Our Staff


  • Hazel Bunting

    Director (Head Teacher)

    I believe that all students deserve a differentiated curriculum that will enable them to work towards independence and encourage them to hold high ambitions and expectations of themselves, while working towards achieving these aims in a calm and supportive environment. Since Exceptional Ideas began, it’s been my aim to ensure that we provide that environment for our students to the best of our ability, both in school and through our Outreach Service.

    I qualified and worked as a nurse in the early 1980s before I returned to full time education and completed a degree in Psychology (BSc(Hons)) and a PGCE, becoming a qualified teacher in 1992.

    From the beginning of my teaching career, I gravitated naturally toward my work with students with behavioural problems, ADHD and ASD. After spending some time as a teacher, I made a move to Suffolk Education Authority where I worked as a Special Needs Officer for four years.

    In 2000, I began working for a national education company, setting up their Eastern team and working with Looked After Children and children with Special Educational Needs all over the UK. During this time, my focus was bringing previously excluded students back into mainstream provision.  After eight years with this company, I left to set up Exceptional Ideas Ltd, initially providing training and consultancy for mainstream staff and helping a small independent school through their OFSTED inspection.

    It was whilst working for this school that I met Brett and we realised that had the same passion for enabling children who were otherwise left out of education or educated away from their families and communities to achieve educational success.  We shared a philosophy and a drive to see these children succeed, supporting them and their families whilst ensuring they remained at home and in the heart of their family and community.

    Since joining forces, we have grown from one to three schools and developed an Outreach Service for those who cannot immediately access provision in school. I’m very proud of our achievements and the culture of unconditional support and respect we’ve created at Exceptional Ideas and am eager to see where our talented staff and students take us next.

  • Brett Runchman


    Having qualified as a Registered Nurse in Learning Disabilities in 1995 and completed the post registration course ENB 997/997 (Teaching and Assessing in Clinical Practice), I completed a degree in Specialist Community Practice BSc (Hons) in 2002.

    From the beginning of my nursing career, I worked with adults and children with complex health, psychological and social problems. I have worked in residential care, secure provision and children’s behavioural outreach and always looked for ways to develop new practices to benefit those in my care. I also believe it is crucial to value and develop those staff delivering education and care.

    I made the move into education in 2005, working in the independent education sector to develop practice aimed at improving the outcomes of school leavers with complex needs. It was at this time that I was able to integrate my nursing skills into the educational setting, paying attention to measurable outcomes and evidence-based planning.

    It was whilst working for this school that I met Hazel and found that our knowledge bases and skills complemented each other and our philosophies matched. We realised that we worked in the same way and had a very similar dream for children who were otherwise excluded from, or couldn’t cope with, mainstream provision. Together, we decided to create a unique service for children and their families, delivered through a unique school.  

    We believe that engaging with family and other professionals is of paramount importance in our quest to change student’s lives forever. We believe students should own their challenges, shaping and putting into action the solutions that enable them to progress in life.
    I believe with the appropriate research- based practice and enriched environment that we can assist these young people to realise a life that they themselves can be proud of.

  • Jenny Carson

    Deputy Director and Examinations Officer

    I began my educational career in 2012 when I joined Exceptional Ideas, seeking work that would align with my strong social conscience and desire to help children overcome barriers. Since then, I’ve risen from Student Mentor to my current role as Deputy Director and Examinations Officer. I have already earned a degree from the Open University which focused heavily on education and working with children and families.

    Exceptional Ideas has come a long way in the last decade, taking on new schools, new students and new staff members, but one thing has remained the same: our commitment to providing children of all backgrounds and needs with access to education. Helping to give students the support they need to thrive in school and out in the real world is my favourite part of my job.


  • Emma Moore

    Senior student mentor, Primrose Hill School

    Before Joining Exceptional Ideas over 5 years ago I worked in a children’s nursery aswell as being a volunteer leader of a boy’s youth club. Exceptional ideas has provided me with the opportunity to follow my passion. I thoroughly enjoy working with children; especially in a way that promotes being unique. I believe that everyone should be entitled to be different and education should reflect this practice. I started of as a student mentor, then got promoted to Therapeutic lead and now have the honour of being the Senior Student Mentor at Primrose Hill. I love being able to be part of an amazing, supportive team that all work towards differentiating plans therapeutically to give each and every student the best possible chance to succeed.  

  • Lucy Faulkner

    Senior Student Mentor for Curriculum

    I began working for Exceptional Ideas in 2010 and am currently the longest-standing staff member! I have gained so much experience in the last ten years working for the company.  Before working for Exceptional Ideas, I was a Grade 5-approved driving instructor, but also previously worked as a support worker and within the hospitality industry.

