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 20 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 Pete Vik, Deputy Headteacher

Mr Vik began his career in 2010 as a newly qualified teacher with a specialism in Physical Education after studying sports science and completing a PGCE at University. Mr Vik realised his passion for leadership early on in his career and he quickly progressed into a role in middle leadership. He became the Head of year 11 and then went on to be the Head of Year 7, 8 and 9 when he also became an associate Academy Leader.

Mr Vik took on his first senior leadership role as an Assistant Head Teacher at Trinity School in Sevenoaks where he led on whole school behaviour and attendance. He then moved into his second leadership role at Hartsdown Academy where he became a Deputy Head teacher.

He is currently enrolled on the Ambition School Future Leaders programme and is undertaking his NPQH (National Professional Qualification for Headship). This programme provides world-class leadership training with the aim of developing exceptional leaders at all levels. Mr Vik hopes to achieve his ambition of becoming a Head teacher in the next 5 years

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 completed 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”.

Mrs Lynne Morris, Assistant Headteacher

Mrs Morris has spent all her life in education leaving Clarendon House, Ramsgate in 1982 to study for a B Ed Hons in Education and Religious Studies at St Martins College, Lancaster. She began teaching 33 years ago and her first teaching post was at Sandringham Junior School, London. After two years Mrs Morris returned to Thanet to teach at Northdown CP School (the school she attended as a child). Mrs Morris stayed at Northdown for 13 fantastic years having led Mathematics, Geography and IT.

She then made a decision to transition into secondary education and taught Maths at Hereson Boys School for 2 years before realising her passion was working with children and young people with challenging behaviour. Northwood PRU was Mrs Morris’ next stop where she spent 7 years developing within her chosen specialism teaching and supporting children in KS3 with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. Whilst at Northwood she taught maths and science and was within a year was offered the Deputy role. She spent some of her working week at other local mainstream secondary schools delivering demonstration lessons, CPD and providing support to mainstream teachers focussing on managing challenging behaviour.

In 2008, Mrs Morris moved into the independent sector at Heath Farm School, Ashford where the highlight of her time was setting up their successful off- site Sixth Form. This experience setting up a new provision stood her in good stead for her next and most recent challenge as Head of ARC at Hartsdown, the school’s off- site provision for students who have found the mainstream environment difficult to manage and who were at risk of permanent exclusion.

Miss Ellie Hurley, Assistant Headteacher

Miss Hurley completed her BA in English and History at University of Southampton gaining an upper second honours degree in 2011. Whilst at university, Miss Hurley had the opportunity to teach creative writing to year 7 students in a high school in Southampton and it was there she discovered her passion for teaching and working with young people. Following university, she sought to gain more experience with young people by becoming a teaching assistant at Hartsdown Academy. Here, she was able to work one-on-one supporting students with class and helping them to make the progress. This experience cemented her desire to teach.

Miss Hurley studied for her PGCE at Canterbury Christ Church University, undertaking placements at two local schools , Charles Dickens School and Ellington and Hereson School, before securing her first teaching position at King Ethelbert School where she taught for five years. During her time at King Ethelbert, she moved from English teacher to Deputy Head of English to Acting Head of English, gaining experience and helping students to achieve excellent GCSE results.

She re-joined Hartsdown Academy in September 2018 as Assistant Head responsible for whole school English and says returning to the academy is like ‘coming home’. She is passionate about assisting Hartsdown students to reach their potential and enjoy their English studies.

Mrs Charlotte Rigden, Assistant Headteacher

Mrs Rigden’s career in education started in a primary school, but moved onto Hartsdown in 2004 initially in an admin position.  However, her desire to join the teaching team and her passion for English drove her to continue her professional studies by gaining an English degree and QTS.

She continued her love for English through the teaching in that department but also became a Head of house, then a head of year.  Within this time, she was able to work on and develop a number of projects with the aim of supporting and developing many students within the pastoral element of the school.

In 2017, she was appointed onto the Senior Leadership Team as the Head of KS4 and is now committed to ensuring our students have the best possible journey through their GCSE’s and guiding them onto their future paths.

Mrs Emma Britcher, Assistant Headteacher

Mrs Britcher originally studied Law at the University of Kent and after graduating with first class honours in 1997 went on to work in a solicitors’ practice in south London and taught employment law and a range of adult education courses.
Her experience working with adults who had not had access to a good quality of education led her to decide to become a secondary school teacher and so she began a degree in Natural Sciences with the Open University whilst bringing up her young children. She chose science as this had always been a subject she was passionate about but lacked the confidence to pursue at school. After graduating with first class honours in 2008 she joined St Anselm’s Catholic School to complete her GTP.

During her time at St Anselm’s; Mrs Britcher became Deputy Head of Science and gained experience in raising standards of teaching and learning as the school moved to a ‘good’ judgement from Ofsted.

In 2014 she joined the Community College Whitstable as a science teacher and Head of Mini-school. She was then asked to lead the newly formed Grammar Stream before stepping up to Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for Higher Prior Attainers. During this time she also completed a MA in Education.
Mrs Britcher had been interested in working in her local community of Thanet for some time and after being a key part of the team which moved CCW from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’, decided to join Hartsdown Academy as Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for Science. She is committed to raising the standards of science teaching so that all students are able to enjoy and reach their potential in this subject which offers so many career opportunities.