Meet the Team
Mark Gray, Head Teacher
Mark began his career teaching Physical Education at Nunthorpe Academy in Middlesbrough, having completed his Graduate Teacher Program with Stockton GTP. Throughout his time at Nunthorpe, Mark assumed various roles as a pastoral lead, a curriculum lead and seconded to SLT team for two years where he was responsible for data, exams and achievement. In the latter years of his time at Nunthorpe, Mark gained the NPQSL qualification. Having been at Nunthorpe for 9 years it was time for him to move on to a new challenge.
Mark moved to a promoted post as Associate Assistant Principal and Head of PE at Outwood Academy Acklam in Middlesbrough. Mark was very quickly promoted to Assistant Principal and was responsible for Deep Learning (Teaching and Learning). After 1 year, Mark moved to Outwood Academy Bishopsgarth in Stockton to gain a deeper understanding of senior leadership in a different academy. He was responsible for Deep Experience, attendance, intervention and enrichment. Mark returned to Outwood Academy Acklam in the promoted post as Vice Principal in charge of Deep Experience (Curriculum, data and exams). In February 2020, Mark was promoted to Principal of Outwood Academy Acklam a mere month before the Covid-19 pandemic swept the country.
Mark remained at Outwood Academy Acklam until June 2022 where he assumed the role of Head Teacher at North Durham Academy. Mark is a firm believer in educating the whole student, placing equal weighting on academic performance as well as personal development. His positive outlook and determination to put students first is clear for all to see and feel. Mark has an unwavering passion for educating young people and for forging links between the academy and the community.
Helen Bownes, Deputy Head Teacher
Helen realised she wanted to follow a career in teaching, after she worked in a French ski resort, with English school children, following her graduation from the University of Sussex. She began her career as a Geography teacher in a school in Stevenage, where she quickly developed an interest and passion in supporting students in breaking down barriers they may have to their learning.
Helen worked at Northern Education Trust as their Regional SENDCO, whereby she worked with the Executive Principals and Principals of the northern secondary academies to improve the provisions for SEND students. Helen moved to become the Director of Specialism (SEND) for New College Durham Academies Trust in April 2022. Her drive is to ensure that all SEND students receive the high quality provision they need to be successful. To do this Helen is committed to ensuring that Quality First Teaching, high aspirations and expectations are a norm for SEND students.
Following a recent secondment as acting Deputy Head Teacher at NDA, Helen is delighted to start this as a permanent position from September 2023 leading Behaviour and Attitudes.
Kendra Brownless, Deputy Head Teacher
Kendra began her career as an English teacher in a school in Manchester, 2006, on a Graduate Teaching Program. After being in Manchester for four years, she moved back home to the North East to Macmillan Academy in Middlesbrough, where she led on KS3 English, KS4 English and whole school literacy. Passionate about teaching and learning, Kendra also worked with the Advanced Skilled Teachers to support NQTs and lead a teaching and learning community for staff CPD. Being part of the English leadership team where they achieved 86%, Kendra then felt ready to take up a senior leader post in 2015, in a school that was in special measures, to help their English team improve results.
For over two years Kendra helped to continuously improve results in English, and improve the quality of teaching and learning across the whole school so that the academy achieved a ‘Good’ for the first time in its history of opening. From there, Kendra moved to Northfield School and Sports College as an Assistant Headteacher of English responsible for whole school CPD, Geography, Literacy and Challenge. Her passion for developing teachers’ pedagogy and enthusiasm for evidence-based research, allowed her to write and embed the teaching and learning policy that focused on retention, skills and challenge across the school. Kendra also introduced the school’s reading strategy, effectively training staff on how the use of Reciprocal Reading can support pupils to access extended reading texts within lessons.
In 2021, Kendra moved to Grangefield Academy in the role of Vice Principal. Here she was responsible for Deep Learning: ECTs, whole school CPD, appraisal, Reading, SLT link for Humanities, whilst leading pastorally on Year 7. On the verge of completing her Doctorate in Education, Kendra decided it was a good time to move and develop her leadership in DEEP Support, taking on the role of Deputy Head Teacher at North Durham in 2022. Kendra believes that all teachers should have the highest expectations of what their pupils can achieve, and encourages positive, respectful behaviour within all lessons so that pupils can thrive and reach their fullest potential.
Rachael Wilkinson, Deputy Head Teacher
Rachael joined the NCDAT team in January 2022 having come from a large Multi-Academy Trust in the Tees Valley. Rachael began her career as a Teacher of Science and quickly moved on to several roles within the Trust including several pastoral roles and Careers Lead.
Rachael then began working with schools as an Evidence Lead in Education through the Research School to improve science education across the North East. Her work included accelerated progress for KS3 and KS4, enriching the science curriculum through purposeful practical and behaviour for learning.