    Working for Exceptional Ideas means that I learn something every day, whether it’s a new way to teach the curriculum or a new strategy to help support our students’ education. 

  • Kelly Carter

    Senior Student Mentor for Teaching Learning and Recruitment

    I have worked at Exceptional Ideas for just over two years, starting as a Student Mentor before moving into my current role. The role is wonderfully varied and allows me to travel to all of our school sites, building relationships with both staff and students and helping them achieve their very best. My favourite part of my role is being able to see student’s progress and achieve things they never thought possible at the beginning of their school journey. Seeing them become confident, independent individuals, overcoming any barriers to their learning, makes my job the most rewarding in the world.

    Before working with Exceptional Ideas, I worked as a Progress and Destination Tutor and Welfare & Safeguarding Officer, supporting 16-18-year-old students through their chosen college course. I have also worked as a Speech and Language LSA, supporting 11-16-year old students in mainstream education. I found both roles very rewarding, and both roles helped me to understand that all students and their learning needs are diverse and that our teaching methods must reflect this.

  • Paula Stacey

    Senior Administrator

    I started at Exceptional Ideas as an Admin Assistant, splitting my time with a small architectural practice specialising in church conservation. When we began to open more schools, I made the decision to take on full-time work with the organisation and became Senior Administrator.

    I like being organised in my work, which fits very well in administration. I am quite often the first person that people contact when they reach out to us; I like to think that I make them feel welcome and show them what a friendly company Exceptional Ideas is.

  • Christy Haddock

    Senior Student Mentor, Brook View School

    Before joining Exceptional Ideas in December 2016, I worked for a company that provides domiciliary care for children with additional needs, overseeing respite care packages and staff training.

    Having spent the majority of my career supporting children, particularly children with special needs, I’m a firm believer in differentiation; every person’s care needs are completely individual. Working for Exceptional Ideas has only confirmed that belief, pushing me to find creative solutions that help every student overcome barriers be the best they can be. Making students feel safe in school and giving them access to a tailored education that is not limited by their additional needs is my passion – and being surrounded by staff members with the same passion is one of the best parts of my job.

  • Ashlie Rhodes

    Senior Student Mentor, Teaseldown School

    As a firm believer in diversity and equality, I feel that everyone is entitled to work towards their own dreams – and, most importantly, that the right support can help anyone achieve those ambitions. I left my role in mainstream education six years ago to look for a position with people who shared those beliefs and values.

    I started at Exceptional Ideas as a Student Mentor, was then promoted to Therapeutic Lead, and two years ago became the Senior Student Mentor at Teaseldown. I love working with and supporting talented, gifted and very special students, all of whom make my job one of the best in the world.

  • Alison Goode

    Senior Student Mentor for Transition and Safeguarding

    Before joining Exceptional Ideas in 2014, I spent the first twenty years of my career in a variety of admin and non-clinical management roles for the NHS. Now, I am responsible for transition and safeguarding at Exceptional Ideas, advocating for students and helping them work towards a brighter, more focused and fulfilling career path.  

    I am a Level 6 Diploma-qualified Career Advisor and have previously trained others in adult safeguarding for the NHS.

Cross organisational coordinator/ Deputy operational seniors

  • Helen Costello

    Deputy Operational Senior

    I joined Exceptional Ideas in November 2020 having Previously worked in a range of roles from a Workshop manager, to a crazy Scientist performing shows in primary schools and a teaching intern.

    I have a degree in drama and love using creative, outside the box methods to help build confidence in young people. My passion has always been to work within the education industry and I always find myself being drawn back to it. 

    I love working at Exceptional Ideas with others who share the same values as mine. Seeing the gradual change in each student as you work with them is extremely rewarding and I have already learnt so much about myself since starting. 

  • Daniele Fairbrother

    Deputy Operational Senior, Therapeutic Lead Teaseldown School

    Though I have held a variety of roles throughout my career – most recently working as a receptionist in an accountancy firm – I have always had an interest in care and supporting children with special needs. To support this interest, I earned an NVQ Level 2 in Health and Social Care.

    I love every part of my job, whether that’s taking students out to the park or overseeing their learning in a classroom. At Exceptional Ideas, everyone is supported in a way that works for them from the day they start with us, so that they can achieve something they are proud of each day. In my five years at Exceptional Ideas, I have supported a wide variety of students, seeing some progress from being unable to leave home alone to being able to get on a bus to college unsupported.

