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The Team and our Learning Space 

Students will be taught by qualified, highly experienced and passionate teachers with primary/secondary backgrounds, in a beautiful new learning space, customised to children's needs.


Sheena Ashford-Tait, Academy Director and Teacher


Sheena is a people person and enjoys bringing out the most in others! She enjoys sharing her broad educational experience, knowledge and skills with colleagues and students and helps them develop.  After 30 years, she is still passionate about teaching children whether in the classroom, through outdoor education or in small workshops. Introducing people to new challenges and encouraging them with direct motivation and involvement is a big part of Sheena's work and social life.

She is also a competitive sports woman, enjoying a range of individual sports at a high level. She is passionate about the Arts, and a keen follower of theatre, dance, musical theatre.  Performing, choreographing and directing are some of Sheena's other talents.


Ali Board

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We are delighted to welcome Ali Board, originally from the UK, who’s here to run ‘Musical Mondays’ at The Academy. She is a percussionist of diverse styles and plays in orchestras, bands and ensembles across the south west of England. From timpani to drum kit along with gospel and Cathedral choir singing, she has multi-faceted abilities and musical talents. She plays drum kit, timpani and orchestral/band percussion, and her wealth of musical styles and experience include jazz, salsa, samba, stage musicals, classical, brass band, folk, concert band and Ghanaian drumming.

Ali first qualified as a lawyer, then recognised her passion for education by studying to teach English whilst continuing her musical career. She has taught in the UK, Asia and New Zealand, in a variety of settings and with students aged from primary through to adults and pensioners. Highlights include having played at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as part of Dartington International Festival Orchestra, sung at the Rugby World Cup, in Westminster Abbey and for the Queen!

Having started tutoring at Kip McGrath recently, she’s looking forward to bringing an extra musical dimension to your children’s educational experience.


Emma Wilson, Kip McGrath Director

Emma with the man himself, Mr Kip McGrath as Kip Wakatipu wins an award at the Sydney Conference!

Emma with the man himself, Mr Kip McGrath as Kip Wakatipu wins an award at the Sydney Conference!

Emma decided that she wanted to be a teacher at the age of 11.  Her parents tried to talk her out of it, but it's a decision she has not regretted and it's a profession that she's passionate about now than ever.  Emma taught in primary schools across England for 20 years, in a variety of roles including Deputy Head, Special Needs Co-ordinator and Music Specialist Teacher.  Moving to new premises in Frankton in early 2018 was an exciting re-launch for the business, and Emma was inspired to invite Sheena to found The Academy to increase the range and scope of how we can make a real difference to education for all children in the Wakatipu Basin.

Lucy Geraghty, Kip McGrath Centre Manager


Lucy started working as a volunteer in schools about seven years ago and realised that working with children was her calling in life. She loves helping/watching them learn and grow. Lucy qualified as a teacher five years ago and has spent a few years working and teaching in schools, including spending a summer in Ghana working as a volunteer English teacher. She is very excited to be a part of The Academy and looks forward to meeting some really 'out there/outside the box' children!

In her spare time she likes to go camping and explore this beautiful country and just has to have at least one new experience per week! Her guilty pleasures are singing at the top of her voice in her car and having a mild obsession with potatoes and cheese! 


The Academy has a dedicated learning space within the new Kip McGrath centre. 

It's ideal for small-group learning and is well resourced to inspire and engage our learners.

iPads and laptops are available for up to 12 students.  Learners can also BYOD and add to the Academy resources with their own books, artefacts and ideas.

Watch this space grow!


Debra Thomson


Debra realised from a very young age that she wanted to be a teacher.   She used to play schools with her teddies. During her university years Debra volunteered in a primary school and with the Brownies. She then became a qualified nursery nurse and worked with pre-school, toddlers and babies.  After this Debra went to Stirling University and was awarded a BsC with Honors in Psychology.  She then did a post graduate degree in primary education at Glasgow University. 

For the past 6 years Debra has taught in a Glasgow City Council school.  The school was very diverse and she has gained a great deal of experience teaching children with additional support needs. Her previous school was a 'communication-friendly' school with a nurture room and had a language and communication unit attached to it. She is very passionate about global citizenship, Fairtrade and the environment, and was the Rights Ambassador in her school. 

She can't wait to share her passion and experience with all our students and staff at The Academy.