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Meet the staff at our school

Mrs Spencer (Head Teacher)


My name is Claire Spencer and I am the Head Teacher at Highfield Community Primary School. I have worked here since September 2022. It didn't take me long to realise what a brilliant school it is. The families and staff are a pleasure to work with. I look forward to coming to school every day. 

Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I have worked in primary education for many years, from Nursery to Year 6. I have previously worked in Newcastle and Sunderland, then returned to Gateshead where I trained and began my teaching career. As well as being a teacher, I am also a parent. Therefore, I fully understand the joys a family can bring but also understand how busy we all are at times. I have many interests, such as keeping fit, reading, cooking and spending time with friends and family.

Mrs Irving (Deputy Head Teacher and Year 5/6 Teacher)

Hiya! My name is Deborah Irving and I am the Deputy Headteacher at Highfield school. My passion for teaching began when I completed a work experience placement in Year 10, a long time ago!. Since then, I have completed a three-year teaching degree in Primary Education at Northumbria University. I started work at Highfield as an NQT in 2001 and I have worked my way up the ranks to the position I have now. I love working at this school and being part of this fantastic community. When you have worked somewhere for such a long time you really know the families well. I am married to Mr Irving, who also works in school and we have two sons at home. Sport plays a big part in our lives and I am always watching one of them play for the many teams that they are involved in. 

Ms Johnson (Y1/2 Teacher)

I have been a teacher since 2010.  I did my placements at Highfield Primary School and was thrilled to be given the job here.  I did my first degree at Manchester University reading English Literature and History.  I then worked in several places, including a crown court, a newspaper office and even London Zoo!  I have lived in Rowlands Gill most of my life. I went to Rowlands Gill Primary School and then to Hookergate Comprehensive.  When I am not at school, my favourite thing to do is go walking in the Lake District.  I love lakes and mountains! I am also part of an all age amateur dramatics group!  I am really passionate about education and equality. I love being a teacher.  The children at Highfield are a joy to work with and it's a real privilege to teach here.

Mrs Hastie  (Y1/2 Teacher)

Hi, my name is Liz Hastie and I love teaching at Highfield. When I left school, I completed a Bsc Hons in Applied Biology before becoming a teacher in 2008 when I graduated from the Gateshead 3-7 SCITT. I previously worked in Northumberland for 5 years, where I taught in the Early Years and Key Stage 1. I came to work at Highfield in 2013 and I love working at this school and being part of this fantastic team. I especially enjoy leading Forest school sessions and being in bike club. 

Mrs Porthouse (EYFS Teacher and SENDCo)

Hi, my name is Hannah Porthouse.  I work part time with Mrs Phillips as the other EYFS teacher. I am originally from Northern Ireland but moved here to complete a Business degree at the University of Northumbria in 1996. I have worked for Charities and Enterprise organisations which focused on helping and mentoring young people. In 2006, I completed a PGCE and up until 2011 had been teaching full time at Harlow Green Community Primary School. In 2011, I had twins, Harriet and Ben, to add to our existing clan of Noah and Sam. When I have any free time, I love cooking, running, and spending time with my family.

Mrs Phillips (EYFS Teacher)

My name is Karen Phillips and I have been teaching since 2001. I joined the school in 2014 as the Nursery teacher for two years before moving to Reception. We are now running as a Foundation Stage Unit, combining Nursery and Reception. I love working part-time with Mrs Porthouse as the other EYFS Teacher. I am originally from Oxfordshire and Surrey but after living in many different parts of the UK, I settled in the North East in 2005. I studied at the University College of St Mark and St John in Plymouth and gained my BEd in Primary Education and Design and Technology in 2001, I have been teaching ever since. My teaching career has been varied; I have taught in Surrey, Barnsley, Newcastle, Stockton and now Gateshead. I have taught all the Primary age range but Early Years is my passion. I am lucky to have twins, Poppy and Alex who are 14. I love spending time with my family and friends.

Mrs Collins (Year 1/2 Teacher)

Hiya, my name is Kirsty Collins and I'm the teacher in Year 1/2. I first came to Highfield in 2017 as a School Direct Trainee Teacher and I loved it so much I couldn't leave! Before I started teaching, I completed an Education with Special and Inclusive Needs degree at Liverpool John Moores University. I then went on to work in a residential children's home for 2 years.  Highfield is a really special place to work and I love working with a great team and fantastic children every day.  Outside of school, I love nothing more than spending time with family and taking my dog, Bert, out for walks.

