South Pennine Academies

Academy Effectiveness Board

Jane Acklam OBE - Chief Executive (CEO)

Jane is the CEO of South Pennine Academies.  She has considerable experience as a highly successful Headteacher and Principal.  Jane has been a National Leader of Education since 2009, and effectively supported and built capacity in a wide range of schools, locally and regionally.  As the Principal of Moor End Academy, she led them through numerous Ofsted inspections achieving outstanding in 2009 and again in 2012.  Jane has won national awards for her commitment to excellence in the professional development of teachers, and has been awarded a Teaching Award, as Headteacher of the Year. She has a wealth of experience working for the DfE on the Head teacher Board for West Yorkshire and Lancashire and as a Teaching and Leadership Adviser for NCTL.  Jane was awarded an OBE for services to Education in the 2017 New Year’s Honours list.

 James Ashmore - Academy Improvement Advisor

James is an Academy Improvement Advisor for South Pennine Academies and leads on Trust-wide Professional Development. He has spent 11 of the last 15 years teaching Secondary English and has held a number of middle and senior leadership roles, including leading two successful English departments.  In 2012, he became a Specialist Leader of Education and has supported schools in developing English leadership, curriculum, teaching and assessment. He is a trained NPQ facilitator and leads SPA's NPQML and NPQSL programmes in our alliance with Ambition School Leadership.  He has also delivered professional development courses for ASCL and is the co-author of the book, ‘The New Middle Leader’s Handbook’.

Darren Atkinson - Senior Leader for Educational Standards and Improvement 

Darren is the Senior Leader for Educational Standards and Improvement for South Pennine Academies, and has spent 15 years teaching, and leading, in Secondary Schools. In 2016, he became part of the South Pennine Academies' Academy Effectiveness Board.  Darren supports all the Academies within the MAT to use their assessment data more effectively and bring about strategic improvement, triangulated with learning & teaching, curriculum and work scrutiny.  Darren also leads on the monitoring and implementation of Academy and MAT KPIs and attendance and persistent absence strategies.  Darren is a passionate advocate of mental health and well-being, working with our strategic partner (Leeds Beckett University) to complete the Mental Health award across all of our academies. Darren also supports the leadership teams within each Academy through coaching and development sessions, ensuring all Academies are working towards the vision and aims of the MAT. From 2018, Darren will also be working as a Vice Principal in one of our academies and complete his Masters in Research focused around the impact of MATs.

Sarah Cunningham - Primary Improvement Advisor/Deputy Director HHScitt

Sarah is the Primary Improvement Advisor for South Pennine Academies and the Deputy Director of the Huddersfield Horizon SCITT.  Sarah has worked in Kent, London, Hertfordshire and Kirklees and has been a Foundation Stage Leader, both a Key Stage 1 and 2 leader and an Assistant Head. In schools she has lead Literacy, ICT, Early Years, Planning and Assessment, PSHCE, mentored NQTs and tutored students through various stages of their teacher training. Sarah has delivered regional training for local authorities, Huddersfield University for the BA QTS course and in school CPD for NQTs, teaching staff and middle leaders. In 2013 Sarah was designated a Specialist Leader of Education for Literacy, Planning and Assessment, Behaviour Management and Early Years. Sarah is also a SATs Moderator for Kirklees Local Authority.

Amanda Underhill - Secondary Partner Learning and Teaching Coach

Amanda is a Secondary Partner Learning and Teaching Coach as part of the Academy Effectiveness Team for South Pennine Academies. She has spent the last 9 years teaching English in various secondary contexts and has held a number of middle leader and extended senior leadership roles, including leading a successful English department. In 2014, she was designated as a Specialist Leader of Education, supporting schools in developing English curriculum, teaching and assessment. She has experience facilitating various CPD, including Improving Teacher Programmes and Outstanding Teacher Programmes. Amanda also graduated with an MA in Teaching and Learning at Leeds Metropolitan University in June 2013.


School Improvement Fund (SSIF)

Lisa Leach - Maths Strategic School Improvement Project Leader

Lisa is the Maths Strategic School Improvement Project Leader. Lisa’s career in Education has involved teaching in Key Stage 1 and 2, leading Maths, PE and ICT within two schools, leading a team as part of the SLT and supporting schools as a Maths and ISP Consultant.

Since 2008, Lisa has worked as a Maths Consultant for a Local Authority, been a Lead trainer for Edge Hill University Every Child Counts interventions and supported schools across Greater Manchester providing bespoke support and PD events. During this time she became a NCETM Accredited Lead and NUMICON Affiliate. She has successfully led an EEF funded project (Research into Practice) across 10 schools, supporting the schools to both implement and be involved in research. As part of her Masters in Early mathematical Intervention Lisa studied the use of Lesson Study, a project which led her to attend and contribute within a group at the World Lesson Study Conference in Gothenburg. Since this, she has supported numerous schools to implement the PD strategy both within and across school networks.

Claire Pendery - Maths Outreach Teacher

Claire’s teaching career has been spent in primary schools across Leeds and Bradford, where she has worked across Key Stages 1 and 2. She has worked extensively with children who need the greatest levels of support. She has taught intervention groups for both Maths and English. The last 9 years have been spent teaching Numbers Count and extending that role far beyond its original parameters. She has led Maths across a three form entry primary school, driving forward good practice and developing the mastery approach across the school. She worked closely with class teachers, team teaching and supporting planning to drive forward improvements in practice and subject knowledge. She also set up in depth support for New to English children to enable them to access their Maths learning as quickly as possible. She took responsibility for staff training, delivering CPD sessions for teaching staff and teaching assistants. She trained and supported assistants to deliver interventions for children with a wide range of needs.