Meet the Team

Stuart Aldridge, Deputy Principal

Stuart began his career teaching English at a secondary school in Northumberland after successfully completing his Post Graduate Certificate in Education at the University of Newcastle. As a newly qualified teacher, Stuart developed a passion for teaching and learning and gained leadership responsibility by being promoted to Second in Department for English. Stuart then joined a school in County Durham where he quickly became Head of English. During this time, Stuart was part of the merger of two schools to form North Durham Academy. From here, Stuart became a member of the Senior Leadership Team with responsibility for English and Literacy and gained significant whole Academy leadership experience by being responsible for NQTs and leading on the Pupil Premium strategy. In 2018, Stuart was appointed as Assistant Principal for Deep Learning and then in 2020, Stuart was appointed as Deputy Principal for Deep Learning at North Durham Academy – this demonstrates Stuart’s commitment to the Academy and his pursuit to ensure that North Durham Academy provides good quality education and support for the community that it serves. In October 2020, Stuart was appointed as Deputy Principal and as a senior leader in the Academy, Stuart passionately believes in the Academy’s ethos of ‘Students First’ and that every decision that is made is made to improve the life chances of all students. In his role as Deputy Principal, Stuart works across the Academy to ensure that students receive high quality lessons every lesson. He also supports staff to ensure that their practice enables all students to reach their full potential.

Rachel Somerville, Deputy Principal

Rachel began her teaching career as a RE teacher at Wolsingham School and Community College after completing her PGCE at Durham University and her Theology Degree in Liverpool. During her second year of teaching Rachel was promoted to middle leadership and took up the position of Head of Religious Studies which she continued for several years whilst taking on additional whole school responsibilities such as Lead Practitioner for Most Able and Talented. In 2006, Rachel was promoted to Head of Sixth Form and joined the Senior Leadership Team where she was instrumental in leading the Sixth Form forward.

In April 2012 Rachel moved to Consett Academy as Assistant Principal. Her role was to develop the Post 16 education in the Academy. Within four years, the Academy was recognised as being within the top 4% nationally for A’ Level results. Since then Rachel has had several roles and has played a key part in ensuring that students are supported and equipped for their next stage in education.

Rachel has now joined North Durham Academy as Deputy Principal to share her knowledge and expertise in leading the Deep Support Team to ensure all students are supported to achieve their potential. Rachel is passionate about the needs of every student, ensuring that no matter what their barriers they are supported to achieve and succeed. Rachel leads by example and ensures that students are at the forefront of all decisions made to drive the Academy forward.

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 as 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.

Clare O’Keeffe, Assistant Principal – Deep Support

Clare began her career as a PE teacher in Oxfordshire after completing her PGCE in the University of Wales, Bangor. During her time at Banbury she focused on attendance leading to the first prosecution in the country before taking on a Head of Year role. It was here that Clare’s passion for helping the students to reach their full potential and raising their aspirations became apparent. Clare then moved back to the North East to be closer to home and in 2007 gained a promotion as Assistant Headteacher at Gilesgate Comprehensive School with responsibility for the 11-16 campus with a specific focus on raising the grades of students. By 2012 the school was graded good by Ofsted and achieved 5 A*-C grades including English and maths. In 2013 Clare joined North Durham Academy as Assistant Principal for Deep Support leading Attendance and SEND provision. As a senior leader in the Academy Clare believes that all students need the best teachers to promote excellence across the Academy and all students require the right support to ensure they achieve their best.

Lauren Smith, 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 Principal 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.

Rebecca Wheatley, Head of Deep Support

Rebecca began her career in Education as an Inclusion Administrator working at Outwood Academy, Acklam. It was here that Rebecca realised her true passion which was to ensure all children attend school feeling safe and happy and having the potential to fulfil their future life chances. Rebecca completed several roles within education including Education Welfare Officer, Inclusion Coordinator, Aspiring Leader and Associate Assistant Principal. Rebecca also worked for a residential home as a Team Manager where she cared for extremely vulnerable children who were in the care of the Local Authority. These experiences and challenges have driven Rebecca to be determined and ambitious in all that she does. In December 2019, Rebecca joined North Durham Academy as Head of Deep Support and is extremely proud to be a member of the Senior Leadership Team. Meeting the social and emotional needs of all students is always at the forefront of Rebecca’s mind, and safeguarding our students is paramount. Regardless of a child’s needs and background, Rebecca believes that all children should be inspired to be the best possible version of themselves.

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.

Rachel Mahoney, Head of Mathematics

Rachel began her career as a maths teacher at St George’s Academy in Sleaford after completing her PGCE at Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln. During her time at St George’s Academy Rachel developed numeracy across the curriculum and became a lead teacher for the mathematics department. From there Rachel took up post as a head of department for Carre’s Grammar School in Sleaford. During this time Rachel developed her knowledge of teaching A-Level mathematics and developed the curriculum that was in place. Re-location brought Rachel to North Durham Academy as the Head of Mathematics where she is implementing curriculum changes to drive improvement within the Academy. Rachel strongly believes that every child deserves the opportunity to receive high quality mathematical teaching through a mastery curriculum.

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.

Rebecca Pallas-Gill, Head of Technical & Vocational

Rebecca began her career as a Food & Health and Social Care teacher at Walbottle Campus Secondary School after completing her SCITT at Northumbria University. During her time at Walbottle Campus she developed a passion and enthusiasm for teaching and learning and gained her Masters in Teaching & Learning to further embed her passion in this area. Rebecca left Walbottle Campus to further her career at North Durham Academy by obtaining a permanent position of Subject Lead for Food & Health and Social Care. After gaining further leadership experience within this position Rebecca gained a promotion and became Head of Technical & Vocational Directorate.

Rebecca has continued to follow her passion for teaching and learning as a Head of Directorate. Rebecca passionately believes that all students deserve lessons of the highest standard so they can be the best they can be. As part of her role in the Academy she supports all members of her directorate in the delivery of an excellent curriculum and inspiring all students.

Imogen Dickson, SEN Manager

After university Imogen‘s TEFL qualification led her to teach in South Korea and Nepal for four years. After returning to England, and as part of her PGCE, Imogen enjoyed teaching performing arts in London. She later returned to the North East of England to develop her teaching career and to run arts and written story events for young people.

Imogen worked extensively with disability theatre groups and delivered the SEND Entry Level to Performing Arts Course. She created a film with learners with profound and multiple needs and led a digital course for people experiencing mental health issues.

Imogen has taught in North East secondary schools and a Pupil Referral Unit delivering GCSE and A’ Level courses. Most recently, she has taught at Durham Prison where the prevalence of SEN encouraged her to train as a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO).

Imogen is driven to support learners with additional needs at a young age and to make a positive impact as early as possible in their lives. She believes that circumstances and environment don’t have to shape our lives and that our decisions can. Progress is always an option!

Imogen is a qualified life coach and NLP practitioner and advocates encouraging students to seek fulfilling futures.

Please follow this link for our full staffing structure – January 2022