Meet the Leadership Team

Mr Matthew Tate, Headteacher
Mr Tate started his career in ICT. He went on to study Theology, gaining a First Class Honours Degree through Moorlands College, before doing a PGCE and entering teaching.  At an early stage in his career he was recognised as an exceptional teacher and potential Headteacher, and was encouraged to apply to join the prestigious ‘Future Leaders Programme’. After entering the programme in 2008, his subsequent appointments were designed to help him gain experience for headship; and to contribute to schools which were aiming to raise their standards.

  • Trinity School, Sevenoaks. Mr Tate was the founding Headteacher opening the school in 2013. The school achieved a Good rating from Ofsted within 5 terms of opening and in 2015 was the 7th most popular school in Kent.
  • The Hundred of Hoo School, Rochester.  Mr Tate was Deputy Head, joining as part of a new leadership team tasked to take it out of Special Measures. Ofsted noted rapid improvement, rating behaviour and special needs as ‘Good’. Once this was achieved, Mr Tate was able to continue his preparation for headship by being seconded as Associate Head to support the leadership of two other schools in Kent: Furness Special School and subsequently Hextable School.
  • Trinity Church of England School, Lewisham. Mr Tate joined this school when it was in ‘National Challenge’. He was responsible for behaviour, and for achievement in Year 11. Trinity is now rated as one of the top performing 100 schools in England in terms of the progress it has made, and is rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted.
  • Lampton School, Hounslow. Mr Tate started his Future Leader’s residency at this Outstanding school where he worked as an Associate Deputy Head.

Mrs Charlie Barber, Deputy Headteacher

Mrs Barber started her career as a qualified secretary in Kent.  Mrs Barber then went on and started her teaching career in the year 2000 teaching post 16, once gaining her Advanced Certificate in Education in ICT/Business and Special Educational Needs.   Realising that secondary school teaching is where her heart laid, she gained her QTS to teach secondary school students in 2005 with her main degree being in Educational Studies. 

After joining Hartsdown in 2003 as a trainee teacher in ICT and Business, and personally embarking on new programmes of study over the years, she undertook additional training to become a Scholar with the NCSL Leadership Pathway programme.  Having gained fantastic experience within the school from starting as a trainee teacher to Head of Faculty, and then taking on the challenge within the Senior Leadership Team, it was apparent that Mrs Barber had a clear sense of direction of wanting to improve the education we offer our young people of today.  With this in mind, she is just about to complete her NPQH (National Professional Qualification for Headship). 

Another interest of Mrs Barber is engaging in charity events around Kent.  Both within and outside the academy.

Ms Jessica Gipson, Deputy Headteacher

From an early age, Miss Gipson always knew she wanted to become a teacher. Due to her love of Mathematics at secondary school she continued this and gained a BSc in Mathematics at University of Kent, before completing a PGCE.

She has taught for 16 years and worked in a number of Kent Schools, initially as an outstanding Maths teacher and Pastoral Leader, then progressing to Head of Maths. In her previous role as Assistant Principal she led the staff and students to achieving a 15% increase GCSE results in a year, from 36% to 51%. The following two years saw further increases.

She is passionate about students achieving their very best and continuing their education at University or in apprenticeships.


Mr Harvey Ovenden, Assistant Headteacher

Mr Ovenden’s passion for learning began at school, where the experiences and teaching he received would inspire him to go into teaching himself. After completing secondary school he then went on to study Music at Royal Holloway University of London, gaining an Upper Second Class Honours. Upon leaving university he further explored his passion for Music through journalism and PR and teaching through TEFL, working at the Chambre de Commerce in France.

Mr Ovenden completed his initial teacher training to be a teacher in 2011 before joining Hartsdown in the September of that year. Starting as an NQT he went on to become Head of Music and Media, presiding over the best ever GCSE results for both subjects (78% and 80% A*-C respectively) as well as founding the highly successful Sixth Form Music course. In 2015 he joined the Senior Leadership Team as an associate, coinciding with his enrolment on the highly regarded Teaching Leaders programme, which he is due to complete in 2017.

Mr Darren Stevenson, Assistant Headteacher

Mr Stevenson started teaching in West London in 2000, and spent 17 years at Acton High school.  He was a year team leader for 12 of those years, seeing three different cohorts of students through.  As well as a significant pastoral role, he was also Head of Sociology, Health and Social Care and Travel and Tourism.  He was also one of the founding teachers of the school’s sixth form when they introduced A-Level Politics and Sociology to the curriculum.

In 2016, Mr Stevenson was made Head of Inclusion and an Associate Assistant Headteacher.  This role involved working within the SEN, Safeguarding and EAL team to ensure that every student had the best opportunity for success.

Mr Stevenson joined Hartsdown in January 2018 as Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for SEN and Safeguarding.

“Education is an important part of everybody’s life cycle and we all need to be the best we can possibly be”.