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Governors & SLT

Senior leadership team

Debbie Isaachsen, Headteacher

Debbie Isaachsen joined The Downs as Headteacher in September 2020, having previously been Head at Heatherton School in Buckinghamshire. Debbie has a passion for teaching and learning and enjoys teaching across many of the year groups. Married to Alex, Head of Computing at the school, they have two teenage children and enjoy travelling and playing Pickleball in their spare time.


Imogen Payne, Deputy Head Academic

Imogen Payne joined The Downs for a term’s maternity cover in 2008 as a Year 4 teacher. She is now the Deputy Head Academic and still enjoys teaching many year groups across the school. She is a mum of 3 girls – the younger 2 are current Downs School pupils, the eldest has moved on having had a wonderful 9 years at the School. Imogen is most often found on the side of a cricket pitch supporting her children and husband as they represent the many teams they play for. Imogen loves trips to the theatre and spectating sports.

Imi Payne

Oliver Elliott, Deputy Head Pastoral

Oliver Elliott studied for a BSc at Cardiff University before serving in the Royal Navy and then moving into teaching. He started his teaching career as a maths and PE teacher and has worked in four different independent schools both in England and overseas, boarding and day schools before joining The Downs as Deputy Head Pastoral in September 2022. Prior to The Downs Oliver gained experience as Director of Sport and Head of Seniors. He is hugely passionate about sport and competes in a range of sports whenever family life with two energetic young boys allows and is an avid cricket fan.

Ollie Elliott2

Jonathan Barclay, Bursar

Jon joined The Downs as Bursar and Clerk to Governors in 2021, following a career spent in banking and consultancy. He is married to Rebecca and has two teenage sons. Jon enjoys singing and distance running (but not at the same time).

Jon Barclay

Our staff & governors list

For our latest staff & governors list, you can download the below PDF.

Board of governors

The Downs School (Charlton House) Ltd is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee.  The trustees of the charity are the directors of the company as well as being governors of the school.  Governors have responsibility for the overall strategic direction of the charity and the school.  Berties Nursery School is operated within a separate limited company that is wholly owned by the charity.

Day to day responsibility for the management of the school sits with the Headteacher and within her senior leadership team, the Bursar takes responsibility for all non-academic aspects and financial matters and also acts as Clerk to Governors.  

The Governors work closely with the Headteacher and Bursar and meet regularly, including by way of several Committees and a termly full Board meeting. The Governors’ work is primarily focused around the following Committees: Strategy, Finance, Bursary, Education, Nursery, Health & Safety, Risk & Regulatory, Remuneration, and Governor Development.

Parents wishing to send a letter to the Chair of Governors should write to Mr J Collard, c/o The Clerk to the Governors, The Downs School - marking the envelope "Private and Confidential" if necessary.

Jason Collard, Chair of Governors

Correspondence to for both holiday time and term time.

Jason joined the board of Governors in 2007 and became the Chairman in 2023, he was made a director of Downs School Enterprises Ltd in 2018, which is the commercial arm of The Downs School, which operates Bertie’s Nursery.

He sits on the Finance, Strategy, Nursery, H&S and the Governors Development Committee. He has been a parent of 3 Children at the school since 2004 with his youngest child in her final 2 years at the school.

Jason is the Managing Director and owner of Studio Hive Ltd a southwest based property development company which was founded in 2014. Jason also founded its sister company a Chartered Architectural Practice ‘SHA’ which was founded in 2020.

With over 35 years of Corporate Real Estate and Property Development experience, which, when coupled with his background in Architecture and Design, his passion for sustainable development and the creative arts provides a strong basis for bringing strategic thinking and vision to the school. Jason and his family live in Portishead, they enjoy travelling, outdoor pursuits and motorsport, in particular he enjoys supporting his younger children who are part of The Downs School ‘Green Power Club’, EV racing team.

John Collard

Paul Matthews

Paul Matthews governor

Paul is an Old Charltonian, having been both a day pupil and boarder at the school in the late 70s/early 80s. After training as a solicitor in London, Paul returned to Bristol and joined Osborne Clarke LLP in 1993. He sat on its Executive Board for 10 years during a time of significant UK and international expansion, and is currently a Partner in its Pensions Team. Paul's son, Thomas, also attended the Downs much more recently! Outside work, Paul is keen on all water sports, travel and spending time with family.