Mr Allan (Year 3/4 Teacher)


Hi, my name is Tom Allan and I have been working at Highfield since 2014. I have been teaching for the past 14 years, having completed my PGCE at Newcastle University. I actually carried out my final training placement at Highfield and it has been great to catch up with the staff who are still here and meet those who have joined since. Before teaching, I worked in television, but giving that up, moving back to the north-east and into education was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have two wonderful sons, live in Whitley Bay, enjoy watching Newcastle United, playing squash and watching live music. It is a pleasure working with the children of Highfield Community Primary and I look forward to working with them further over the coming years.


Mr Irving (HLTA)


Hiya, my name is Dan Irving and I work in the school as a HLTA. I started working at Highfield in September 2008 and love coming here each day. This is a fantastic school with a lovely community. The children are a joy to teach each day. I love all aspects of working at Highfield, but giving the children a good education and a great start in life is my main aim. 

I am married to Mrs Irving, who also works in the school. We have two sons at home. They are both very sporty and get their passion for it from us. I still have my own sporting ambitions. I am a massive fan of all sports, so I spend a lot of time watching it on the TV. I also like running, socialising, going down the pub, watching live music and dancing the night away. 

Vacancy (TA)


Mrs Dawson (HLTA)


Hi, my name is Alison Dawson and I am the HLTA in Year 1/2.  I feel like I have been at Highfield forever! I did my initial training at North Tyneside College where I gained an NNEB qualification in Nursery Nursing.  Since then, I have worked hard to gain HLTA status.  I worked in nursery for 20 years until Mr Thompson dragged me kicking and screaming into the main school.  I have to say though, I have never looked back!  I have two fantastic daughters, Bethany and Erin, who are ex Highfield pupils and keep me young at heart!

Mrs Dolan (HLTA)


Hi, my name is Debbie Dolan, I am the HLTA in Year 3/4. I had previously worked in an office for 20 years.  I started  volunteering at Highfield back in 2007 when Abbi started in Reception and Libby in Nursery.  I then became a parent governor in 2008. In 2012, I completed a Level 2 Teaching Assistant and in 2013 I completed a Level 3 Teaching Assistant course at Gateshead College. I then qualified as a HLTA. I thoroughly enjoy my role in school and get great satisfaction when working with the children.  I only wished I had retrained years ago!!!   I am married to Chris, have a Stepson, Kyle  and two daughters, Abbi  and Libby  who were both pupils at Highfield.

Daniel Richards (TA) 


Hello, my name is Daniel Richards and I started working at Highfield in September 2022 when I moved to the North East. I was the Teaching Assistant in Year 1 and 2 but now also work in Early Years.  Before working at Highfield, I lived in Essex and worked in a Primary School in London for eight years. The children at Highfield are a joy to work with, and the staff are a great team. Outside of work, I have two dogs who love to go on walks; they especially like to go to the seaside. 

Michelle Tate (Office Manager)


My name is Michelle Tate and I am the Office Manager here at Highfield Community Primary School. I have worked alongside Highfield Primary at St Joseph’s since April 2018, and having restructured the office to cover both schools, I look forward to getting to know all our families better.

Most of my adult working life has been in the NHS as a Programme Manager allocating training posts for doctors, but since having my own children, I was keen to move into education and spend my days surrounded by children and their wonderful company. I have successfully completed NVQ's in Team Leading, Administration and Management and ILM Level 5 in Leadership Management. In 2020, I gained the School Business Professional Qualification.  I have been a School Governor and a volunteer at my children’s primary school, where I am also Treasurer for the PTA. 

I live locally with my husband, son and daughter (who are now in secondary school) and our two dogs, Dexter and Ralphie. We enjoy family walks and holidays, especially on the Northumberland Coast. I am an avid reader and box set watcher in my spare time.

Kate Bentley (Office Admin)

Site Manager 

Chris Clark 

Catering Staff

Dot Creighton    Ruth Little    Laura Close 

Lunchtime Supervisors 

Ann Laing    Megan Smith     Colleen Young  

Cleaning Staff 

Kerry Vaughan    Estelle Horricks    Helen Ravenhall