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Shirley Parks

Chief Executive, MAT

Shirley Parks took up her post as Chief Executive of the North West Education Trust in April 2015. Shirley has 20 years of experience within the education sector and has held senior leadership positions in the civil service and local government. Shirley joined the Trust from the Education Funding Agency (Department for Education), where she advised Ministers on basic need policy and capital funding allocations. During her time with the EFA, she led major system-wide changes, including the redesign of national data collections and their use to allocate over £3bn of capital funding to local authorities.

Prior to this, Shirley held various senior leadership roles in Partnerships for Schools, a government delivery agency, and within local government, where she was responsible for a range of education services, including capital strategy, asset management and place planning, and strategic reviews of provision across children’s services.

Shirley supports a number of community initiatives that help young people to fulfil their potential.  She has served as a primary and secondary school governor for over 15 years and is currently Chair of Governors of a large secondary school in Leeds.


Michael Blakey

Chair of Governors, Education Committee

Michael Blakey has succeeded Jackie Potter as Chair of Darwen Aldridge Community Academy’s governing body. Michael is a specialist children’s services adviser and former Ofsted inspector of teacher training, schools and children’s centres. With a strong track record of driving highly effective service improvement in education and children’s services he is now a director of a not for profit children’s services consultancy. Beginning his career as a science teacher Michael has also recently led two successful bids for new Free Schools in Manchester. In his spare time he’s the leader of one of the UK’s busiest mountain rescue teams.

Brendan Loughran


Brendan was the founding Principal of Darwen Aldridge Community Academy from 2007 and has led the growth and development of the Academy since it opened in 2008. Prior to this he was Headteacher at Westhoughton High School in Bolton. Over the last twenty nine years, he has taught in five school across the northwest region in Knowsley, Trafford and Pennine Lancashire. Brendan has always worked in schools facing challenging circumstances and believes any barrier a young person faces can be overcome and that to secure the best outcomes for them, nothing can be left to chance. Brendan has modelled his leadership around the four strands that he believes 21st Century schools should have, namely improving academic success, promoting economic regeneration, innovative community engagement and a fully inclusive ethos, all underpinned by an entrepreneurial approach to education.

Angela Neal

Education Committee


Angela is a teacher of Geography at DACA. Having worked in Darwen for over 20 years, she welcomed the opportunity to become involved in the Governing Body. ‘I believed that the Academy could make a difference to the people of Darwen, both now and in the future. To be a part of that is exciting. Darwen, and the Darreners, deserve the chance for this generation and the next to be educated by outstanding teachers at an outstanding school. I want to play a part in that happening’.


John Norris

Education Committee

John is a parent of 2 students at DACA and was elected to the Governing Body, this is his first experience as a School Governor. “I was looking for a challenge and the chance to make a difference, this opportunity really appealed to me on many levels. As a parent I saw a chance to influence the way the Academy supports student welfare and education, as an individual I could see the Academies potential place in educational excellence and want to see the Academy make a difference.”

An experienced operational manager with Virgin Media, his business role places him in a position that requires decision making and leadership. He sits on several corporate governance forums within Virgin Media which set policy and procedures. In a challenging technology industry, performance management and change are regular activities, essential to maintaining the competitive edge needed to succeed.


Glenda Brindle

Education Committee




Glenda was born in Darwen and attended St Joseph’s Primary School, Notre Dame Blackburn and The Harris College Preston before taking up the role of a Senior Fashion Designer in Greater Manchester for 7 years.  She moved into teaching in 1980 and over the years has held many areas of responsibility.  Her most recent appointment was as Dean of the School of Art, Design and Performance at UCLAN, Preston, and during her time there she developed the area of the Creative Industries to become one of the largest schools across the University.

Glenda has always maintained strong ties with Darwen.   She has held the position of Secretary for one of the local walking groups, the Spring Vale Rambling Class, for the last 44 years.  She is a Eucharistic Minister at St Joseph’s, Darwen and Glenda attends and supports as many local events and exhibitions as possible.

Glenda’s areas of involvement with DACA will hopefully touch on all of the areas that have influenced Glenda’s own career over the last 40 years - Education, Young People , Communities, Cultural and Creative industries across all of the Arts.

Glenda looks forward to her involvement with DACA over the coming years.

Antony Lockley

Vice-Chair, Business Committee

Antony was appointed as a Governor at DACA in December 2013, and he currently lectures in housing and regeneration at the University of Salford. Antony grew up in Liverpool and studied history at the University of Manchester, graduating with first class honours in 2002. He then went onto work for government, including several years working as a senior officer across Lancashire on regeneration projects for Blackburn with Darwen BC and Blackpool Council. In these roles he worked with others to successfully attract funding for multi-million pound investments in infrastructure, housing and economic development. Over the last five years Antony has committed a significant amount of his personal time to helping a number of social housing providers in the region with aspects of the strategic management and improvement of their organisations. Antony has specialisms in governance and effective performance management and is currently a co-opted member of a number of local housing providers, working closely with tenants and chief officers, including East Lancashire. Antony is committed to education and continual improvement, and singles out educational attainment and aspiration as perhaps the single most important issues in addressing social disadvantage.  



Jon Ward

Business Committee (Chair)

Jon is an experienced business and management consultant from a strong project management background.  His recent work has involved acting both as a Senior Project Manager for new Free Schools in Suffolk, Wigan, Swanage and other localities. Jon has also recently worked for BDO (formerly PKF) as a senior project manager working on a number of sponsored academy projects (primary and secondary), and prior to this worked for Oasis Community Learning (a leading multi-academy sponsor) as a Project Director. Jon has also worked on a number of Free School applications with various sponsors and parent groups who are actively pursuing Free School or Academy status.

Since working in the education sector in 2007, Jon continues his real passion for Enterprise and takes an active involvement in working with Start-Up businesses, Social Enterprise and Community Interest Companies. Prior to working on Academy projects in 2006, Jon had a successful career with the London Development Agency and is well versed in regeneration as well as having an Aerospace and Automotive manufacturing background.  Jon is a proud dad and a keen pilot. 


Michelle Savage


I'm a parent to a child that attends DACA and as such I am interested in its success.

I have worked within Jobcentre for 13 years dealing with many disadvantaged individuals. As a result of this I have seen that lack of quality education and life skills can lead to problems in securing employment and all the problems that entails.

I believe firmly in education being the key to success and hope to bring my experience from my time at Jobcentre into DACA to give students some idea of the challenges that will face them after their time at DACA.

I hope to impart my passion for education and employment as a way of self fulfillment and improvement within the board to help DACA continue to be successful in educating and influencing young lives.



Sharon Walker-Smith

Business & Education Commitee

'I believe that every child has the right to a good education in an environment that is inclusive and supportive and which nurtures through both pastoral care and a strong academic structure, developing self esteem and lifelong opportunities for all children within its care.
I have a daughter that is a student at DACA, and as such I offer a commitment to upholding the values and aims of the school while also seeing things through the eyes of a parent.
I have a previously enjoyed a successful career in Retail management and have studied with the Charted Institute of Personnel and development in my current post as an administrator within The Diocese of Blackburn.'