Nick Pursall

Nick Pursall, Governor

Nick is Deputy Head (Pastoral) and Designated Safeguarding Lead at QEH. He has a BA (Hons) in Economics from the University of the West of England, and a MA (Educational Leadership) from the University of Exeter. He is married to Emma and has two young children. In the time left available, Nick loves participating in a wide variety of sporting activities.

Rachel Thornton

Rachel Thornton Governor

A Governor since 2004, Rachel sits on the Finance, Bursary, Nursery, Remuneration and H&S Committees. Her working life has been with two PLCs, HAT Group PLC and then with MITIE Group PLC, the UK’s leading facilities management company where she was Head of Central Services responsible for a wide range of company aspects including property, insurance and transport. On leaving MITIE, she became self employed and now manages property for a range of business and private owners.

Tom O'Sullivan

Tom O'Sullivan, Governor

Educated at Pate's Grammar School in Cheltenham, followed by Durham and Cambridge Universities. Tom has been Head of Cheltenham College Prep since 2018 having previously worked in three stand alone Preps. Old Buckenham Hall in Suffolk, as Head, Mowden Hall School in Northumberland, as Deputy Head and Beaudesert Park School in Gloucestershire. Outside of school Tom's passions include all sports, the theatre and travelling as well as looking after Scooby, his Great Dane! Tom is Chair of the Education Committee.

Carl Tuttiett

Carl Tuittiett governor

Carl was appointed to the board of Governors in 2020 and brings financial and strategy experience being a business owner and Chartered Financial Planner for over 20 years. Carl sits on the finance, strategy and health & safety committees and has been a parent at the school since 2017.

Richard Thomson

Richard Thompson Governor

Richard is a full time GP with 18 years experience as an executive partner of an 18,000 patient practice where he is also safeguarding lead for adults and children. He is a medical advisor for the RNLI. All three of his children went to the school - Richard believes the school has played an important and influential role in shaping them as confident and well rounded people. Richard has been on the board of governors since 2019 and proud to serve the school that he feels has done so much for his family. Richard is on the risk and regulatory board and the nursery board, as well as leading on the safeguarding audit with a focus on the early years.

Jo Oliver

Jo Oliver Governor

Jo is an employment lawyer and partner at VWV. She has worked with education clients for over a decade, helping schools to successfully navigate complex employment issues, meet their regulatory obligations and promote positive cultures in relation to EDI and safeguarding. Jo joined the Board of Governors in 2022. She Chairs the Risk & Regulatory Committee and also sits on the Strategy Committee.

James Isaacs

James Isaacs

James joined the board of Governors in 2016, became Chairman until stepping down in 2023 and Chairs the Governors Development Committee. He has been a parent of four children at the Downs School since 2009, a parent Governor from 2016 up until 2021, when the youngest left to join senior school.

The President of the Old Cliftonian Society, Clifton College’s alumni membership body, James is also a Trustee of the OC Society endowment fund.

James is the Managing Director of the UK entity of an international executive search and leadership advisory business. With a 30 year career based in the UK and overseas, James works with clients, primarily in the financial services sector on Board appointments, succession planning, management assessment and leadership development.

Schooled at Emanuel School, London and Clifton College, Bristol, James graduated from South Bank University in Architecture and is RIBA 1 and 2 qualified. Having lived and worked in London and Sydney, James’s family currently live in Abbots Leigh, Bristol.

Jon Gill

Jon Gill

Jon is a Partner at Eversheds Sutherland, a leading global law firm, where he specialises in venture capital and private equity investments, and mergers and acquisitions in the technology sector. He lives in Portishead, where he originally grew up, although splits his professional time between London and Bristol. He was appointed as a Governor in October 2023 and serves on the Finance and Strategy Committees.

Jon is married with three children, Jasper, Hugo and Cleo, all of whom presently attend The Downs School. Outside of work, school and family, Jon is a keen sailor and enjoys all forms of sport and outdoor pursuits.

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