The most important thing about any organisation is the people who contribute to the spirit and culture. These are people who have been handpicked to lead the Dean Close Foundation, who share our values are have educational ideals at their core. They are committed to providing an outstanding educational experience for every pupil, to help them discover what makes them unique and to realise the impact they can have on the world.
Dean Close Foundation Executive Leadership
Adrian Bowcher - Bursar /CFO & Executive Team
Adrian is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers. He spent 16 years in the RBS Group, later specialising in distressed company portfolios and specific banking problems following exceptional events such as fraud, mismanagement, or succession issues.He also has an MBA in Finance from the City University Business School (now CASS) in London.
Since 2000 Adrian has been working as Bursar or Director of Finance and Operations within independent schools both in UK and abroad, usually with a theme of restructuring, reorganisation or turnaround. He wrote a chapter on Effective School Business Office & Financial Management in the Effective Business Series published by ECIS/John Catt April in 2012.
Adrian joined the Dean Close Foundation as Bursar/CFO in 2014. Outside of work his interests lie with most sports, particularly ultra-running with his springer spaniels, restoring old houses and Land Rover Defenders.
Bradley Salisbury - Head of Dean Close School & Executive Team
Bradley trained to be a teacher of RS with Sport at the University of Bristol. He spent the next nine years teaching in Bristol, firstly at a large comprehensive school and then as Head of RS and Assistant Chaplain and Head of Middle School in an independent school. He began studying for a Masters in Educational Leadership at the same time as moving to Wells Cathedral School to run the RS department and be a Housemaster. Bradley was a boarder himself from aged 11 to 18 so a return to boarding house was a welcome one. In 2009, Bradley joined the staff of Dean Close as Senior Deputy Head before moving to be Headmaster of the Senior School in 2016.
Bradley's philosophy of education is built on the principle that school days are about preparing pupils for the next stage of their life. It is not enough for schools to just deliver exam results. They should help pupils to build and sustain relationships, play an active role in the community and have a broad view of life. This can be seen in the commitment to co-curriculum and leadership programmes that sit alongside a rigorous academic curriculum that teaches both skills and knowledge. One of the great strengths of Dean Close is that there is no typical Decanian, each year is shaped and impacted by the wide variety of pupils and staff who make up this living community. Everyone works hard but they take great pleasure from each others' achievements.
Beyond school, Bradley enjoys both playing and watching sport, spending time on the Pembrokeshire coastal path, being an active member of St Matthew's Church in Cheltenham and the company of his three teenage daughters, when they let him!
Jennifer Thomas - Director of HR & Executive Team
Jennifer studied Psychology at university and then joined the professional world of Human Resources in the Financial Services arena for nine years.
During her early career she was supported through a MSc in Business Psychology, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, qualified in Psychometric testing and in Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Coaching. She moved into Private Equity specialising in IT Software for Financial services and also in Professional Services. During her eight years in Private Equity she became a Fellow of the CIPD and a Board Director to a circa £350 million group of companies.
During her 20 years of HR experience before joining the Dean Close Foundation she took an active role in leading companies through change with the primary focus on ensuring people were at the forefront of all practices. Jennifer joined the Dean Close Foundation in late 2019 to professionalise the HR shared function and ensure it is structured for stability and growth.
Jennifer’s personal interests focus on travel, culture and design. Jennifer has travelled extensively with her highlights being spending time in an Ashram in the Himalayas and speaking for Desmond Tutu in a private ceremony in South Africa. Jennifer’s daughter Evie is a Dean Close Squirrel and the focus of Jennifer’s time away from work.
School & Nurseries Leadership
James Cowley - Head of Dean Close Pre-Preparatory School
From the moment I first walked through the gates of Dean Close Pre-Prep School in 2009 as Deputy Head, I felt an unmistakable sense of community and warmth that told me this was truly an extraordinary place.
One of the most heartwarming aspects of each school day is observing the children arriving, their faces alight with enthusiasm, often eagerly pulling their parents along. The sound of laughter echoing from the classrooms and the spontaneous singing of pupils at work are everyday occurrences that contribute to our nurturing environment.
As the Head of the school, I have the distinct privilege of collaborating closely with our dedicated staff, engaged parents, spirited children, and the broader Dean Close community to create an atmosphere where every child can flourish.
The adage "a happy child learns best" is one that education professionals universally agree upon. However, with over three decades of experience, I am confident in taking this principle a step further: "a joy-filled child learns even better." Achieving joy in children is a great aim; it comes from a balance of them feeling valued, forming strong friendships, having their basic needs met, and benefiting from a bespoke, vibrant curriculum that plays to their unique interests and developmental needs. Our aim is not just to educate but to infuse our activities with joy, making the learning process a delightful experience for everyone involved.
Being part of Dean Close Pre-Prep School is incredibly rewarding for me, whether I’m strolling through its corridors, visiting our Forest School, cheering on a Year 2 hockey match, or sharing in the joy of a nursery child's creative food-play endeavours. I warmly invite you to tour our school to experience first-hand the vibrant community that makes Dean Close Pre-Prep such a unique and wonderful place for your child to grow and thrive.
Paddy Moss - Head of Dean Close Preparatory School
The Head of Dean Close Preparatory School, Paddy Moss, has been in this post for over five years. When not tackling the School’s next initiative, or enjoying the company of pupils during breaktime ‘Headmaster’s Snacks’, or playing evening cricket with the boarders on the games fields, Paddy can be found enjoying an outdoor life himself on his bike, canoe or in the garden with this Maths and PE-teaching wife, Julie.
