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Senior Leadership Team

Stephen Dixon Principal
Mark Aveyard   Senior Vice Principal 
Sara Wildes   Senior Vice Principal 
Nikki Sullivan   Vice Principal 
Jane Cartwright        Assistant Vice Principal 
Katy Taylor   Assistant Vice Principal 
Emily Thompson  Assistant Vice Principal 
Michael Gillen   Assistant Vice Principal 

Meet The Team

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    Stephen Dixon


    In a teaching career of almost twenty years, I have been lucky enough to work in some great schools alongside many fantastic students and colleagues. My teaching career has largely been based in West Yorkshire which has become a home from home after living there for over twenty years. I have worked in a broad range of schools as both a teacher and part of the leadership team and although I have worked in different contexts, my goal has always been the same – ‘allowing every student to be the best that they can be’. I am incredibly proud to be Principal of Barnsley Academy, it is a school that has wonderful students and totally committed staff; I could not be more excited about leading it on the next part of its journey.

    As a child, I attended a school that struggled in some respects but the History department was an amazing place. My History teachers were knowledgeable, challenging and demanding but just as importantly caring and entertaining. Largely because of them, I went on to study History at university and after that became a History teacher. Although teaching may have changed a lot since I went to school, when I think about ‘great teaching’ I always return to the qualities of those teachers who taught me History many years ago.

    I have four young children, two girls and two boys and although they see themselves as Yorkshire folk, I am still in the process of convincing them to support Newcastle United – a challenge that has become more difficult recently (but not for long)!

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    Sara Wildes

    Senior Vice Principal

    I have worked at Barnsley Academy since April 2015. Prior to this I have worked in a series of challenging schools in Sheffield, Barnsley and Doncaster mainly focusing on Behaviour and Inclusion and Teaching and Learning.

    I love working close to where I grew up and working with children and families in an area that is so familiar to me. 

    I haven't always worked in education having worked in business and industry for the first 10 years of my career after completing my degree in Languages, Economics and Politics. I graduated from Kingston-Upon-Thames University in Surrey and stayed in this area for a further 10 years, returning to my roots in Yorkshire where I settled with my family and re-trained to work in education. 

    My husband also works in school leadership and is a teacher and my 19 year old son is currently in his second year at University studying for a History Degree.

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    Mark Aveyard

    Vice Principal

    I Qualified as a teacher in 1994 specialising in Business Education and PE, teaching both subjects in my first role at Thorne Grammar School.  Since then in my 22 year career, I have taught at several schools in South Yorkshire and Hull, initially progressing into a pastoral role, firstly in KS3, then in KS4.  I have also been Head of Department, before moving into Senior Leadership at Trinity Academy where I was part of this Academy's improvement to an Outstanding Ofsted judgement.

    I have used my educational experiences to present at National Conferences for Optimus Education and the Regional Training Agency on a wide range of subjects including Teaching and Learning, Middle Leadership and Performance Related Pay, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

    I moved to become Vice-Principal at Barnsley Academy in January 2012, became Senior Vice-Principal in 2015 and have relished the challenges that I have faced here over the last four and a half years.  Myself and my wife Hayley recently were blessed with a daughter Freya, and due to this I am taking the opportunity to take a part-time contract this year to look after Freya on a Friday. This means that I won't be answering emails or calls on that day!

    Being part of Barnsley Academy over the last five academic years has been a bit of a roller coaster, and definitely a challenge, but I am really confident that we are now moving positively forwards again and will soon start to see the change in culture and outcomes that the students deserve.

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    Nikki Sullivan

    Vice Principal

    When deciding what to study at University I faced two very different choices - law or dance. I chose dance I think in no small part due to the inspiring teachers I had at school.

    I graduated from Roehampton University in 2006 with a degree in Dance and English Literature. In my third year of University I undertook placements in schools which cemented my own ambition to become an inspiring teacher.

    Following the completion of my PGCE I taught in London for 2 years and then Leeds for 4 years. During my time in Leeds I also completed my Masters Degree in Teaching and Learning. Despite being a Southerner my heart belongs in the North and following a recent teaching appointment in Malaysia for 2 years, I returned to Yorkshire. I love to travel and my time living abroad gave me great insight into the culture in different parts of the world.

    I have been teaching all my adult life and constantly look to make a difference in the schools at which I work. All young people have the right to an outstanding education and outstanding life chances – I want students to be able to choose their own path and have options open to them. I love working with students and helping them realise their personal and academic potential. It is the students who make every day as a teacher an adventure – I have learnt that in fact I am inspired by them!


