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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. 

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 Attitudes

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. 

Michelle Billington - Assistant Principal – Professional 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.

Jessica Flanagan - Assistant Principal – Teaching and Learning 

Jessica Flanagan graduated from The University of Manchester in 2016 with a First-Class Honours degree in Spanish and Italian. This was followed by a two-year placement on the Teach First Leadership Development programme, in which time she completed both her PGCE and NQT year at Marsden Heights Community College, Nelson.  In 2018, Jessica then progressed quickly to Head of Languages at All Saints Catholic High School, Rawtenstall, where she spent a year improving results at KS4 and working on her middle leadership skills before returning to Marsden Heights as Curriculum Leader for Languages the following year.  Jessica was excited at the prospect of returning to her placement school and improving outcomes for all children, regardless of their background.

Throughout her time at Marsden Heights,  Jessica worked continuously on her own professional development by focussing on gaining experience in Teaching and Learning.  Jessica has delivered whole-school training on metacognition,  retrieval practice and revision techniques, and is passionate about the science of learning.  Jessica then began to take a keen interest in coaching and mentoring, therefore deciding to complete her Level 2 in Teacher Education in October 2022.  It was at this point that Jessica decided that she was ready for a move into Senior Leadership, thus prompting her to take up whole-school responsibility for etymology. By working alongside the Literacy lead, Jessica focussed on encouraging students to think more deeply about where words come from, which in turn would enable them to decode the meanings of unfamiliar words moving forward. Her work went some way to improving reading ages for children across the school, which had always been her goal.

In July 2023,  Jessica completed the United Learning course in Senior Leadership, which has equipped her with the skills to become an integral part of the Senior Leadership team at DACA as she takes up post as Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning in September 2023.  Jessica is excited to be a part of the team at DACA and is keen to use her previous experience to create a strong culture of Teaching and Learning across the school.

Jessica loves the outdoors and is currently in the process of hiking all 214 peaks in the Lake District. Having hiked 72 of them, she has quite a few to go!

Ben Parker - Assistant Principal – Personal Development 

Ben Parker graduated from Lancaster University in 2007 with a BMus (hons) degree in Music before completing his PGCE at the University of Cumbria the

following year. From that point he worked as a classroom teacher of Music for 11 years, taking on increased responsibility in school to oversee and coordinate school productions and completing Middle Leadership training along the way. It has been since 2019 that Ben’s career escalated quickly, and in this time, Ben has been both Head of Music and Head of a Creative Arts Faculty, overseeing the development of an improved curriculum for Music,  Art,  Drama and Media. In June 2022, Ben was asked to lead on a whole school initiative and it was at this point he realised he had the desire to have a stronger hand in the running of a school. In January 2023, Ben began his NPQ course for senior leadership and he was appointed as Assistant Principal for Personal Development at DACA in September 2023.  

Ben is excited to be a part of the Senior Leadership Team at Darwen Aldridge Community Academy and he is committed to enriching the lives of young people. Drawing on his own education and upbringing, Ben realises the importance and the influence we can have as educators and to be able to broaden horizons and create opportunity for future generations is a privilege. Learning within the classroom is only a small part of the role school has to play in shaping futures and Ben is looking forward to strengthening partnerships between the school, places of further and higher education and places of employment and apprenticeships. There is no greater reward than to see young people flourish and have successful and prosperous lives. 

In his personal time, Ben enjoys walking with his family, running and working with local Amateur Dramatic groups as rehearsal pianist, pit musician, musical director and stage crew. 

Philip Goulding - Assistant Principal


Coming soon …….

Joe Burgoyne - Assistant Principal - Curriculum

Joe Burgoyne graduated from UCLAN with a BA Hons in English before undertaking teacher training at MMU in 2006.  He joined Tottington High School as a teacher of English in the same year where he has progressed through Head of Year, Head of House and Head of English positions before accepting the role of Assistant Headteacher in 2020 and completing his NPQ qualification in Senior Leadership.  In this time, Joe also completed a Masters in Education.

In April of 2024, Joe joined Darwen Aldridge Community Academy as an Assistant Principal responsible for curriculum and is excited to support the school in achieving its vision for its young people, in particular helping to raise aspirations and pupil outcomes with innovative curriculum design and implementation. 

In his personal time, Joe is an active but extremely limited sportsman, enjoying football, golf and squash without being good at any of them.  He also loves to spend time with his fiancée and six children.