Governor Pen Portraits
Daljit Singh Virk - Chair of the Governing Body
Professor (Dr) Daljit Singh Virk OBE, PhD, DSc (Birmingham), CBiol FRSB, a geneticist and retired university professor with more than 40 years’ experience of teaching and research, and managing dozens of international research projects for food security through the DFID and other international agencies in many countries in South Asia and Africa while at Bangor University, UK.
Impact of his research on poverty reduction abroad and contributions to education were recognised in Queen’s Honours of 2019 with an OBE award. He has guided several higher degree students and published several books and hundreds of research papers. He is Head of Education at the Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Derby. He is the inspiration behind Akaal Primary School who organised, coordinated and led the Governing team since July 2013. He is also a member of Akaal academy Trust Derby Ltd. He is a practising Sikh and is well versed in Sikh history, scriptures, traditions and practices. He is a popular Sikh speaker and writer. He regularly takes part in Sikh televisions’ discussions on socio-religious topics.
Paramjit Kaur – Vice Chair of the Governing Body
Paramjit Kaur is a Nursing Senior Sister with the NHS in a teaching hospital in Derby and has been a nurse for 35 years. As department lead across two NHS sites she is experienced in recruitment and staff management.
Paramjit is an assistant coordinator of the Sunday Punjabi School held at Derby’s Singh Sabha Gurdwara, where she has interacted with pupils and parents for around 15 years. This role includes teaching Panjabi and Sikh history to children from the early years (five onwards to adults), and the organisation of classrooms, teaching staff and student numbers to provide optimum teaching environment for the students.
She is responsible for admissions processes, parent and teacher communications and student counselling and support. All these skills and experiences provide a secure basis for working as a governor of Akaal Primary School.
Elaine Bowen - Governor
Elaine is now semi-retired and has her own craft design business at her home in Droitwich. Elaine has been the Headteacher of Lightwoods Primary School, a highly successful school in Sandwell, for many years. At its last Ofsted inspection it was judged to be good. She is designated a National Leader in Education, and her school has been the lead school of a National Teaching School Alliance since 2012. She has supported two special measures schools in 2011 and 2012 in education improvement, and now supports a number of schools requiring improvement.
Elaine and the teaching school have supported over 40 schools through training and school to school support including schools in special measures and requiring improvement. The teaching school has developed research and innovative practice including new curriculum and assessment approaches. Elaine is also a school improvement partner and has worked as a school advisor for schools in Sandwell.
As a member of the governing body of Akaal Primary School, Elaine brings a wealth of experience in running an outstanding school and continues to provide invaluable expertise in setting up the educational provision planned for the school. Elaine is used to working with governing bodies and uses this expertise to evaluate proposals and ensure that Akaal Primary School will be as successful as her own school.
Navjot Kaur Virk - Governor
Navjot is a Senior Lecturer at University of Derby in Post Graduate Health Studies Department. She has strong professional history in the NHS and Higher Education Sector since 2000 at local and national level. Whilst pursuing her professional Career, Navjot has served on various school governing boards in last 12 years .She has played pivotal role in setting up Akaal Primary school in Derby and serves as Trustee/Governor. She serves as named Safeguarding governor at Akaal Primary School governing board. Navjot has an excellent knowledge of governance, education and Safeguarding.
She is very passionate about improving education and bringing change in society. Navjot is an active member of Derby Sikh Faith community and has led voluntary Punjabi school at Gurudwara since 2001. She is nationally certified Faith inspector for leading Faith inspections in Primary and Secondary schools.
Being parent of two children, Navjot understands importance of school in the lives of children and is committed to play her part in providing strategic leadership to schools.
Vicki Kavanagh – Governor
Vicki Kavanagh was the Executive Headteacher of Akaal Primary School in its pre-opening phase and during its first year of operation, and continues to work with other school and external leaders in school improvement work.
Previously she had been the head teacher of Crocketts Community Primary School for 10 years, during which time she developed all aspects of school provision, tuning her professional skills to the highest level and understanding the key drivers that lead to pupils becoming creative and lifelong learners. The school achieved an outstanding judgement under her leadership.
Vicki has worked as a School Improvement Adviser for Sandwell local authority, and independently as a consultant adviser in Sandwell and Birmingham. This has included representing the local authority during Ofsted inspections. Vicki is well used to working successfully with governing bodies of primary schools, and sits on another governing body, in addition to Akaal.
As a Local Leader for Learning, accredited by the NCSL, Vicki has successfully supported several schools requiring improvement or which have needed leadership support. She has worked within two Teaching School Alliances, and as a strategic partner with Lightwoods’ Teaching Alliance, where she has led several EYFS improvement projects, and has taken part in an Erasmus European learning scheme, together with schools from Spain, Finland and Iceland.
Vicki’s other work includes curriculum development, assessment procedures, and leadership and management support, as well as Head Teacher performance management.
Heather Carr - Governor
Hi, I’m Mrs Carr. I am a class teacher and the Assistant Head, and have been a Staff Governor since September 2018. I have been in teaching since 2013 and absolutely love my job!