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    Jane Cartwright

    Assistant Vice Principal

    I studied Business Studies at University graduating in 1999. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, following in my mums footsteps, but didn’t feel prepared enough to do this at 22 years old, I felt I needed some life experience.

    My first job after university was working with extremely vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds on a daily basis. I found I had a natural rapport with this age group and the work I put into my caseload helped to transform many young people’s lives; whether that was getting them a stable place to live, or helping them get onto a college course, every day was different and every day was rewarding in its own way.

    In 2003 I made the decision to leave full time employment to return to Sheffield Hallam University to complete my PGCE in ICT.  I did my teacher training at what was then the Elmhirst School and Priory School, and secured a position at Elmhirst starting in 2004.

    I have worked in this community ever since, I have built my career in a school that I love and working within a community that I love, I am now one of those teachers who is working alongside former students, that doesn’t make me feel old it makes me feel proud.

    In 2012 I became a step mum to my beautiful Sophie; being a parent has helped to me realise the issues that not only children but parents and carers face on a daily basis!

    My husband Lee, Soph and I are Sheffield Wednesday fans (season ticket holders Home & Away); which doesn’t sit well with some of the kids, but the light hearted humorous football banter that I have with the students here at the Academy has helped me to form great relationships with them. Relationships which are significant in helping your son or daughter achieve their potential.

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    Katy Taylor

    Assistant Vice Principal

    I studied sociology at University graduating in 2004 and when I left uni I had no idea what I wanted to do! Teaching wasn't something that I had ever considered but my older sister went into teaching and suggested that this would be a good avenue for me to consider too.

    I applied for a job as support staff at a secondary school in Sheffield and within weeks of working there I knew that teaching was the job for me.  I applied for the Graduate Teaching Programme and was successful and, as a result, started my teaching career in Doncaster and I remained there for the next 8 years, specialising in special educational needs and inclusion until I decided to apply for a job at Barnsley Academy and further my career. I am an SLE in SEN for Barnsley TSA and I hold the PgCert National SENCo Award.

    Outside of the academy I play basketball and netball in the National League so I compete all over the country every weekend.  Playing these sports throughout my life has emphasised to me the importance of working as part of a team and also that hard work is essential to success.  

    I cant quite believe how quickly my first year at Barnsley Academy and I am looking forward to the year ahead and working alongside my colleagues to drive the school forward.

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    Emily Thompson

    Assistant Vice Principal

    I studied French and History at Sheffield Hallam University.  As a 'Yorkshire lass' I knew that I wanted to complete my education in Yorkshire.

    After university I did various jobs before I knew that I wanted to work with children.  Before I started my career in schools I travelled to Spain and fell in love with the Spanish language and culture.  When I returned to England I decided to complete a Spanish course with the Open University whilst completing a Graduate Teaching Programme in MFL. 

    I have loved working in this community for the last year and I am fully committed to the progress and future of all our students. 

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    Michael Gillen

    Assistant Vice Principal

    I studied Mathematics at the University of Sheffield graduating with a Masters in 2000.  I immediately enrolled on a PGCE course to become a Secondary Mathematics Teacher.  I had an enjoyable but challenging time in education due to my late diagnosed dyslexia.  

    There were many times during my education that I thought I would never achieve at the highest levels. Luckily due to unwavering parental support and a small number of dedicated teachers I was able to reach my goal of becoming a Mathematics Teacher. 

    My first teaching job was at All Saints Catholic High School in Sheffield where I learnt the nuts and bolts of being a good classroom practitioner.  In 2005 I moved to Raines' Foundation School in Bethnal Green, London where I moved from being Gifted and Talent Coordinator to eventually Head of the Mathematics Faculty.  My time at Raines' cemented my desire to work with pupils from more disadvantaged backgrounds. Whilst these pupils can on occasions be challenging my heart lies with the possibilities of making truly life changing contributions to pupils from these communities.

    In 2010 I moved back to Sheffield to work at Fir Vale School as an Advanced Skills Teacher.  I gained full certification as an AST before the qualification was discontinued.  Some of my favourite times in education come from this period of time.  Working specifically with staff to build capacity and positively affect the outcomes for pupils beyond my own classroom and school was a great experience.

    I am thrilled to join Barnsley Academy as an Assistant Vice Principal and am sure I will form many more outstanding memories here.

    I moved back to Sheffield in 2010 to be with my then partner and now wife Sara.  I have three cats, Hector, Phoebe and Electra.  Sara is also a Mathematics Teacher the cats are not.

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