  • Karen Nash

    Deputy Operational Senior, Induction Coordinator

    Before working at Exceptional Ideas, I worked in Primary schools as a 1-1 Learning Support Assistant and as a Higher Level Teaching Assistant for seven years. During this time, I worked with children with additional educational needs and completed a qualification to help me better support children with autism. Prior to moving into education, I was a nurse in the Royal Air Force.

    In addition to supporting students’ education as a Student Mentor, I’m also responsible for writing individual education plans for students and monitoring their progress. My priority is always ensuring that each child is taught according to their own unique requirements; seeing the students using that support to develop and manage their own complex needs is my favourite part of my job.

Support Staff

  • Danny Carter

    Social Media and Website Coordinator

    As Social Media and Website Coordinator, it’s my job to give new and prospective students, staff members, parents and local authorities an insight into life at Exceptional Ideas. My favourite part of the job is getting to work closely with other staff members on a day-to-day basis, hearing about our student’s achievements and sharing them across our website and social media platforms. I’m currently working for the company part-time while studying for a degree in Law.

  • Diane Russell

    Admin Assistant

    Before joining Exceptional Ideas in 2017, I worked at Tabor Academy in Braintree as a Special Educational Needs Administrator.

    I have found working with Exceptional Ideas immensely rewarding; staff are very friendly and the encouragement and nurturing of students and staff alike is second to none; I am proud to be part of the team.

  • Hannah Nunn

    Admin Assistant

    As an Admin Assistant, my job is to keep Exceptional Ideas running smoothly, coordinating administrative tasks from across the business. Before I joined Exceptional Ideas, I worked in horseracing and spent some time as a professional jockey. My favourite part of my job is knowing that my work makes a difference, whether it be big or small. Sometimes you never know what your day will consist of at Exceptional Ideas, but that’s what makes it so unique!

  • Becky Smith

    Specialist Administrator for Exams and Training

    I worked in payroll and accounts before joining Exceptional Ideas – now I get to pass on my love of maths to the students at Brook View as a Student Mentor. My daughter has ASD and ADHD, so I also have lots of personal experience in supporting children with these needs.

    I love everything about my job, particularly working with kids to help them reach their full potential. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past five years, mostly from the kids themselves; no two of them are alike and being able to teach them all according to their individual needs and watch them grow is very rewarding.

Teaseldown school

  • Sarah Kendall

    Student Mentor
  • Jessica Greenaway

    Student Mentor

    I started working for Exceptional Ideas in February 2021 and have joined the Teasledown school. Prior to this I supported adults with learning disabilities, ASD with challenging needs and a mental health diagnosis; this experience has given me skills that have already helped me in my role as a Student Mentor. 

    I am studying Psychology part time at the Open University and feel this will help me develop in my role. I love that I work alongside a team who share the same values as me to help children reach their full potential and have a positive impact on children’s lives.

  • Mia Rhodes

    Student Mentor

    I joined Exceptional Ideas in September 2020. After finishing my last year of Sixth Form in May of 2020, Exceptional Ideas was my first job after leaving full time education. Since joining, I have loved working in a team that shares the same passion as me, helping children to grow into successful young people. Working with young people has enabled me to utilise both my practical and academic skills especially with my love of sport. I strongly believe that everyone no matter what should be treated as an individual and working as a Student Mentor has helped me to this.

  • Julie Jones

    Student Mentor

    Having had limited schooling myself, my academic education didn't really start until my mid-forties when I undertook an Access Course, followed by a degree in History and English and a PGCE. I then taught English and Functional Skills for nine years in a male prison. It was an enormously eye-opening experience, one which confirmed my belief in the importance of an inclusive, equitable and holistic education for everyone, regardless of their physical, emotional or social challenges. Previously, I also started and ran a playschool in my local community (which is still thriving) and worked as a teaching assistant in a local primary school.

  • Louise Hardy

    Student Mentor, Safeguard Lead

    Since joining Exceptional Ideas and the Teaseldown family in 2019, I’ve loved being part of a team that helps our students grow into independence and flourish when they leave school. I love being surrounded with people who are equally passionate about watching our students mature into exceptional young adult. I have experience working alongside young children with ADHD, autism and Aspergers Sydrome in mainstream school.

  • Lydia Prime

    Transition Coordinator and ASDAN Coordinator

    As Induction Coordinator, I’m one of the first faces that new students see when they join Teaseldown School. It’s the perfect role for me, because seeing our children flourish and grow under our mentorship is one of the things I love most. I wholeheartedly believe that any child can achieve their goals, given the right environment – and it’s our responsibility to make that happen! Having previously worked for seven years at an independent school for children with special educational needs and gained several qualifications in teaching and teaching support, I have significant experience in educating children with additional needs.

