Governance 2017-12-11T23:24:29+00:00

Who are our Governors?

We are delighted to introduce you to the Governors of Darwen St James’. Please find their details and links to further information below:

Committees and Roles for 17/18 – Committees-meetings-and-dates-17-18

Mr Laurence Upton – Chair of Governors

Name: Mr Laurence Upton

Role: Foundation Member and Chair of the Local Governing Committee

Term of Office: 4 years from July 2016

Register of Business Interest: Director of Blake Hall Personnel Services Ltd – many clients are schools

Governance: I’m also a Governor at John Cross CE School in Bilsborrow and a temporary member of the Governing Board at Silverdale St John’s CE Primary School.

Committees: Resources

Attendance: All meetings attended since appointment


After leaving school I spent 10 years working in what is now the Jobcentre network.  I then spent 10 years with ACAS in East London before moving to the private sector and then consultancies working on HR issues.  I set up Blake Hall Personnel Ltd in 2006 which I continue to run even though I have now ‘retired’ from corporate roles.

I first became a school governor in 1980 and have been in that role at many different schools, mainly in the south of England, ever since.  I chaired the Governing Body of a primary school that went ‘Grant Maintained’ for many years.  As a result of that I became involved in, and eventually Vice Chair of, FASNA which represents foundation and voluntary schools and, now, academies.  This role led me to meet many Government and Opposition Ministers and Shadow Ministers, including Theresa May in her early years.  I also gave evidence in person to the School Teachers’ Review Body several times.

When working for a small consultancy in the 1990s I saw a gap in the market for HR advice to schools as an alternative to that provided by local authorities.  As a result I am still retained to give that support to around 20 schools through Blake Hall Personnel Ltd.

I am married with three children, a step-daughter and six (soon to be seven!) grandchildren.  I’m a season ticket holder at Blackburn Rovers.

Mrs Bernie Bickerton – Vice Chair of Governors

Name: Mrs Bernie Bickerton

Role: Foundation Member and Vice-Chair of the Local Governing Committee

Term of Office: 4 years from October 2015

Register of Business Interest: None

Governance: I serve only on the Governing Body of Darwen St James’ CE Primary Academy

Committees: All Committees







Curriculum Committee:

15.03.2017 (Apologies)



Performance Management of the Headteacher – 12.10.2016

Pupil Premium – 29.09.2016

RAP – June 2016

SEND assessment – 11.01.2017
BwD Chair & Vice Chair Briefing – 09.01.2017

BwD Governor Conference 13.05.2017

Safeguarding – June 2017

NGA RAISEon-line – 05.07.2017

Information Governance – July 2017

Adverse Childhood Experiences – July 2017


I have been in the teaching profession for 32 years and have spent my career in Blackburn with Darwen authority. I taught at range of schools for a period of 17 years and moved into Headship 15 years ago spending three years as Headteacher at Brookhouse Primary School in Blackburn and then Headteacher at Hoddlesden St. Paul’s Primary School for 12 years. In October 2015 I joined the Local Authority as a School Effectiveness Officer (School Adviser) and am using my experience to support schools in improving outcomes for children. I am also pleased to be able to use my knowledge, skills and experience of schools and Governance to support the work of Darwen St James’ Academy. On a personal level, I have two grown up children, am a long standing Blackburn Rovers supporter/sufferer! In my spare time enjoy making and decorating cakes as well as birdwatching with my husband.

Mr Andrew Aspden

Name Mr Andrew Aspden

Role Foundation Governor

Term of Office 5 years

Register of Interest A. Aspden Limited

Governance I only serve on the Governing body of Darwen St James CE’ Primary Academy

Committees Premises (Health & Safety), Attendance & SEN.

Attendance 3 x Full Governors Meetings, 3 x Strategic Meetings.


I attended St Wilfrids C of E High School from 1981 to 1986, where upon I  completed an apprenticeship at the ROF factory as a mechanical engineer before joining the family haulage and plant hire company. I am now employed as a site manager for an Accrington based building company working on a variety of projects within the East Lancashire area which mainly consist of maintenance and refurbishment works to schools and it was whilst managing a building project at Darwen St James’, that I was approached by the school to join the Governing Body.  I am married to Andrea and we have two children who are enjoying Further Education.