Kate Mitchell, Assistant Head Teacher
Kate began her career teaching Drama at High Tunstall College of Science following completion of the GTP programme with Sunderland University. During her time with HTCS Kate took on board responsibility for whole school transition and became programme coordinator for Creative Arts ensuring quality and consistency of curriculum across Music, Art and Drama. Following 5 years at High Tunstall Kate felt the need to place her own stamp on a department and joined Outwood Academy Ormesby in Middlesbrough as Head of Drama.
During her time with Outwood Ormesby Kate progressed to Head of Creative Arts leading on Drama, Art, Music and Dance. Kate was also appointed Associate Assistant Principal taking the lead on transition, Mental Health and wellbeing and student voice. During her time at Outwood Ormesby Kate was able to use the various projects she worked on to gain both her NPQML and NPQSL qualifications.
In September 2020 Kate was promoted to the position of Assistant Principal at Outwood Academy Acklam and moved to focus on areas of student support such as attendance, behaviour, CLA and safeguarding and inclusion. As part of her work at Outwood Acklam Kate was able to secure the school the Carnegie Gold award for Mental Health and completed her Senior Mental Health lead DFE training.
Kate has now joined North Durham Academy as Assistant Head Teacher and is looking forward to using her experience and passion to continue to support and develop the students here to achieve their absolute potential.
George Dawson, Assistant Principal – Deep Experience
George trained as an Architect at the University of Newcastle before spending some time in industry. He started his teaching career at Cramlington Learning Village as a teacher of technology where his passion for innovative and reflective pedagogy was nurtured. George moved to North Durham Academy in 2014 to lead the technology department, there were significant improvements to the results across the range of technology GCSE subjects during this period driven by redevelopment of the technology curriculum. On the back of this success George was promoted to Head of Directorate shortly afterwards, thus encompassing a wide range of subjects including computing, technology, business and motor vehicle engineering. In 2017 George joined the Senior Leadership Team and led on safeguarding and behaviour. Having successfully developed these areas he has now risen to the challenge of leading Deep Experience and is excited to implement the same level of creativity and innovation applied during his tenure in Deep Support.
Lauren Brierley, Assistant Principal
Lauren began her career as a science teacher working for Forest Gate Community School in Newham, London after completing her Post Graduate Certificate in Education at the University of London. She worked her way up the ranks within the science department, finally being promoted to Head of Science Faculty. During her time within this role Lauren led the science team to achieve their best ever set of results, helping the school reach the status of becoming the 12th best achieving secondary school in the country.
Lauren has always had a passion for Teaching and Learning and was soon promoted to Assistant Headteacher responsible for teaching and learning in another large secondary school in London. During her time Lauren began to establish and embed the changes needed to dramatically improve the standard of teaching within the school.
In 2021, Lauren decided to move back home to the North-East and joined North Durham Academy as Assistant Head Teacher for Deep Learning. As a senior leader within the Academy, Lauren believes that every lesson should have a positive impact on our students and that high quality, engaging lessons should be the norm.
Charlotte Ferguson, Head of English
Charlotte began her career as a teacher of English at Pennywell Comprehensive school in Sunderland after completing her PGCE at the University of York. During her time at Pennywell, Charlotte developed her teaching across a range of subjects including drama and media and supported students to GCSE success in both literature and language. Charlotte moved to Stanley School of Technology a year before the school merged with Greencroft in 2010. She worked across both sites in the first year of the Academy before moving into the new North Durham Academy building. It was here Charlotte developed her passion for promoting reading across the Academy, taking on the roles of Learning Leader for Literacy and for KS3 English. Charlotte understands the power of books and how reading can improve student’s future life chances. As Head of English, Charlotte continues to promote the importance of being effective communicators and believes no child should suffer through word poverty and firmly believes that English can give students the tools they need to be successful in every walk of life.
Dan Dalton, Head of Science
Dan began his career as a science teacher at Oasis Academy Immingham after completing his PGCE at the University of Hull. After completing his NQT year, Dan had the opportunity to move onto become a science teacher at John Smeaton Community College in Leeds. In 2013, Dan relocated to London and joined Overton Grange School as a teacher of science and Head of Year 13. During his time there, Dan’s Sixth Form students achieved some of the best academic results in the school’s history. In 2016, Dan moved to St Marks Academy in Mitcham South London to take on the position of Head of Science. During his time in the role the science departments results improved significantly which lead to Dan gaining promotion becoming the Director of Science with the additional responsibilities of leading the Academy’s Sixth Form. Under his leadership, the Academy had its first ever students accepted onto a medicine degree at a Russel Group university. Dan moved to North Durham Academy in September 2020 after relocating from London and is responsible for the science department and STEM throughout the Academy. He believes passionately that every student deserves the best educational experience and works tirelessly with his team to improve the life chances of all the students at North Durham Academy.