The Nursery Team

The Nursery team

Mrs Karen Duke - Team Leader

Miss Hannah Penford - Nursery Teacher

Mrs Sandra Tozer - Teaching Assistant

Mrs Nikita Whiteside - Teaching Assistant

Mrs Leanne Hardwell - Teaching Assistant


Hannah Penford


After graduating from University in 2014 with a First-Class Honours degree in Early Years Education, I was drawn to come and live back in my hometown by the sea! I joined the Shiphay team in January 2017 and, since then, have been lucky enough to continue my Early Years career as the Manager of the Orchard Nursery, qualifying as a teacher in 2021. Prior to my time at Shiphay, I took some time out of work to travel around Indonesia and Australia where I became a certified scuba diver and explored many different cultures. When not in school, I spend a lot of my time outdoors and enjoy paddle boarding around the Torbay coastline. 


I really value working in Early Years and understand the importance of using play as a tool for learning. I strive to spark each child's love of learning by providing playful, meaningful and exciting experiences while considering each child's strengths and interests. Our nursery provides a nurturing and creative learning environment where individuality is celebrated. We encourage children to become happy, confident learners and I love that the children can experience lots of outdoor learning and have daily opportunities to be creative and explore.   Providing children with these opportunities to be inquisitive and explore the world around them alongside their peers is a wonderful and rewarding element of my role. I am really looking forward to supporting the youngest members of our school at the very start of their learning journey.


Nikita Whiteside

I joined Shiphay Learning Academy in September 2021, working as a Teaching Assistant in the Nursery. I have been a gymnastics coach for 15 years and I have worked with children from age 3 right through to 18. My love of working with Early Years has definitely developed from coaching pre-school gymnastics. The concept of ‘learning through play’ is a concept I feel strongly about, so being based in the Nursery has been perfect for me. I am hugely passionate about Growth Mindset and I truly believe that every child can achieve great things when given the right tools to unlock the doors of opportunity.  I am a mum of 2 young children so life can be pretty busy, but in my spare time I enjoy weightlifting and going out for food with friends and family. 



Sandra Tozer


I have been working at Shiphay Learning Academy for fifteen years and I’m very happy to be part of the Lower School Team.  I am an experienced Early Years practitioner and enjoy supporting young children to explore, discover and learn.

In my spare time I like to read and do jigsaw puzzles, as well as go for lovely walks in the country side and on the moors. I love spending time with my gorgeous Grandchildren too. I’m very lucky to have another Grandchild on the way!







Leanne Hardwell

After having my daughter in 2012, I knew that working with children was exactly the career path I wanted to take. I studied childcare at college, which enabled me to experience working in Nursery settings for 2 years. I furthered my education at South Devon University Centre, where I studied my Honours degree in Child Development and Education for 3 years. Prior to and during my University studies, I worked in a small school in Torquay for a total of 6 years, working with children from Reception to Year 6.

In 2021, the opportunity arose to work as a Teaching Assistant at Shiphay Learning Academy, which is a wonderful opportunity for me to further develop my skills and knowledge of supporting children in their learning and development. I am currently based in Nursery two days a week and in Year 3 one day a week and I love working in both year groups. I have a nurturing, creative and fun personality and I thoroughly enjoy supporting children in all aspects of their learning.

I have two children and we love to do lots of family things together, such as dog walks, baking cakes and going on day trips.