South Pennine Academies

The Members

Dr Phil Wheeliker - Chair of the Board – Academy Ambassador Mentor

Phil is a South Yorkshireman by birth and is a former Royal Air Force Logistics Officer who gained active service experience during the Falklands and the First Gulf War. Subsequently he spent many years within a variety of industries, gaining executive experience in general management, training provision and in business rescue and transformation. A business psychologist and psychotherapist, Phil currently runs a thriving international business, based in Wakefield, specialising in management training, corporate and individual performance coaching and in stress and anxiety control. He is a visiting lecturer for Rolls Royce in the UK and both OPEC in the Far East and the Kuwait National Petroleum Corporation in the Middle East, currently coaching their senior executives to cope better with mounting work pressures.

A qualified Financial Accountant and Chartered Logistician, he also holds an MA in Psychotherapy, a DUniv in Corporate Stress Management and an MBA. Recently his expertise was further recognised when he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for Services to Psychotherapy.

Having left school himself at 16 to undertake a Factory Administration Apprenticeship, Phil is keen to ensure that our pupils get the best possible start in life.

Prof. Tim Thornton

Tim is a professor of History who studied at New College, Oxford. In 1997 he was awarded the Royal Historical Society's David Berry Prize; in 1999 he was proxime accessit for the Society's Alexander Prize. He was the first scholar based in a new University to win one of the Society's prizes.
Tim has served in a variety of roles at the University of Huddersfield, including a secondment as Head of University Centre Barnsley during 2005-6 and time as Dean of the School of Music, Humanities and Media. He was appointed Pro Vice-chancellor (Teaching and Learning) in October 2008 and then became Deputy Vice-Chancellor in September 2015, being associated with the University’s achievement of Times Higher Education University of the Year and, most recently, Gold status under the UK Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework and the Global Teaching Excellence Award. 

Mr Darren Smith

Darren left school at 16 (1986) and started out his working life with completing an apprenticeship in sheet metal fabrication with a Slaithwaite based company.

He moved into banking in 1995 working in a customer services call centre for Girobank (then part of Alliance & Leicester, now part of Santander); before eventually moving into an operational role. He moved into the commercial Bank in 2001 and has worked with many sizes of businesses / organisations from owner managed to large national corporates and the public sector. He spent 5 years specialising in the banks healthcare, education and communities team before moving into the banks new agricultural team in 2013.

Following redundancy in 2017 he moved to work as part of Yorkshire Bank's agricultural team. Here he is responsible for looking after and growing the portfolio of farming clients in the Yorkshire region, helping them develop viable business plans for their farms alongside managing the bank’s lending exposures.

He is passionate about education and helping others achieve their full potential as well as most things rural and outdoors activities. He has been a volunteer with the Friends of Beaumont Park woodland maintenance group for 10+ years and until 2017 was also a charity trustee with the Friends.

Mr David O'Hara

David is a semi-retired Chartered Accountant and Finance Director who spent most of his career in multinational manufacturing.

 He became a governor at a Huddersfield special school in 2004. In 2015 he was appointed a National Leader of Governance. In that role he has worked with primaries, secondaries, maintained schools, multi-academy trusts, university technical colleges and a further education college.

 David received an excellent state education in Barnsley and is motivated by the drive to give all children the best possible start in life.

Mr Graham Smith

Graham has a BSc from Liverpool University and is a chartered accountant. He is a full-time working director of Mono Fire and Security based in Manchester . He also holds non executive directorships with STEGTA  (Salford and Trafford Engineering Group Training Association), a charity running apprenticeship schemes, and with Oldham Community Power Ltd, who design and fund community owned solar panel schemes for local schools.

Graham has a strong belief in the need for education to nurture routes into both the world of work and into life-long learning.