  • Maria Millington

    Student Mentor

    I joined the team as a Student Mentor in March 2020.

    I have a degree in Sociology and Social Psychology and over the years have gained valuable experience through working in several customer service and staff training roles. My previous jobs have helped me become more understanding of others around me and respect their beliefs – something that I feel is vital when working with our students.

    I love that being a mentor allows me to have a positive impact on lives, guiding children and helping them develop into knowledgeable adults. In my spare time I enjoy being physically active, having fun and being creative.

  • Martin Jeffery

    Student Mentor

    Before coming to Exceptional Ideas in October 2018, I worked for twenty years in various retail environments and for a variety of other employers, including DHSS and the NHS. During this time, I gained a diploma in RSA Counselling in the Development of Learning and volunteered extensively at Claybury Psychiatric Hospital, Essex Victim Support, and an organisation which helps adults with learning difficulties become more independent.

    As an adoptive parent of two daughters, I have a detailed understanding of the lives and needs of children in care. Since joining Exceptional Ideas, I’ve enjoyed contributing to improving the lives of our students; my favourite part of the job is seeing the students move on in life with improved confidence and brighter prospects.

  • Barry Lee

    Student Mentor, Induction Coordinator

    I have worked for Exceptional Ideas since 2018, and in that time I’ve seen both our students and myself develop significantly.

    Before moving into education, I worked in care for almost five years, supporting adults and young adults on the autism spectrum. I’ve found that working for Exceptional Ideas gives me the freedom to use both my inner child and practical mind to plan lessons that support our students’ development. Developing a rapport with students and putting together plans and new ways to support their learning is a challenging process, but seeing it come to fruition is very rewarding.

  • Chelsea Bernadine

    Student Mentor

    My background is primarily in the care sector, most recently as a Healthcare Assistant on the Teenage Cancer Trust ward at Addenbrookes Hospital. Since 2017 I’ve been supporting students’ learning and development as a Student Mentor and coordinating our art curriculum at Teaseldown School, while also pursuing my degree in Graphic Design. My favourite part of my job is seeing our students grow, develop and achieve their goals – it’s really rewarding to know you’re making a difference.

  • Cheryl Ballantyne

    Assessment lead and student mentor

    I have been working in the education sector for just over 30 years in one role or another, from working in a pupil referral unit to acting as a parent helper in a nursery and teaching in the Adult Community Learning sector. I came to Exceptional Ideas in 2018 after working in mainstream secondary school as a SENCO 2iC for seven years.

    Working with a varied cohort of special educational and emotional needs has given me a wealth of experience and useful ‘tools’ for the job. I have been a very keen participant in training and like to keep my skills up to date. I have qualifications in Speech, Communication and Language, ASD, Supporting Young people with Mental Health, PTTLS and a host of other ‘in-house’ training.

    I love working for Exceptional Ideas, as each day often brings a different or unique challenge and we all work as a strong and supportive team.

Primrose Hill school

  • Harriet Crawford-Condie

    Student Mentor

    Before starting at Exceptional Ideas in November 2019, I worked as an Archivist and Tour Guide for my town’s local museum and also spent some time as a live-in carer for vulnerable people. Having the chance to help students who have lost interest or confidence in education get excited about learning again and develop confidence in themselves is the best part of my job as a Student Mentor.

  • Laz Hails

    Student Mentor and Transition Coordinator

    As Transition Coordinator, I’m passionate about helping students identify and take advantage of the opportunities available to them. I believe that all students should be able to look forward to a positive future.

    Before taking on a role at Exceptional Ideas in 2014, I worked for Essex County Council. In the years since I started at the organisation, I’ve had the opportunity to teach students in all subject areas as well as engaging them extracurricular activities that help them overcome individual barriers. At Exceptional Ideas, students have the opportunity to work on a 1-1 basis with a team of mentors and so have access to a diverse range of life experience and support.  

  • Louise Palmer

    Therapeutic Lead and Student Mentor

    I joined Exceptional Ideas shortly after earning my degree in Psychology. Since then, I’ve loved the unique experience of working 1-1 with students, helping them learn and develop throughout their school lives. My favourite part of my job is seeing students grow more enthusiastic about their learning, particularly in subjects like English and History.

  • Ryan McDonagh

    Student Mentor, Assessment Coordinator

    I have always wanted to teach – in fact, I started my open degree in Illustration and Art in order to pursue this dream – so I seized the opportunity to teach while helping children with additional educational needs at Exceptional Ideas.

