Meet the Southover Partnership team of experts.

Dayo Okunlola, Executive Headteacher

Dayo OkunlolaDayo has an extensive educational background, in the UK and overseas. During his career Dayo has worked as a university lecturer, a head of department; head of year and as deputy head teacher of a large secondary school in north London. He is passionate about the inclusion of pupils and students with special educational needs and disabilities.

In his spare time Dayo is a published writer (fiction and scientific) and has written and directed stage plays performed in the UK and the Caribbean.  Dayo has also been a newspaper editor, written for CBBC, and is involved with Mantra Lingua in the production of Bilingual books for young learners.

Dayo’s extensive experience leading and managing inclusion over many years in secondary schools, and his commitment to giving children and young people the very best education, is palpable.​

Nia Wheatley, Head of Outreach Services

With 20 years of teaching experience in secondary school education, starting as a mainstream English teacher Nia then moved into special educational needs, and became a Deputy SENCo for a large secondary school before taking the lead role as Head of English as an Additional Language for thirteen years in the borough of Redbridge. She has had experience teaching in alternative provision as an outreach teacher specialising in working with children who have social, emotional and mental health difficulties. In post, she has provided numerous INSET to whole school communities, mentored newly qualified teachers, led on workshops in the Redbridge borough and in schools championed ‘quality first’ teaching by collating differentiated materials with cross curricular staff for the inclusion and progress for all. She is passionate about high quality education for all and raising standards in teaching learning and assessment.

Heather Stephens, Outreach Services, Lead Practitioner for Teaching and Learning

Heather is an experienced leader with a wide- ranging background in primary education for over 36 years. Beginning her teaching career in mainstream schools in Enfield and continued to work in both inner city and outer London boroughs such as Haringey, Camden, Uxbridge, Islington and Brent supporting children across the Early Years and Primary age range.

Prior to joining The Southover Partnership her roles in Education has included Primary Headteacher, Deputy Headteacher, Consultancy, Inclusion Lead, SENCO and Curriculum Lead for a variety of curriculum areas with her specialism being English. Other roles have included a Primary School Governor in Enfield and Tutor Mentor for teacher trainee students and newly qualified teachers with Middlesex University.  As a qualified Senior Youth Worker in Enfield it gave her the opportunity to work with both Young Offenders and lead in running youth centres for the 11 – 19 age range.

Heather is strongly committed to inclusion, equality and diversity and has gained extensive experience of working in disadvantage communities working alongside a variety of external agencies such  safeguarding officers, speech and language therapist, educational psychologists, social services and other health professionals to ensure vulnerable pupils and in particular pupils with Special Educational Needs and their families are fully supported.

She is a great believer in children and young people being given the opportunity to excel  by providing them with the educational tools and ensuring both teaching and non- teaching staff receive continuous professional development in current educational practices in order to ensure the best education is achieved.

Sharmin Ahmed, Outreach Services, Educational Practitioner

Sharmin has a background in, and passion for environmental science which has seen her through, a broad range of work and life experiences.

Having experienced secondary schooling in Singapore and the UK, she has gained a comparative perspective which, enables her to utilise her skills as a qualified science teacher, by drawing on the strengths, and tackling the weaknesses that both education systems may present, in inclusive learning.

Sharmin has worked in a number of mainstream and SEN schools as well as, in the provision of interventive educational support, in hospital schools.

Her style of teaching is very creative and interactive, being a visual learner.  She also has an additional creative outlet, through writing, also a signature element of her practitioner role.

Sharmin believes every pupil is gifted, and intervention is actually just a restorative process, not a limiting situation.

Science is her passion and part of what she considers, is our natural landscape of learning.

She is also an advocate of both holistic and orthodox medicine, through her study of the subject, and its effects on pain stimuli in the advancing population, whom she works with in her spare time, supportively.  A practitioner that has developed a skill to modulate all the key areas of learning (not just science), through consideration and observation, of our natural inclinations and reaction times.

In her own words,  ‘we can’t change our chronotypes, so how can one shoe fit all’?

Maria Newman, Head of School, Kingsbury School Site

Maria NewmanMaria joined Southover at the beginning of January 2020, having previously working in SEND and Inclusion within primary, secondary and alternative provision settings. She has taught in Enfield and across Haringey in senior leadership positions.  In addition, Maria is experienced in mentoring NQT’s and training staff.

Maria has extensive experience of working with children social, emotional and behavioural difficulties with a particular focus on Autism Spectrum Disorder.  She is passionate about removing barriers to learning and providing engaging learning opportunities.

Heather Ellis, Head of School, Finchley School Site

Heather EllisHeather is a long standing member of the Southover team having joined the organisation in 2002. She has a background of 15 years teaching Art, Design and Photography in the mainstream secondary sector, working as Head of Department and Head of Faculty. Prior to joining the Southover Partnership she worked as an Art Education Consultant and an Arts Director for art educational charities: training teachers, writing curriculum materials and leading workshops.

Heather was involved in setting up the first Southover Partnership School, including developing and managing the curriculum, resources and unique methodology that makes the Southover School so successful today.

Jenny Merryweather, Head of School, Southgate School Site
Jenny MerryweatherJenny joined the Southover Partnership staff team in 2010 after previously teaching in both mainstream and SEN schools in North London and Hertfordshire. Initially appointed as the first Head of Maths in the school, Jenny worked across the school sites before being taking on the role of Head of School at the Southgate site.

During her time at Southover Partnership School Jenny has also worked with Outreach Services delivering INSET training in areas such as dyslexia and ASD.

Anj Iftikhar ACCA, Head of Business and Finance

Anj has over 25 years of experience in working for a range of different charities and educational establishments. She is a qualified accountant and prior to coming to Southover, served as a School Business Manager within independent and mainstream schools. She has been a part of Senior leadership in the start up of a new school and in schools that required significant internal development and expansion. Participating in audits from financial, health and safety to those relating to statutory school standards have been integral to the roles she has held.

She is also an experienced Foster Carer providing care and support for children and young adults from difficult backgrounds and SEN, receiving a vast amount of training to do this to a high standard. She has a passion for working for organisations that make a difference to people’s lives and help the more vulnerable members of our society.