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Leadership Team

Leadership Team

Claire Bailey - Principal

Claire Bailey graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BSc in Computing in 2003, followed by a PGCE in ICT at Sheffield Hallam University with placements at Wakefield and Doncaster in 2004.  In 2010 Claire completed a MA in Teaching and Learning in Education at Sheffield University and a PG SENCO qualification in 2019 at Leeds Beckett University.  Claire has also completed her NPQH qualification.

In 2004, Claire began teaching as a Newly Qualified Teacher in Wakefield as an ICT teacher, which then progressed to Assistant Head of Computing.  In 2010, Claire joined United Learning in Sheffield as Head of Computing and later Assistant Headteacher for Sixth Form.  During her time as an Assistant Headteacher, Claire had other roles including Data and Assessment, Specialism, Ensuring Attainment and Teaching and Learning.  In 2015, Claire was appointed Deputy Headteacher with responsibilities including curriculum and outcomes.  In 2016, Claire became Associate Principal and became Operational Lead of the academy, overseeing personal development, behaviour, attitudes and safeguarding.  In 2017, Claire was named as being the Associate Principal for the 9th highest performing secondary school in the country. 

In January 2018, Claire was seconded to another United Learning School in Leeds to support with school improvement and in 2019 was named Principal which included operational and strategic leadership including a resource provision. 

Claire’s primary and secondary education was within an area of South Yorkshire and, because of her own personal experiences in her childhood, she is very passionate about education and young people’s experiences.  Claire lives with her husband, three children and three French Bulldogs.  Her hobbies include walking, travelling to Spain and Motor Sport. 

Karl Owen - Vice Principal – Curriculum

Karl Owen graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in Aviation Technology and Pilot Studies. Whilst training to be an airline pilot, Karl realised his vocation was to teach students and made the transition to becoming a Physics teacher and completed his training in the Doncaster local authority in 2010.

In 2013, Karl joined the Outwood Grange Academies Trust in Worksop as Second in Science. It was here that Karl developed his passion for teaching and learning; incorporating research-based methods into educational practice. Karl became an Associate Assistant Principal within the Deep Learning team and supported the development of early career teachers and improving the pedagogical practice of the entire academy. He was designated as a ‘Specialist Leader of Education,’ completing the training that enabled him to support other academies with their leadership, curriculum, attainment and assessment, specifically in Science. During this time, the Academy moved from a Satisfactory grading to Outstanding in every category by Ofsted.

Karl began working in Leeds, taking up a Curriculum Leadership post with the largest academy trust in the country. Karl enjoyed working within the City of Leeds so he remained at the academy for six years, focusing on increasing the proportion of students progressing to Russel Group Universities and eventually becoming the Vice Principal leading on Personal Development.

Karl was appointed as a Trust Vice Principal for White Rose Academies Trust in September 2021. His role included a range of strategic development work across the trust, including the delivery of CPD across the Trust, leading on HR projects, ensuring compliance with safeguarding responsibilities, providing operational and strategic support to curriculum areas and ultimately supporting the growth of the Trust.

Rachel Lewis - Vice Principal – Safeguarding and Culture

Rachel Lewis graduated from Lancaster University in 2009 with a degree in English Language and Linguistics. This was followed by a PGCE in English, Drama and Media Studies at the University of Cumbria. In 2013, Rachel completed a MA in Teaching and Learning at the University of Manchester and in 2014 completed the National SENCO Qualification at Edge Hill. 

In 2010, Rachel started working at Darwen Aldridge Community Academy as an NQT teaching English. Within her first couple of years, Rachel realised that her passion in education was inclusion and in 2012 was promoted to Assistant SENCO and again to SENCO in 2013. In 2016, Rachel was promoted again to Assistant Principal with responsibility for Inclusion and Transition. This involved leading on provision for students who are looked after, are identified as having special educational needs or disabilities, have English as an additional language or are in receipt of pupil premium. In April 2021, Rachel became designated safeguarding lead for the academy and now leads on all aspects of safeguarding and inclusion. In January 2023, Rachel was promoted to the Interim Vice Principal role for Culture for the Academy.

