsons. I enjoy going to the cinema and the theatre, spending time with my family and friends, trips to the seaside, going to concerts, gardening and baking.

Katie Hickmott
School Nurse

I have always known I wanted to work with children, and since qualifying as a paediatric nurse in 2001, I have thoroughly enjoyed working alongside young people and their families.

I started my career on the children’s ward at Medway Maritime Hospital where I worked for 8 years. After starting a family I decided to take a position in the community, which I felt gave me a much better work/ life balance. Prior to joining Bronte in 2016, I worked as a Community Staff Nurse based in a School Nursing Team, and worked across a number of schools in Medway. My role included health screening, health education, compiling care plans and providing advice to children and parents regarding health issues.

My aim is to promote the health and well-being of all the children and love being part of the Bronte team. Outside of school I am a busy mum of 3 beautiful girls, and enjoy spending time with my family and friends.

2190 Sarah Sutherland

Sarah Sutherland
Catering Manager

I have always enjoyed cooking and on leaving school I attended catering college and then worked for a catering company. I then went on to run my own kitchen in a restaurant for many years before having my family. I joined Bronte in October 2011 as a lunchtime supervisor after being lucky enough to have had seven years at home with my children. I realised quickly that I wanted to get back into cooking on a large scale rather than just for my partner Tony and our two children. The hot lunches were being prepared off site at this time, so I worked with the proprietors to set up a kitchen on site. The rest is history!

My role as the school chef is to provide healthy nutritious meals which the children will enjoy. I like to involve the children when I am constructing new termly menus as I feel their input is invaluable. I try to use local suppliers where possible and support our local businesses.

I provide an early bird breakfast club where a variety of cereals and toast are available, finishing the week with a bacon butty treat on a Friday.

Paula Smith
Office Administrator

After pursuing a 10 year career as a Secretary for a Shipping Company my husband and I decided to start a family. After our youngest child started nursery I volunteered as a Parent Helper and quickly realised that working with children was fulfilling, enjoyable and rewarding.

After completing two Early Years Childcare courses I began working as a Teaching Assistant at a local Infant School, a position that I held for seven years.

Now my children are older I decided to combine my skills and I joined Bronte School as a Receptionist and am now enjoying my role as Office Administrator.

Les Butler
Site Manager

After working at Meopham Secondary School for 25 years as their Site Manager, I was very happy to join Bronte School in December 2016.

I have many interests including antiques, fly fishing, clay pigeon shooting, golf and birds of prey – I have even raised an Eagle Owl from a chick and he is now 10 years old! I am married with 2 children and have two lovely grandsons, Thomas and Henry, who keep me busy.

You may see me around and about the School building due to the variety in my job, which I very much enjoy.