    Since joining the company in December 2019, I have learnt a lot and had some amazing experiences, teaching a variety of subjects alongside our brilliant team. I look forward to furthering my teaching abilities and continuing to help our students develop

  • Tim Rayner

    Student Mentor

    I’ve been with Exceptional Ideas since 2019. Previously, I worked in music publishing and music production and spent many years as a touring musician. In 2019 I completed my MA in Music Industry Innovation and Enterprise at the University of Chichester. I have experience teaching from primary to further education levels and wrote and lectured on Electronic Music Production as a university tutor. I plan the GCSE music curriculum at Exceptional Ideas and encourage well-produced, good quality noise!

Brook View school

  • Beata Sedlacek

    Student Mentor

    Even though my journey with Exceptional Ideas Ltd only began at the end of January 2022, it has already been eventful. Upon joining Brook View School, I learnt right from the beginning that no two days at work would be the same and that I would certainly not be bored. 

     I’m grateful for the opportunity to work alongside a team who share the same values as me and who all want to help the students reach their full potential and have a positive impact on their lives. Teaching students according to their individual needs and seeing that they’re learning to manage their own behaviours and responses, reflect on their actions and take ownership of their learning and attitude is a very inspiring and rewarding part of the job.

  • Debbie Mason

    Student Mentor and Safeguarding Lead

    I joined Exceptional Ideas in June 2017; today, I tackle new challenges every day as a Student Mentor and Designated Safeguarding Lead at Brook View school.

    I have worked in a variety of settings within the care sector since 1991, including working in schools with children with learning and physical disabilities, adults with learning and physical disabilities for SCOPE, and as Registered Manager of a care home for the elderly.

  • Alyxandria Chipperfield

    Student Mentor

    I joined the Exceptional Ideas team in February 2021. Previously, I worked as a school photographer for almost two years; this helped me to realise that I wanted to work in the education sector. Prior to that, I held various jobs in all different kinds of sectors, including hospitality, healthcare and customer service. Having all these different experiences has given me a wider outlook on life which I can share with others.  

    Ever since I was in school, I have always had a passion for learning. I enjoy working for Exceptional Ideas and working with a team who share that same passion. It is incredibly rewarding to watch the progress that our students make every day and to be able to support them with everything from learning to day-to-day activities. 

  • Leonie Tuff

    Student Mentor

    Before starting at Exceptional Ideas in May 2021, I worked in supported living, assisting service users with learning disabilities throughout their day to day lives. Working in this setting, completing a degree in psychology and having a close family member with SEN made me realise that I wanted to work within education. I love that the pupils in Exceptional Ideas schools are all treated as individuals and find it extremely rewarding to see the students i support achieving new things. 

  • Elvin Abibula (Cetin)

    Student Mentor

    I worked with children for almost five years before undertaking a BA in Criminology and Social Psychology and an MSc in Organised Crime, Terrorism and Security. Before working at Exceptional Ideas I worked in IT at Canon UK and in customer service at SES Water in Surrey.

    I joined Exceptional Ideas in November 2019 and have enjoyed every day since. The best part of my job is the satisfaction of seeing our students progress during their time with us.

  • Jessica Moore

    Student mentor and therapeutic lead

    Before coming to Exceptional Ideas in 2018, I worked in a variety of roles, including as a Support Assistant in a school, a beautician, a weight loss consultant and a sales manager.

    I have a child with additional needs myself and feel that this has left me well prepared to understand and tackle the ups and downs of educating children with special educational needs. As the Therapeutic Lead at Brook View School, my role is focused on supporting the students’ emotional wellbeing and therapeutic development from their first day in school right through to the day they leave us.

  • Marnie Bevan

    Student Mentor and Transition Coordinator

    The best part of my job is finding new ways to teach students and give them the tools they need to learn, both at school with us and for their post-16 education path of choice.

    Previously, I worked as the manager of the children’s department at a retail store. That time helped me develop invaluable experience in using creative methods to connect and communicate with children and young people – experience that I’ve used extensively since joining the Exceptional Ideas team.

  • Paula Lovell

    Student Mentor and Induction Coordinator

    Before coming to Exceptional Ideas, I was the manager, SENCo, ENCo and safeguarding lead for a pre-school for seven years, supporting children with additional needs and children from diverse backgrounds. Whilst there, I completed a foundation degree in Early Years Studies and numerous professional development courses, all of which have given me a valuable grounding in working with children.  

    I love that students in Exceptional Ideas schools and in our Outreach Service are given the opportunity to build on their individual skills and reach their potential in a secure environment. I particularly enjoy meeting and building positive relationships with new students and their families; I find it incredibly rewarding to see a student’s confidence grow and become comfortable sharing their interests and personalities with staff and their peers.