Living in the local area, Rachel is passionate about improving outcomes for all students. She lives with her husband and 2 children and her hobbies include travelling, reading and football. 

Steve Clarke - Assistant Principal – Assessment, recording and reporting  


Coming soon …….

Emma Jones - Assistant Principal – Behaviour and Culture

Emma Jones graduated from Edge Hill University in 2016 with a degree in Secondary English Education with QTS. Emma is a qualified Teacher of English Literature and English Language and has been teaching for 7 years. In 2020, Emma completed her NPQML in middle leadership, with the desire to be a headteacher one day. 

Emma completed her training and took up a job at her placement school The Lowry Academy part of the United Learning trust, in Salford. Having grown up in Salford, Emma was excited about giving back to her local community at a school within the local authority. After two years in post as Teacher of English, Emma secured the post of ‘More Able Co-Ordinator’ within the school. A year following this in 2019, Emma took up the role of Head of Learning for Year 9 alongside her teaching role. Emma was then Head of Learning for 4 years covering years 9,10, 11 and 7 in that time.  

Emma has now taken up the post of Assistant Principal for Behaviour and Culture at Darwen Aldridge Community Academy from January 2023. Emma sees the role as an exciting opportunity to reform the culture at DACA and encourage students to have a greater sense of pride in the school that they attend. She aims to further develop the standards and behaviour across the academy and to in turn, improve the outcomes and lives of the young people that attend DACA. 

Emma is dedicated to enhancing the lives of the young people that she works with on a daily basis and this stems from her dedication and love for her own family. Emma lives with her fiancé and has a blended family with four children and two dogs. Emma enjoys competitive sports and plays netball in her free time. Emma loves to travel and particularly enjoys city breaks to various destinations around Europe. 

Gareth O'ReillyAssistant Principal – Sixth Form

Gareth O’Reilly graduated in 2004 with a BA (Hons) in Marketing before progressing into industry. From there he completed his PGCE in Secondary Education: Business Studies. His education has continued throughout his teaching career with the completion of academic research, MA leadership qualifications and an NPQSL. 

Gareth’s knowledge and expertise has arisen from teaching across numerous educational settings including Secondary, Sixth Form, FE and HE across the North West of England and Yorkshire. Gareth started as a Teacher of Business before progressing in Leadership posts as Programme Manager, Head of Business, Head of Vocational Subjects and Senior Tutor.  

As Gareth’s leadership and strategic responsibilities grew, he then lead across a range of institutions on Teaching and Learning as a Teaching and Learning Manager and Lead Practitioner of Teaching and Learning. As well as becoming a Trust specialist for the delivery of Btec subjects, he was also responsible for supporting local schools in the development of their own vocational provision. As a Director, Gareth was responsible for the curriculum design, delivery and outcomes of all related subjects and, during this time, he also trained as an instructional coach. 

Gareth’s experience has allowed him to speak at national teaching conferences and seminars on Teaching and Learning, the design of curriculum and the supported development of new and experienced teachers.  

Gareth joined DACA in January 2022 as Assistant Principal-Director of Sixth Form, a role he is incredibly excited and passionate about. Gareth is driven by creating the very best learning environment for all and to have a Sixth Form that sits at the heart of the community.  

Michelle Billington - Assistant Principal – Personal Development

Michelle Billington graduated from University of Humberside with a BA (Hons) degree in Combined Studies: Law and Management in 1995.  After a period of time working both in the UK and in France, Michelle completed a PGCE in Business and Economics Education at Edge Hill University in 1999.  

In 2000 Michelle began teaching as a Newly Qualified Teacher in an 11-18 school in Bolton as a Business and ICT Teacher. In 2002 Michelle completed an accredited course and became a certified Neuro Linguistic Programming Practitioner.  This qualification led Michelle to realise her passion for coaching, how teachers can be enterprising in their approach to teaching and how important it is to think about how learners learn.


In 2003, Michelle moved to be Head of Business Studies in an 11-16 school in Leyland.  Whilst in post, Michelle became the gifted, able and talented co-ordinator and also was responsible for the marketing and the profile of the school.  During this time, Michelle supported the school in gaining its status as a Business and Enterprise specialist school.

