Our Team

Ross Robens Principal and Proprietor

Ross is the founder and Principal of TPS. Throughout his 20 years of teaching and training he has taught English, Maths, History, Religious Studies and Philosophy. Ross specialises in History and Philosophy and teaches both at KS3 and GCSE. He lives in Totnes with his wife, two lovely daughters and a puppy.

Dale Lockett Director 

Dale is the school’s Director of Well-Being. He is a certified master-level life coach, who is passionate about connecting young people to their potential. His training and experience in the field of coaching and personal development is used extensively throughout the school, with students and staff utilising one-to-one life coaching as a core element of their growth and development. Dale was a lecturer in Coaching and Mentoring at Haaga Helia University of Helsinki.

Laura Manley Head Teacher & English

Laura is the school's Head Teacher and teaches English Language and Literature. A key part of the school's leadership team, Laura is a passionate teacher, engaging students to do their very best. She lives on an organic farm in Ashburton.

Fiona Woods Foundation & Lower School Deputy Head Teacher

Fiona has enjoyed working as a Primary School Teacher for over 25 years and joined Totnes Progressive School shortly after it opened in 2013.

Her experience has helped her to see that children and young people need to feel safe and respected to learn well. With this in mind, she always endeavours to create close bonds with her pupils and welcome their parents.

She believes that children will learn well if we make the lessons interesting, fun, purposeful and with an appropriate amount of challenge. It is also important to give the pupils a clear idea of what they need to do to make good progress.

She hopes that close relationships, together with the quality learning experiences that we provide, will help all our pupils develop self confidence and a lifelong love of learning that they will continue to enjoy long after they have left TPS.

Simon Bowley Geography & Upper School Deputy Head Teacher

Growing up in Africa and the Middle East provided wonderful opportunities to experience a wide variety of culture and landscapes and this inspired him to pursue geography at International Baccalaureate level and then to read the subject at the University of Bristol. Simon has a wealth of experience teaching geography at secondary level and was previously Head of Geography at Torquay Girls' Grammar School. He is able to now share his love of the outdoors with students by offering the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme at TPS.

Anna Speedy Music

Anna teaches music from Foundation to Year 11. We currently run both BTEC and GCSE Music. In the lower school we study music from all over the world and from all periods in history up to the present day. Higher up the school we start to focus more on composition, using inspiration from different genres of music.

Nick Trussler ICT

Nick is an IT and Digital Media specialist having taught for 20 Years in Music Technology. He has written courses for The Open University, The British Council, Edexcel and City and Guilds, as well as Degree courses for the University of Plymouth and the University of St Marks and St Johns. He was the manager of 'dBs Music' in Berlin - a facility which Nick and his family developed while living in Berlin for two years. He was recently awarded the status of 'DIgital Schoolhouse' lead teacher after going through an application process awarding this special status to the school.

Charlotte Skinner Chemistry

Charlotte has studied biomedical science to postgraduate level, with an emphasis on personalised medicine and genomics. During her teacher training she specialised in Chemistry, and has taught all three sciences to KS4 and Biology and Chemistry to KS5.

Kat Steel Administrator

Kat is a key member of the TPS team, who loves how varied and interesting her job is. Her main aim is to ensure that every student, parent or visitor is greeted warmly and feels they can approach her with any query, no matter how large or small.

Sarah Topley Art

After completing her fine art degree and masters degree at Wimbledon School of Art and The Slade School, she lived in France for 20 years. There she brought up her daughters, painted and taught art and english to primary and secondary aged children. She is so happy to be teaching at the joyful family that is Totnes Progressive School, as it allows her to help the students explore and release their creativity.

 Kate Lentern - SENCo

Kate brings a wealth of knowledge to her position as SENDCo. With twenty years experience teaching both primary and secondary aged children, she is passionate about helping each and every child achieve their very best. She is keen to learn the strengths of every student and understand how each individual child learns best. Working together with students, staff and families, Kate ensures all children are given the opportunity to soar.

Lotta Svinhufvud-Lockett - Admissions Lead

The first point of contact for prospective parents, Lotta has watched TPS grow from the very beginning; now her three children are all students here. Lotta has a PhD in Performance Studies and for her thesis she created performative guided tours of her childhood home turned museum in Finland - so it is natural for her to be the tour guide of the school for future TPS families! 

Beth Waistnidge - 1:1 Academic Support 

As a member of the SENco team Beth works 1:1 with a range of students offering creative, tailored learning, designed to best help them achieve their academic goals. Beth provides support in a wide range of topics however her focus currently is guiding students through Functional Skills English and Maths. When not working you'll find Beth studying Mandarin and baking!

Sam Gaitley - TA and Activities Coach 

Sam is currently a trainee teacher, studying for a QTS with a PGCE, specialising in History. He studied Ancient History at Cardiff University and is keen rugby player and an avid reader.

Kiri Harris - Biology Teacher 

Kiri is not only an enthusiastic scientist, but is passionate about people and their wellbeing. After gaining a Bachelor's degree at Liverpool University in Anatomy and Human Biology, and PGCE in Birmingham, Kiri pursued teaching secondary school Science. During the nearly 20 years of experience that she has in teaching, she has succeeded in many roles, including Head of Department. Kiri has a curious and compassionate nature and holds a keen interest in emotional development and mental health. Other passions in Kiri's life include her children, running with her dog, wild swimming, good food and creative crafts.

Sarah-Jayne Stroud - Office Reception Administrator 

SJ is our reception administrator but is also one of our ToPS alumni, she returned to ToPS to work after attending college and completing an internship in Dublin! She is the first port of call for parents and students and thoroughly enjoys helping out wherever she can.

