Ms Melissa Stimson, Head of Sixth Form

Meet the
Sixth Form
In 1998 I graduated from Edinburgh University with a degree in History and went on to
complete a PGCE at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. I started my teaching career in
Scotland and have gradually moved south ever since! I began in Preston teaching History
and English and then moved to Oundle as a History teacher and Assistant Housemistress.
I then moved west to Bristol, where my husband was working and took up a position at
Bristol Grammar School as a teacher of History. I also led the Year 11 pastoral team and
it was in this role that I realised how much I enjoyed being involved in students’ academic
Ms Melissa Stimson,
Head of Sixth Form
and social development and I knew this was an area I wished to pursue further. From
there I moved to Badminton School in 2006 to be the Head of History and Politics and as
the years progressed I took on additional roles as Head of Years 9-11 and then Deputy-Head of the Sixth Form. Having
joined Downe House in 2012 my main objectives are to ensure that all girls make a smooth transition to the Sixth Form,
that they achieve their potential and are fully equipped for study and life beyond Downe.
Willis House
Mrs Tara Reeve,
(Willis TR)
I began my working life as a
producer for BBC News, having
graduated from Edinburgh University
in 1998 with a First Class MA
Honours degree in Russian and then
a PGDip in Broadcast Journalism at
the University of Central Lancashire.
I spent eight years producing major
news stories in the UK and Russia. It
was a privilege to use my language
skills to translate them into news
stories for the Ten O’Clock News and
the Today programme.
I joined Downe House as a Russian
teacher in 2008. Joining the Downe
community has been an incredibly
rewarding and enriching experience.
More recently, I have headed up
the World Languages Department,
managing the very widely spoken,
but perhaps lesser taught languages
of Chinese, Japanese and of course
I have also been a Sixth Form tutor
and an evening tutor in Aisholt,
which is where my pastoral journey
began. I have found it a real privilege
being able to spend quality time with
the girls away from the classroom
and guiding them towards their
future career paths. I live in Willis
with my husband Ben, my three
daughters and two cats.
Miss Georgia
(Willis TR)
I spent my secondary school years
at St Joseph’s College in Reading. It
was here that I developed an interest
and passion for the performing arts.
As well as a keen actor, I am also
a clarinetist, saxophonist, pianist
and singer, and I had the privilege
of being asked to co-establish a
student-led acapella group (school
concerts were an extremely busy
time for me!)
It was during an enriching Sixth
Form trip to South Africa that I
discovered the joys of working with
children and young adults and how
drama as a medium can be used as a
form of communication across both
cultures and languages. During our
stay with the Thosofelo Community,
and spending time in the schools
of the squatter camps (informal
settlements), I became inspired by
the students’ willingness to learn.
I graduated from the University of
Exeter with a First Class Honours
degree in Drama and was awarded
the Dean’s Commendation for
exemplary work. I then spent a
rewarding gap year working as
a Performing Arts department
assistant at The Sixth Form College
Farnborough, gaining valuable
experience working with an
outstanding team of teachers and
support staff. I then went on to
study a PGCE in Secondary Drama
at the University of Reading which
is where I discovered a passion for
pastoral care.
As a new member of the Willis House
team, and the Drama Department, I
am looking forward to the challenges
of a fast-paced and busy Sixth Form
house as well as getting to know the
girls and sharing important moments
in their School experience.
York House
Mrs Victoria
(Willis VKR)
After a degree in English and a
PGCE in English and Drama I began
my teaching career in a large
comprehensive school. After three
years I moved on to run the Drama
Department at Tudor Hall where, as
well as teaching and directing several
school productions a year, I began
my journey through the pastoral
care of Sixth Form girls and was an
Assistant Housemistress for three
years. I then spent six years in the
Drama Department at Stowe where
I also worked in several boarding
houses, finally settling once again in
a Sixth Form Girls’ House. I am in my
tenth year as Housemistress of Willis
House where I live with my son who
is at a local Prep School. As well as
teaching in the Drama Department I
am also Head of Sixth Form General
Education which covers the GPR/EPQ
programme of academic enrichment
for the Sixth Form; both of these are
extremely helpful when it comes to
supporting the girls in Willis and I find
this a very rewarding and enjoyable
part of my job. I feel very privileged
to share my life with the girls in
Willis and I am particularly pleased
to be keeping the girls for two years,
providing invaluable continuity from
Lower to Upper Sixth.
Ms Sabrina
(Willis VKR)
In 1995 I graduated from the
University of Milan with a First
Class degree in Modern Foreign
Languages and Philology and started
my working life in the industry,
where I spent the following eight
years, ending up in senior managing
positions. Although very satisfying, I
soon understood that teaching was
where my heart was truly leading
me, so I decided to train as a teacher
first in France at the University
of Nice and then in Italy at the
University of Genoa, whilst starting
my teaching career in 2003 in France
first and in Italy next. In 2010 I
moved to the UK, which marked the
turning point of my life and career.
After five years at LVS Ascot, where I
covered various roles from language
teaching to Assistant Housemistress
in the Sixth Form House, I joined
Downe House in September 2015
as Assistant Housemistress in Willis,
Sixth Form tutor and French teacher.