In 2005, Michelle joined a school in Preston as an Assistant Director of Specialism for Business and Enterprise and Head of Faculty for Business, ICT and Enterprise.  During her time there, Michelle was given many opportunities to share her love of learning and enterprising approaches nationally, working with the SSAT and locally through the Lancashire Enterprise Learning Partnership. Due to her national reputation in teaching Business, Michelle was invited to contribute to the development of a new GCSE Business suite of courses and Michelle developed the teacher’s guides and delivered CPD nationally to teachers who were about to embark on teaching the new course.  As a result, Michelle was invited to co-author a number of Business Studies textbooks and resources.  Michelle is keen to develop others and worked with Edge Hill University to advance the PGCE Business course and was a guest lecturer for students as well as subject mentor for trainees in her faculty.  Michelle also completed Leadership Pathways qualification here.

In 2011, Michelle joined DACA as Assistant Principal for Entrepreneurship and Community.  During this time Michelle focussed her work on innovating practice and creating opportunities that would allow students to shine.  DACA and its students have been in receipt of many accolades that demonstrate this including: Building Enterprise Skills winner (national Enterprising Britain Awards); Hive Business School winner and winner of European Entrepreneurial School of the Year.  Students have been to Buckingham Palace as finalists in the national Tycoon Enterprise competition more than once. Michelle led the Darwen Creates and Stand Out in Darwen projects at DACA, supporting DACA in achieving its goal of upskilling the local community and promoting entrepreneurship.  Michelle has supported hundreds of students and young people from Darwen in starting their own enterprises, both commercial and social, something Michelle is extremely proud of.

Michelle’s thirst for knowledge of educational developments led her to train as a Team Academy Coach (Business coach), enabling her to develop a Team Academy curriculum at KS3 at DACA, the only school in the world to do so.  Team Academy evolved in Finland, created to give young people skills, knowledge and qualities required to run their own business; delivered entirely through a coaching. Michelle completed coaching training to deliver this approach and designed the curriculum. 

Michelle has written and been successful in bids for grant funding for DACA to lead projects; most recently, working in partnership with the Aldridge Foundation and Blackburn Youth Zone. Michelle successfully submitted a bid which was awarded funding from the national Integrated Communities Innovation Fund.  Michelle was seconded to be Project Director for the programme Switch It, which was delivered using Team Academy pedagogy. The overall aim of Switch It was to achieve integration through empowering and equipping young people to lead enterprising solutions to social challenges and resulted in schools across the borough engaging in the programme and having positive impact on their local communities.

Michelle’s other passion is skiing, particularly in France. Michelle enjoys listening to music and spending time with her family.

Tracey Samuel - Assistant Principal -  Inclusion

Tracey Samuel graduated from The University of Huddersfield with a BA(Hons) in Music in 2006, followed by a PGCE in the same subject at Manchester Metropolitan University. Tracey is currently completing her NPQH qualification.

In 2007, Tracey began her teaching career in Leeds as Head of Music at John Smeaton Academy. In 2008 at the same school, Tracey was promoted to Head of Performing Arts, Producing and Directing many school musicals, choirs and ensembles.

Following a relocation in 2012, Tracey returned to the Northwest and became Head of Creative and Performing Arts at the Lowry Academy, Salford, where the Music Department was awarded the Gold Standard from the 'Fellowship of Musicians', ranking in the top 20% of high schools Nationally for progress. In 2014 Tracey was promoted to the role of Assistant Principal, leading on Safeguarding, Attendance, Personal Development and Culture, a role that she held for 7 years.  

In 2021, Tracey was appointed as Deputy Principal at an Indendent School for Social, Emotional and Mental Health School, specialising in working with pupils with EHCP's. In this role Tracey was responsible for the Quality of Education, Leadership and Management, SEND framework and Human Resources Team. 

Tracey is passionate about education and thrives when young people find the subjects that really ignites their drive and passion to succeed. Ensuring that every pupil feels pride in their progress and what they can achieve. 

Tracey continues to perform in Brass Bands throughout the Northwest, whilst enjoying quality time with her husband and 3 children on the weekends.