Sara Crozier - Spanish Teacher 

Sara is passionate and enthusiastic about teaching and learning Spanish and the opportunities and experiences that can be afforded by understanding different languages. Sara learnt Spanish during an extended period living and working in Mexico and has family in Mexico City and the state of Oaxaca.

On returning to the England she completed her studies in Languages and then went on to do a Masters Degree in Applied Linguistics at Edith Cowen University in Western Australia.

 Her most recent teaching experience has been at St. James School Exeter where she was involved in the Department for Education Languages Hub. She also worked at St. Cuthbert Mayne School previously for four years and at The King's School in Ottery St. Mary, an Ofsted ‘Outstanding School’ for six years.  At The King’s School she taught across all Key Stages including A- Level SpanishShe was responsible for the ‘Gifted and Talented and Able and Talented’ students in Languages at both St. Cuthbert Mayne and The King’s. This has entailed identifying students who are demonstrating exceptional skills in languages and those who could potentially study languages at university.Her role was to support and mentor the students, promote languages within the school and ensure that the ability of these students was recognised.


 Ghislaine Chapman - Teaching Assistant and First Aid Lead

Ghislaine is a Nightingale Nurse who trained at St. Thomas’ Hospital London.
She specialised in Palliative Care for many years before moving to Early Years Education.
After some time as a Teaching Assistant in a Primary School, she came to TPS to work in a Secondary setting.
As a Teaching Assistant, Ghislaine enjoys supporting students one to one and looking after the medical needs of all students.

 Lindsay Braga - Designated Safeguard Lead

Lindsay has been involved in school admin since the very beginning of Totnes Progressive School, wanting to help the vision come to reality, and all four of her children are current or past students. She is also a violinist and violin teacher and values the relationship you can build with children on a 1:1 basis over several years. Taking the role of Safeguarding and Pastoral Lead seemed a natural progression to her involvement in the school, as making sure that children are as confident and happy as possible is at the heart of all that we try to do.

Kim Clayton - Learning Support Teacher

 Kim has worked in education for over thirty years, teaching a range of ages as well as taking on a variety of management responsibilities. Being at TOPS allows her to do what she enjoys most - supporting the students. As Learning Support Teacher, Kim works in partnership with parents, teachers and other professional colleagues to implement the strategies identified for individual students. With a caring, positive and empathetic approach, Kim aims to make the curriculum accessible to all her students and of course to make it fun too!

Verity Boyle English 

 Verity teaches English Language and Literature to Key Stage 4. Interested in travel and other cultures, Verity worked in Japan teaching English and then moved into secondary teaching on return to this country. She is an experienced teacher and has worked in several local schools over the last 18 years, most recently as Deputy Head of English at Churston Ferrers Grammar School. She was Principal Examiner for English Language A Level and has marked GCSE and A Level examinations for several different exam boards for many years. She marks for the current examinations sat for GCSE English Language at TPS which helps her to focus lessons tightly to ensure students achieve their highest potential. Verity is the TPS HR Manager. She enjoys time with her husband, two young sons and puppy walking by the coast and in the local countryside.

Damon Masukume Maths and Physics

Damon is a high school Maths & Physics specialist having taught Maths and Physics for 15 years both in Zimbabwe and South Africa. His areas of speciality is Pure Mathematics and Mechanics. Damon received several accolades of excellency in Maths and Physical Sciences during his tenure in South Africa. He holds a Bachelor of Education Degree ( Maths and Physics) which he graduated with a Cum Laude (Passed with Distinction) with a total of 28 Distinctions from the University of South Africa. He also holds a Diploma in Secondary Education - Mathematics from the University of Zimbabwe. Damon loves working with children and he feels complete when a child has attained his/her full potential in the subjects he teaches.

Zoe Bright English and Activities 

Zoe is delighted to join the Top School team. After teaching for many years  at a small private school in Nottinghamshire, Zoe has recently moved to Devon with her family. She has a background in teaching English, Activities, Dance and Drama. Zoe has a BA Honours Degree in 'English and Special Needs Studies' and a PGCE in Secondary English from the University of Worcester. Zoe enjoys dance, netball, rugby, martial arts, walking her dogs, painting and playing guitar

 Tiffany Strawson Drama

Tiffany has twenty five, richly diverse years of experience in professional theatre contexts as a performer, director, producer and designer. As an educator, Tiffany has worked mainly in Asia, as a staff trainer for ‘ISTA’; International Schools Theatre Association. She has also taught in most of Devon’s secondary schools in the capacity of director of Devon Youth Theatre, as part of Devon Arts in Schools Initiative. Tiffany has also lectured drama and theatre arts in regional and national universities; she holds an MA in devised theatre and a PhD in intercultural-devised theatre and ritual.  She is passionate about how drama is a creative source of expression, how its transferable skills support personal development and how drama connects us to what it is to be human in our everchanging world.  It’s fun, experiential and embodied which is a great way to learn just about anything!

Cat Clarke Head of Maths

Cat has been teaching mathematics in South Devon for the last 13 years, having worked at Kingsbridge and Ivybridge Community Colleges and most recently at UTC Plymouth. She was the Maths Lead and also Lead for Women in Stem, working with female students promoting STEM subjects. She has many years’ experience as an Associate Examiner for the exam board Edexcel, and from that she has gained detailed insights into common pitfalls and misconceptions in the study of mathematics, along with an in-depth understanding of exactly what students need to do to achieve their best in exams.

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