Miss Maggie Beck

Name: Miss Maggie Beck

Role: Headteacher Governor

Term of Office: 6 years. I have been on the Governing Body since 1st April 2009 when I took up my Headteacher post.

Register of Interest: None

Governance: I only serve on the Governing body of Darwen St James CE’ Primary Academy

Committees: Member of all committees

Attendance: 3 x Full Governors meetings, all committee meetings and Cidari Governor network meetings


Following on from my A-Level studies, I went off to study at Southlands College, Wimbledon, which was then part of the University of London. I gained my B.Ed (Hons) in Education and French in June 1985 after 4 years of hard work and practical teaching experience which I thoroughly enjoyed. My first teaching post was in Tower Hamlets in London and after 3 years there, I moved to a junior school in Rainham, Essex which later became a Primary School. I taught across the junior age range and was responsible for Literacy through the School. In September 1999, I became Deputy Headteacher of a CE Primary School in Kent. We worked hard and had great fun resourcing and establishing a brand new school, designing our curriculum and Christian ethos, working around the builders until they finished 6 months later! In summer 2002, I moved back North, to the post of Deputy Headteacher at a CE Primary School in Preston. From January 2004, I accepted my first headship at Howick CE Primary School in Penwortham , and at Easter 2009, I moved to St James’, where I recently celebrated my 30 years in teaching. I enjoy my job , love children and living our my Christian faith in the everyday. In my leisure time, I enjoy time with my family and friends, going to the theatre, creative crafts and gardening – only when the sun shines!

Miss Francine Smith

Name: Miss Francine Smith

Role: Foundation Governor

Term of Office: 3 years from September 2016

Register of Business Interest: None

Governance: Governor of Darwen St James. I also serve on the governor’s Education Committee at Westholme School.

Committees: Curriculum

Attendance: Business Meeting – September 2016, 1 x Full Governors Meeting, 1 x Committee Meeting.


I went to school in Cheshire and after doing A Levels in Economics, History and Maths, I headed south to Brunel University, London for my undergraduate degree in Economics. After working in London for 5 years in Human Resources at a merchant bank and telecoms company, I returned home and went to Manchester University for a secondary PGCE in 2000. Most of my teaching experience is with A Level students of Economics or Politics and my first teaching role was at a large Church of England VA comprehensive in Northamptonshire. I switched to the independent sector in 2005 as Head of Economics & Politics and Underhousemistress at a boarding school in Buckinghamshire and in 2008 became Director of Sixth Form at a girls’ day school in Northampton. Moving north again in 2014, I am currently Deputy Head – Academic at Westholme School in Blackburn and oversee all aspects curriculum, teaching and learning. I am responsible for the timetable; making sure all staff and students have lessons to go to! Alongside that I work closely with Heads of Department to ensure teaching is of the highest standard and with the pastoral team to help students stay on track and achieve their very best.
Outside of work I love music and particularly enjoy singing. I like to read, go the cinema when I have time, and travel.

Mr Andrew Gardner

Name: Mr Andrew Gardner

Role: Foundation Member

Term of Office: 3 years from September 2017

Register of Business Interest: None

Governance: I serve only on the Governing Body of Darwen St James’ CE Primary Academy

Committees: Resources and Marketing

Attendance: Business meeting on 19/9/17


Born and raised in Bakewell, Derbyshire, after studying at High Peak College in Buxton I went to the University of Salford and gained a BA Hons (2:1) in Sports and Leisure Management, post studies I moved to Blackburn in Lancashire with my wife Kathryn whom I met at University. After a brief foray into industrial recruitment, in 1998 I joined Reed Specialist Recruitment to open their first Northern office in Manchester for their computing division, after a number of promotions in 2007 I was appointed Divisional Director for Reed Technology UK. Over the past 10 years I have grown the business dramatically through strategic restructure and specialisation from 4 offices to 12 creating a search and selection arm, service delivery hubs and a presence in Scotland and Wales. When I’m not working I enjoy long distance running as a member of Blackburn Road Runners and spending time with my young family.