As a Head who is constantly aware of the need to maintain and enhance high standards, Paddy has experienced life on both sides of the fence, being a parent of three daughters who have all benefited from a Dean Close education.
His many years of management experience were largely gained overseas, where Paddy was Deputy and then Head of one of the leading, boarding Prep schools in East Africa. Together with an enduring wanderlust, these experiences convinced him of the need for pupils to experience learning in a values-based, multi-racial and multicultural community, where they can share experiences and learn from each other.
Nick Thrower - Head of Dean Close St John's
Nick graduated from The University of Liverpool with a degree in Geography followed by his PGCE in Geography and PE. At St Andrew’s School in Kenya he oversaw the Senior School sports, teaching A Level and GCSE PE, and a girls boarding house; the experience in a Christian school environment influenced his educational philosophy of growing leaders for the future.
In a move back to the UK in 2014, Nick worked at Lambrook School as Chaplain. He was promoted to Assistant Head, Pastoral overseeing the wellbeing of more than 570 pupils aged 3 to 13 putting it at the forefront of school life.
Nick is passionate about prep school education through to Year 8. He recognises the need to encourage, stretch and challenge young people, ensuring that they have the skills they need for the future alongside celebrating the core value of kindness. He is also an advocate of outdoor learning, understanding the necessity for children to connect with the environment through their learning.
He enjoys a range of interests from photography and walking to bread-making and sport. Taking up the reins at Dean Close St John’s has been an exciting one and he has relished the challenge of being in a smaller school and a part of the wider family of schools within the Dean Close Foundation.
Jason Dobbie - Head of Dean Close Airthrie
Jason moved from New Zealand to the UK in 2000 and began his teaching career at Dean Close St John's. He graduated from the University of Wales Institute and completed his PGCE in Geography.
Jason spent 20 years at Dean Close St John’s and experienced many different roles. He taught Games, Maths and Geography before becoming the Head of Boys’ Games, DSL, Head of Boarding , Deputy Head and Acting Head. He was appointed as Head of Dean Close Airthrie in September 2021.
Jason believes that a child’s education should be exciting, challenging and rewarding. It is also essential that they have access to a balanced curriculum, offering variety and task. He is a firm believer that a school is a family and that parents, staff and pupils play an equal role in becoming a tight community.
Jason has always been active in sports and has been the Chepstow Cricket 1st XI captain since 2011. He is a mad rugby fan and a big supporter of the All Blacks.
Charlene Burgess - Group Operations Manager
Charlene was appointed as a nursery practitioner in our Celtic Springs nursery in 2012, was promoted to the Room Leader, then Deputy Manager and then Nursery Manager whilst also studying her Level 5 Managerial Childcare qualification. She was the nursery SENco (in Wales ALNco) supporting children with additional needs to ensure they make good progress against targets, and prepare them for school.
In 2017, Charlene was appointed as the Area Manager for Dean Close Little Trees having overseen the expansion of two further acquisitions, the development of existing nurseries, and the enhancement of quality provision for children. Charlene has championed the reputation of DCLT and often works closely with the regulators and local authorities. Most recently, Charlene has influenced a policy change within Gloucester Children’s Safeguarding Partnership through careful and considerate due diligence and completed her level 5 ILM qualification in Leadership & Management.
Outside of nursery life, Charlene has a passion for interior design, often taking on new projects around her home. She enjoys hiking and loves spending time with her family and friends, hosting one celebration after another.
Rebecca Chaplin - Director of Admissions
With over 20 years experience in schools, Rebecca is one of the most experienced admissions professionals in the UK. Watching children excel and thrive as they progress through the school, and welcoming their families to the Dean Close community, is the part of her role she enjoys the most.
As a boarding child herself, Rebecca appreciates the challenges faced by children who are far away from home, and the sacrifices made by their families. She is also mindful of the tremendous benefits she received thanks to her privileged education.
Rebecca studied Pharmacology at University College London before embarking on work in the pharmaceutical industry. She was also privileged to work for Winston’s Wish, the Gloucestershire child bereavement charity, and was grateful for the chance to make a small difference to the lives of bereaved children.
Her younger son, Joshua, studied at Dean Close before going on to achieve a 1st Class degree in Biology from Bath University. Her experience as a parent helped her to recognise the wonderful opportunities for pupils and the lifelong involvement that an ex-pupil of the school can expect.
In her spare time Rebecca loves swimming, reading and to be walked by her dog in the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside.
Alex Hume - Head of Development and Alumni Relations
Alex joined Dean Close Junior School as a pupil in 1995, staying right through to Sixth Form before graduating from Cardiff University with a BSc in Business Studies.
He settled in Bristol, working for Executive Search firms recruiting into the renewable energy sector. After six years, Alex was asked to become Event Director for the largest sales exhibition and conference show in the UK, held at Olympia alongside The Business Show. Following this he was asked to join Stage Electrics working for clients such as E.ON, P&O, Land Rover Jaguar and Selfridges.
In 2014 Alex joined Dean Close as Secretary & Trustee to the Old Decanian Society, responsible for Development and Alumni Relations at the Foundation. His main aim is to keep Old Decanians in contact with one another, and the School, through communications and a series of events. He is also responsible for furthering the interests of the Foundation, primarily overseeing Development but also working closely alongside marketing, admissions, careers and services. He is a member of the Association of Representatives of Old Pupils’ Societies (AROPS) and the Institute of Development Professionals in Education (IDPE).
Alex has three children with his wife Alice, Arthur, Wilf and Flora. He enjoys his golf and is a member of Cotswold Hills Golf Club.