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Meet the Staff


Mrs Abigail Clay - Headteacher
Ba hons, AST, NPQH


Abigail became head at Topcliffe C of E Academy in September 2015 and Executive Head over Topcliffe and Knayton CofE Academies in January 2023. Prior to becoming a headteacher she was an assistant head at an outstanding school where she taught across the primary age range from reception to year 6. Abigail has also worked as an Advanced Skills Teacher supporting modern foreign language development across the county. Abigail has published a book to support teachers in delivering languages to young children. Recently she was has qualified as a coach gaining her ILM level 5 in coaching. Abigail is also a member of the Elevate School Improvement Team and is also a national SIAMS inspector for the Church of England. Abigail enjoys sport, reading and spending time with her husband and three children. 

Mrs Nicky Hartley - School Office Manager


Nicky became School Office Manager at Topcliffe C of E Academy in September 2009.  Prior to starting a family, she worked in the publishing industry first in Battle, near her home town of Hastings, East Sussex and then for a publishing company in Boston Spa, West Yorkshire after she married her husband and moved to Yorkshire.  During her years in publishing, she has gained experience in Marketing Management, Circulation & Distribution Management and Sales. Nicky has 2 children who both enjoyed their primary school years at Topcliffe School. 

Mrs Kirsty Costello - Nursery Class Teacher

Kirsty studied Early Childhood Education at Leeds Beckett University and graduated in 2018. She has worked within Elevate Multi Academy Trust since September 2018 and joined Topcliffe in September 2020. Prior to teaching, Kirsty was a Teaching Assistant for 8 years. Outside of school Kirsty enjoys spending time with her family and friends, often trying out new places outdoors. 

Mrs Hannah Parsons - Advanced Teaching Assistant  

After a successful 13 year career in Financial Services, Hannah joined Topcliffe Academy as a Teaching Assistant in September 2015.  She spends time in all the classes in school.  Her interests are literature and writing.  She is currently studying an Honours Degree in English Literature and Creative Writing and she would like to inspire children to develop a passion for reading. 

Miss Karina Bowes - Silver Birch Class Teacher

Karina joined Topcliffe in September 2022. She completed a degree in Psychology at Northumbria University before working as a  teaching assistant in a secondary school with SEND children. Following this, she trained to be a primary teacher, and has worked as a teacher in Key Stage 2 for 8 years, with four years as a maths lead. She loves to travel and share this passion with the children.  In her spare time she enjoys running and hiking in the moors.

Miss Ellie Hunter - Ash Class Teacher

Ellie joined Topcliffe in September 2022. Prior to teaching, Ellie studied Psychology at York St John University, and in her second year, took the opportunity to study abroad in America. After graduating, Ellie became a Teaching assistant across Early Years and KS1 before carrying out her PGCE with Red Kite Teaching Alliance. Ellie has worked for Elevate Multi Academy Trust for 3 years and spent her first teacher training placement here at Topcliffe. Ellie grew up in the countryside and loves nothing more than getting out and exploring what nature has to offer. In her spare time Ellie enjoys reading, baking and going for long walks with her dog.


Miss Chantel Parish - Willow Class Teacher

Chantel joined Topcliffe CofE Academy in January 2022. Prior to teaching, Chantel worked in both nurseries and schools as a support assistant. Chantel studied a BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Studies at York St John University before carrying out her PGCE with North Star Teaching Alliance. Chantel specialises in the Early Years and has experience of working with children aged 2-8. Outside of school Chantel enjoys spending time with her friends and family, trying new things and visiting new places- especially visiting the cinema.

Mrs Helen Trueman - Learning Support Assistant 

Helen has been an ATA and MSA at Topcliffe Academy for many years. Mainly working in kS2 but now enjoying new challenges in KS1,  as well as delivering Art skills throughout all the year groups. She has enjoyed a varied fun-filled time over the years from residential trips to the proud moments leading the blue team (Neptune) to win on sports days. Helen is happily married to John, a farmer and has two grown up children, Andrew and Catherine. Booking holidays and gardening are her specialty, along with the pride she gets from her displays around the school.