Life at Downe House is fabulously
varied and exciting, and what I
value most about it is that it is an
incredibly true mirror of the ‘life
beyond’ Downe, with its challenges,
hurdles and success, but most of all
with its sense of community and
care that nurtures the respect of self
and others. To see and help young
women grow and become confident
adults, supporting them through the
challenges that life has in store for
them, is an invaluable privilege that
is renewed every academic year.
Miss Ellen
(York EC)
After studying for a degree in
Marketing I entered the world
of work as a merchandiser for a
leading women’s clothing retailer
in central London. However, I soon
found education calling me back
and so decided to pursue a career
in teaching, gaining my Qualified
Teacher Status in 2007.
Throughout my career I have worked
in various schools in my role as a
Psychology teacher, including two
years at an International School in
Beijing. In my teaching posts I have
always held the role of Sixth Form
tutor and so have been heavily
involved in the UCAS process with
several cohorts, including students
applying for, and successfully gaining
places at Oxford and Cambridge and
various prestigious universities both
in the UK and overseas.
In September 2014 I joined Downe
House and after spending my initial
year in Willis I moved over to be a
Housemistress in York. In addition
I am a Higher Education Advisor in
the Higher Education and Global
Initiatives Team. As part of my role I
provide individualised guidance for
the Sixth Form girls to take them
through the UCAS process and the
array of Higher Education options
available to them.
I am an Oxbridge mentor specialising
in Psychology and Social Sciences. I
also coordinate the Post Qualification
Applications for students who are
applying or reapplying to university
after leaving the Upper Sixth. I work
closely with the rest of the Higher
Education Team to provide a network
of expertise that the girls can utilise
in order to ensure they make the best
Higher Education decisions for them.
Miss Kathryn
(York EC)
Having attended school in
Melbourne and Ballarat (Australia)
I decided to study at the University
of Tasmania in Hobart. I completed
a diploma in Performance (2003),
degrees in Music and Teaching
(2006) and decided that I wanted to
stay on in Hobart performing and
working at St. Michael’s Collegiate
School for girls and then The
Hutchins School for boys. I loved my
time working across the age groups
and teaching some passionate young
musicians, however I knew that I
needed to travel. In 2010 I embarked
on my GAP year. It was to be a
year working and travelling around
Europe, North America and South
America; I made it to the first stop!
Since arriving in the UK, I have
worked across Berkshire as an Upper
Strings teacher and classroom
specialist with Berkshire Maestros,
embraced prep school teaching
and rekindled my love of sport at
Feltonfleet Prep School in Surrey.
Throughout my experience in both
Australia and the UK I have come
to realise what is the fundamental
core of my teaching: a passion for
pastoral care within a boarding
community. I am excited to continue
to embrace the life and ethos of
Downe House along with the day
to day challenges and the immense
success of each and every girl
within York and the whole School
Mrs Caroline
(York CWW)
I trained initially as a Teacher at
Chelsea College of Physical Education,
graduating in 1975. I spent two years
teaching in Brentwood and Eastleigh
before starting a family, eventually
returning to teaching when my
youngest daughter was four. My
career has seen me spend 18 years
working in the state sector teaching
mostly at a comprehensive school in
Plymouth seeing my career develop
to eventually become Head of PE as
well as a Year Head. I gained my BSc
in Biological Sciences through Open
University during this time. Having
realised that pastoral care was where
my future lay I made the move to the
Independent sector in 2000 when
I joined Bruton School for Girls as
a Housemistress. I then moved to
St Margaret’s, Bushey as a Senior
Housemistress. I thoroughly enjoyed
my time at both schools before taking
on the role of Director of Boarding at
Wentworth College in 2005. I joined
Downe House in 2008 as a teacher of
biology and Housemistress.
My time at Downe House has seen
me working both in the mixed age
and Sixth Form sectors as well as
teaching biology to girls from Remove
to the UV. I became Housemistress of
York North in 2012. It has been very
rewarding to watch York North and
York South develop from being two
very separate houses into the single
entity it is now. One of my roles is
coordinating the Caledonian Society
which has grown steadily over the
past four years. Strong links have been
forged with Radley, Eton and Harrow
with formal Black Tie events taking
place each term. It has proved so
popular that its membership consists
of over half the Sixth Form. I feel
extremely privileged to be part of such
a strong Sixth Form team which has
one goal, that to see the girls develop
into dynamic and forceful young
women who are able to meet the
demands of independent life.
Miss Aneya
(York CWW)
After graduating last year with a
Masters in Chemistry from Durham
University, I spent three months
abroad working for an international
research project. The project was in
the area of biomimetics – imitating
natural processes for the purpose of
solving complex human problems.
In particular I was looking at plant
surfaces to learn more about water
capture mechanisms that could
be used to combat global water
shortages. The first two months of
my time were spent in Kuala Lumpur
in a botanic garden, after which
I travelled to Christchurch, New
Zealand, where I taught scientific
workshops in schools. It took me
by surprise how much I enjoyed
working in a school setting and this
is what inspired me to apply to work
in schools when I got back to the UK.
Having been to both an all-girls and
a boarding school myself, working at
Downe House seemed like a perfect
fit and I feel very lucky to have
been welcomed into such a caring