Mrs Laura Peckson

Name: Mrs Laura Peckson

Role: Teacher Governor

Term of Office: 3 Years from September 2014

Register of Business Interest: None

Governance: I serve only on this Governing body

Committees: Curriculum

Attendance: All meetings attended since appointment

Bio: 3 x Full Governors meetings, all Curriculum Committee meetings and Business meeting.

After finishing college, I went onto university to study Psychology. I achieved a BSc (Hons) and decided to take a year to gain more experience, so I moved back North and worked in a Primary school and a College as a Teaching assistant. This was an invaluable experience, and stood me in good stead for completing my PGCE the following year.

My first teaching post was in Birmingham City Centre and from there I joined Darwen St James’. I have been here a number of years now and 2 years ago I was given the privileged job of Deputy Headteacher.

In my spare time I enjoy travelling, music and spending quality time with my family and friends.

Mrs Claire Gonzalez

Name: Mrs Claire Gonzalez

Role: Teacher Governor

Term of Office: 10 years

Register of Business Interest: None

Governance: I only sit on the Governing Body at Darwen St James’.

Committees: Curriculum

Attendance: 3x Full Governors meetings, attendance at all curriculum meetings


Following my degree in Psychology at The University Of Central Lancashire I began my career in support services. I enjoyed ten years working to support people in difficult circumstances such as Homelessness, working alongside a Community Psychiatric Nurse; people with Schizophrenia and Bi Polar disorder with Richmond Fellowship; and students struggling to access education with Blackpool and The Fylde College as the Welfare Team Leader in Student Services.
My experiences led me to teaching to try to break the cycle of poverty and lack of opportunity that was a common thread through all of my work roles. I completed a challenging PGCE year at St. Martin’s College in Lancaster and began working as a full time teacher. I have spend my time at St. James’ refining my skills and knowledge in KS1 and the EYFS. I now lead both of these areas which is an enjoyable and fulfilling experience. During 2016 – 2017 I successfully completed the first year of my Teaching Leaders Course and I am continuing on this journey during 2017.

Miss Claire Finney

Name  Miss Claire Finney

Role Foundation Governor

Term of Office 4 years

Register of Interest – None

Governance I only serve on the Governing body of Darwen St James CE’ Primary Academy


Attendance3 x Full Governors and 3 x Strategic Meetings


I have worked in education for 6 years, two years as a teaching assistant working with Special Needs Pupils before beginning my PGCE in Secondary Religious Education at Edge Hill University.  I spent the following three years working on supply or working as a cover supervisor and therefore have taught most subjects in the 11-16 age range. I was honoured to be given the opportunity to serve as a Governor at the school due to my involvement with the church at St James’ Over Darwen. I have been an attendee of Over Darwen St James’ for three years now having moved to Darwen from St Helens at the same time. My particular interests are in Special Needs and transitions.

Mrs Liz Riding

Name: Mrs Liz Riding

Role: Parent Governor

Term of Office: 3 years from July 2016

Register of Business Interest: None

Governance: I only serve on the Governing Body at Darwen St James’

Committees: Resources

Attendance: All meetings attended since appointment


After graduating with BA(Hons) Modern Languages and IT in 1992 I spent several years working in IT Network Management in Bristol followed by Project Management roles in the City of London. My life then took a new direction and I volunteered in a school for children with extreme learning difficulties. When I moved back Up North in 2002 I worked in schools as a Teaching Assistant, Behaviour Support and then as an Unqualified Teacher teaching French and ICT. I then took a year out to teach English in a secondary school in the French Pyrenees. A return to IT Project Management came when I went to work for Lancashire County Council but this came to an end when I became pregnant. After having two babies within 15 months I took a different route again and started work at Blackburn Library, moving into training and IT support before managing Livesey library. During this time we became Foster Carers for the local authority. In 2014, as a family, we decided to go travelling and so loaded up our ancient American RV and toured Europe for a year, home schooling the boys and providing us with amazing memories. When we returned, in order to continue spending as much time with the boys as possible, I took up a role as Dinner Lady at a Darwen primary school. I also blog about our travels and am in the process of writing a book. We also renewed our role as foster carers. Phew!

Ms Kathy Earp

Mrs Janaina Raupp Roberts