Karen Barker (Head of Learning Support/SENCo)

BSc (Hons), PGCE, DipSpLD (OCR), Adv Cert, CertBA

Throughout my varied and interesting career, I have had the privilege of teaching learners from four years old through to adults, and have worked in state and independent schools. I am a specialist teacher and assessor for children with dyslexia, and have been a Deputy Head and Director of Studies at a specialist school. I have coordinated an environmental education network, which involved publishing educational materials, running training courses for network members and advising organisations on how they could make their education courses more relevant to schools. 

I whole-heartedly believe in an education that brings learning to life, provides for individual needs, raises confidence and makes success possible. I promote a ‘can-do’ attitude, enabling young people to take risks in their learning, to have-a-go, and to really believe, that even against the odds, they can achieve more than they ever dreamed was possible. I want them to view challenges as opportunities to find creative solutions, and mistakes as positive learning experiences. To have the love of learning is a must for everyone. To that end, apart from trying to keep up with all the exciting developments in specific learning difficulties, I’m currently studying for a MBA.

I thoroughly enjoy being part of the Finborough family, and leading a great team of staff. My department’s mission statement is most definitely mine: ‘Making a difference’, whether it is in the lives of children, parents or staff!


Iain Elder

I have been a teacher since 1975. Although my specialist subject is PE, I have also taught other subjects including geography and maths to GCSE and key stage 3 French and German. At my first school, the Head of Learning Support was an incredibly charismatic man who convinced me that this was an interesting and challenging area to work in – I have never been disappointed. I always gravitated to this department whenever my PE commitments allowed. This continued in subsequent schools I have worked in.

My teaching experience includes comprehensive schools, Colchester United apprentice professional footballers, a Residential Special School for EBD Boys and as a Home Tutor. I have also been a Duke of Edinburgh Award Coordinator, including Outdoor Pursuits and teacher of First Aid. I have been leader or joint leader of exchange visits to France, Germany, Italy & Spain; outdoor pursuits trips to Pindus Mountains (NW Greece), Lake District, Snowdonia, Black Mountains, Derbyshire, Ardeche Gorge (France), Skiing trips to France, Austria & Scotland and cruises to Eastern Mediterranean (Greece, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus).

My sporting qualifications in coaching/instruction/teaching include: MLC (Summer), trampoline, gymnastics, rugby, football, basketball, cricket, climbing and athletics.

Singing has been a pleasant diversion in choirs and a Barber Shop group.

By the way… I LOVE TEACHING!

Qualifications: 1971-1974Teaching Certificate course (Leeds Carnegie); 1974-1975BEd course (Leeds University)

Most important qualification – ENTHUSIASM & EXPERIENCE

My Motto – Consider yourself improperly dressed unless you are wearing a smile!


Dr Carolyn Purkis

Qualifications: BA (Hons) Physiological Science (Oxon), MBBS (London)

My background is in cellular biology and medicine, having graduated from Oxford University in 1986 and London University in 1989. Whilst working as an anaesthetist, I undertook a departmental teaching role for trainee nurses and paramedics and discovered my love of teaching!

Since having my own children, two of whom are dyslexic, I have tutored in the Stowmarket area for a number of IGCSE and A level subjects including English, sciences, maths and environmental science. 

I am now pleased to be part of the multitalented Learning Support team at Finborough


Mrs Michaela Harwood

BA(Hons) Graphic Design, PGCE,  Montessori diploma, Hornsby diploma (dyslexia)

My first teaching position was at Thurlow Park School, West Dulwich, London (an independent preparatory school) as a Year 1 and a Year 2 class teacher. During my time there I encountered children with specific learning difficulties who, no matter how they tried, could not acquire language as easily as others. This lead to training at the Hornsby International Dyslexic Centre in London so that I could gain the skills required to teach these children. I found that my skills were desperately needed not just by the children but often by their parents too. 

My interest in dyslexia became so that I made a career move to Suffolk. I taught at The Old Rectory School, a school for children who had specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism. Here I became Head of Art and a class tutor. As Head of Art I displayed work, organised trips to galleries and arranged artists’ visits. I set up a summer school combining drama and art and organised an art show to sell children’s artwork to raise money for the school.

Whilst teaching at The Old Rectory School I observed the therapeutic qualities of teaching art. To enable further development in this area I chose to head art at Care Focus Ltd; an organisation that owns a set of children’s homes in Suffolk and Essex. Most of the resident teenagers had suffered severe abuse which manifested into extreme behavioural problems. Art lessons became a safe forum in which I could encourage them to channel their feelings and to express themselves. Through art these children had a voice and a way to be heard.

My career move to Finborough School has allowed me to return to my initial interest which I thoroughly enjoy. To nurture a young person’s language skills and watch their self-esteem grow as they become confident and masters of their own learning is a joy. I also work within a highly competent teaching team whose myriad of skills and expertise lend itself to a multifaceted Learning Support department from which the pupils can only gain. We truly can make that difference.