I feel very passionate about giving children an engaging and enriching learning experience, and, if you are in my class, you are expected to be very independent and creative. I enjoy trying to work out new ways of teaching and try to link our curriculum together as much as possible, to make it an immersive experience.
I really enjoy teaching but my favourite thing to teach is definitely writing. I came to visit Akaal Primary School in 2016, and was immediately captured by the values-based, warm, family atmosphere of the school.
I feel very proud to be the Assistant Head in such a wonderful school, full of interesting, kind-hearted children, and look forward to helping the school continue its journey.
Sarbjit Singh Bitter - Joint Chair of the Finance & HR Committee
Having qualified an as accountant in 2001, my experiences of working with people and range of businesses have given me a broad outlook on life and highlighted the challenges that lie ahead for the next generation. What was apparent was the importance of having a good, solid and well-rounded start in our educational system and every pupil should be afforded the opportunity regardless of their financial status, creed or their religious beliefs (if any).
I first became involved in the Free Schools concept in 2012 when I led the financial application for the first Sikh Ethos based Free School in Wolverhampton, which subsequently opened in 2013.
My involvement with Akaal Primary School commenced in 2014, leading the School through the initial development of systems, controls and processes in line with the strict DfE criteria and the need to adhere to the strict ‘value for money’ principles. The need for governance, and particularly in all areas financial, remains paramount – not only because of these times of austerity and in light of some high profile Free School failures due to financial irregularities – but also because the principles of the School are based on values of honesty, integrity and sincerity across all aspects of life.
My skill sets and experiences are key in ensuring that we, as a Governing Body, use the public resources for the best possible means in ensuring that the children are afforded the best start in life within a safe and loving environment.
Matt Hallam - Governor
My name is Mr Hallam: I joined the teaching staff at Akaal in 2018.
I graduated from Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln with Upper Second Class Honours in Primary Education with QTS in 2015. Initially I worked as a class teacher at a school close to my home; subsequently I gained experience in a wide range of primary schools, learning how each operated and noting best practices, as a supply teacher in the Derbyshire area for around 2½ years, before learning about an opportunity to join the team at Akaal.
It was a surprise, therefore, that when I came to Akaal, I found myself in a completely different environment than any other, in the best possible way. The staff are unanimously welcoming and encouraging; however, the most important feature of the school (aside from the enticement of the new building) was the children, who are unlike any I have met in any school. They are well-behaved, polite and conscientious, and are consistently a joy to teach.
It is a genuine joy to teach and work at Akaal, and it has helped me to reinvigorate myself, my love and my passion for the profession.
Professor Rod Dubrow-Marshall, PhD, MBPsS, is one of Akaal Primary School’s Vice-Chairs and is Chair of the Education and Standards Committee. Rod is an experienced School governor for over 21 years and has served on more than 10 school and college boards, including primary, secondary and further education. He has specialist interests, as an educationalist, in learning and teaching, language development, adverse childhood experiences and special education needs. Rod is currently also a governor with North Liverpool Academy and a Director/Trustee with Northern Schools Trust.
Together with Dr Linda Dubrow-Marshall, Rod created the MSc Psychology of Coercive Control at the University of Salford, the first ever Masters programme aimed at practitioners which utilises the UK government definitions of controlling and coercive behaviour (Serious Crime Act 2015) and modern slavery (Modern Slavery Act 2015). Rod and Linda also co-founded the Re-Entry Therapy Information and Referral Network (RETIRN) UK which helps individuals, families and communities who have been adversely affected by coercive control and abuse in families and groups and they have worked in the UK and overseas with government agencies, a wide range of NGOs and are also part of the European Commission’s ‘Radicalisation Awareness Network’.
Rod has also led community and faith engagement work as a senior University manager (including as Pro Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the Universities of Central Lancashire and Derby) and in his earlier work in local government (with the London Borough of Hillingdon). He also co-created the Preston Creative Communities Group for community-based arts and cultural work across the city’s diverse communities and he chairs the Preston Guild Link charity. A graduate member of the British Psychological Society, Rod has researched coercive control, abuse and undue influence for many years, he co-edits the International Journal of Cultic Studies and is a Director of the International Cultic Studies Association.
Jayprakash Joshi - Parent Governor
Parmjit Singh Bilan - Parent Governor
I am a Chartered Chemist and look after a laboratory testing pharmaceutical medicines and herbal products. I have over 30 years’ experience working in a wide range of industries covering pharmaceutical, food and beverages.
My experience of working with people, at all levels and across different sectors has given me a wide-ranging view on life. I feel that I have a good grasp of the global challenges our children will be facing in the years to come and how important early years’ education is and increasingly will be, to get them to understand how they fit into this global economy.
I passionately believe that a first-class education should be every child’s right and schools should develop these young minds so they can try and be the best that their talents allow them to be.
I am a Sikh, and I am proud that the Sikh community has come together to help set up a wonderful school in Derby City. A school based on Sikh ethos, that is free to attend for every child and offers a first-class education and a fantastic initial life experience to each child who sails through Akaal Primary School.