Miss Sophie Howard - Maple Class Teacher


Sophie only recently joined Topcliffe in September 2017. She studied for a BA hons in Childhood Studies, gaining a first-class honours degree, before undertaking her teacher training. Prior to teaching, Sophie has worked for many years as a sports coach, responsible for many aspects of athlete development and guidance, working with a range of different abilities from the complete beginner, to two Olympians! Sophie was also a competitive diver herself before she became a coach. Sophie enjoys nothing more than spending time with her two boys outside of school; walking, cycling or just relaxing and watching a film.

Mrs Gillian Weightman - Higher Level Teaching Assistant 

Gillian Weightman works as a HLTA, her son Sam previously attended Topcliffe CofE Academy. Prior to having her son she graduated from Leeds University and worked in PR and Marketing. After having her son she changed her career and started working with Early Years until joining the school in September 2015. Gillian loves to run and is currently training for the Manchester Marathon in April.

Miss Katie Watson - Learning Support Assistant (Seedlings Class)

Katie is a level 4 Advanced Practitioner in Early Years who has worked at the nursery for 5 years and is also part of the After School Club team too. Prior to this she spent many years working in a care home. She has lived in Topcliffe her whole life and is a former pupil of Topcliffe school. Katie is a mum to her teenage son who enjoyed his time both at the nursery and school too. Katie enjoys learning about children’s mental health and wellbeing, completing courses to support her learning within this area. She is from a large family, so enjoys spending time with them, as well as reading, watching films and enjoying long walks with her dog.

Mrs Cat Cowton - Learning Support Assistant (Seedlings Class)

Cat first began working in Early Years in 2001 where she began my NVQ level 2 at the age of 18. Since then she have gained my level 3 in Early Years Education and an NCFE level 2 teaching assistant.  Cat joined Topcliffe Academy in the summer of 2017 where she is currently working in Seedlings Class. She has 2 sons, Dylan who is 6 and Oliver who is 2, both of whom attend the school. Cat has a real passion for baking which she does in her spare time and also likes to attend music concerts and festivals when she can.

Mr Freddie Eastham - Learning Support Assistant

Freddie was a previous pupil at Topcliffe CofE Academy and now works in the Early Years department and the Before & After School Club as a General Teaching Assistant.

Mrs Cari Parker - Before & After School Club Play Leader & Learning Support Assistant 

Cari’s early career was in the retail industry, gaining experience of supervisory and management roles.  After her two children were born she transitioned into self employment to allow her to be with them.  She joined Topcliffe in June 2013, working in the kitchen before joining the B & A club team.  In her free time, Cari runs her businesses as well as studying for a degree in Education Studies (Primary).  She has a keen interest in learning through play and maintaining good mental health, and hopes to start mindfulness training as part of her personal development.

Mrs Emma James - Learning Support Assistant

Emma joined Topcliffe C of E Academy in December 2021 as a Teaching Assistant following a long career in admin-based roles. After having her two daughters, Emma regularly volunteered at their school and realised a  passion for working with children and enrolled on a course to become a Teaching Assistant. Emma loves to read and hopes to inspire children to find a love for reading to. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters, crafting, and going on holiday. 

Miss Beth Young - Learning Support Assistant

Miss Charlotte Scaife - Learning Support Assistant (Seedlings Class)

Charlotte is currently a TA in Seedlings. Isabella, her daughter attends the school as well as her son Arthur, who attends seedlings. She started her early years journey in 2006 and completed many early years qualifications along the way. Charlotte had a brief time out of the early years sector in 2020-2022 but missed it so much, she started volunteering in Willow Class listening to the children read on a weekly basis. Now she has a role in Seedlings which she loves and is back where she belongs. In her spare time, Charlotte loves being outdoors walking her 3 crazy cocker spaniels with her family, baking yummy treats and also reading a good book.

Miss Sarah Allday - Midday Supervisory Assistant

Mrs Danielle Torkington - Cook