Governor & Senior Leadership Team Pen Portraits
Teja Singh Sidhu - Chair of Governors
Mr Teja Singh Sidhu has been a Governor at the Highfields Science Specialist Secondary School, Wolverhampton from 2005 to 2017. He was part of the team that successfully opened Wolverhampton’s first Free School in 2012 (Anand Primary School).
He has over 30 years’ experience in the field of Global Telecommunications as an Operations Technical Consultant including various Management posts. He also worked at the Royal Mail in the Delivery and Operations Department in Management roles for 3 years.
He has vast experience of working in large teams handling complete, complex projects and in holding colleagues to account in pursuit of successful delivery of such projects as well as in scrutinising and objectively questioning financial budgets to ensure project targets are met cost effectively and to schedule.
Navjot Kaur Virk - Joint Vice Chair of Governors
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.
Rod Dubrow-Marshall - Joint Vice Chair of Governors
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.
Miss Zoë Parkes - Headteacher
Miss Z Parkes, Headteacher, Akaal Primary School, Derby, is an experienced practitioner for over 25 years in West Midlands, working within the Primary sector. She has been the lead teacher in a range of settings, including Private and Educational Nurseries and Primary Schools. As a successful leader, Zoe has working in a range of settings to secure excellent Ofsted outcomes, of which most recently was at Nishkam Primary School Wolverhampton under the current inspection framework.
Zoe is a firm believer that children need a solid foundation in order to flourish as they grow, the early years plays a vital role that aids development and progress. She is an expert in early reading and has successfully implemented the, research driven "language first" project in schools to close the "word gap" in literacy.
Her expertise has led her to work across the Trust in a leadership role focusing on high quality teaching and learning. In this role she supports leaders and teachers in quality first teaching and achieving excellence. Zoe is child centered and leads by example to achieve the very best outcomes.
Zoe enthusiastically prides herself on successful parental partnerships and works closely with people within the local community. She was successful in achieving the prestigious Parent Partnership Award in one of her previous schools and more recently has embarked on the programme again at Nishkam. She has a robust action plan which enables parents to be an integral part of their child’s educational journey. This has involved welcoming parents to school events and offering the opportunity to learn through workshops and visits.
"The best partnerships aren’t dependent on a mere common goal but on a shared path of equality, desire, and no small amount of passion." Sarah Mclean
Harmander Singh Dhanjal - Executive Headteacher
Mr H S Dhanjal, Executive Headteacher, Akaal Primary School and Headteacher, Nishkam Primary School Wolverhampton, is an experienced leader who has worked across all educational sectors which include Further Education, Secondary and Primary Education. This range of experience has enabled him to lead his team successfully to achieve not only excellent academic outcomes, but equally importantly preparing children in their next steps in their education journey and beyond.
He is passionate about education and strongly believes that "each child only has one chance to excel, it’s our duty to provide outstanding education to bring out the very best from our children. One must see education from as many different perspectives as possible in order to fully appreciate the opportunities and challenges that exist."
There is a lovely African proverb: "It takes a village to raise a child." African culture recognises that parenting is a shared responsibility - a communal affair - not just the concern of parents or grandparents. Harmander is committed to the tri-part relationship with the school, child and parents to give the very best that children deserve. This parent partnership is very much a strength of the teams he leads.
Harmander is committed to the Nishkam Virtues, firstly learning from them himself, and then driving them through the school to nurture the very best human beings. As an active member of the community, Harmander also volunteers his time to school improvement as a governor. He is dedicated to high quality education and a solid foundation of values for all children.
Daljit Singh Virk - Governor
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.
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.
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.
Shagun - Governor
I am proud to have been appointed as a Governor of Akaal Primary School in July 2020. I am an economics graduate extending my expertise in the field of Accounting. I am an entrepreneur by profession and have been successfully heading the financial side of my franchise business since 2015.
I thoroughly understand that financial management is at the heart of the successful working of any organisation. I proudly sit on the Finance and HR committee and am hoping to make both a positive and pragmatic contribution in the future.
I am also passionate in my opinion that children should get the best start in life and that the schools are at the core to play this role. As a governor, I will strive to ensure the continued development of Akaal Primary School and that its children are able to reach their full potential.
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.
Gurmel Singh - Governor
Mr G Singh Kandola taught Chemistry to A-level and Maths to GCSE level and worked in three different local authorities in various roles at Chief Officer level, including as an Assistant Director of Education.
He worked as an MD in the private sector and is currently the MD of a SME in the Mechanical Engineering Sector. He led the Team for the establishment of the Supreme Sikh Council UK in 2010 and was appointed as the founding Secretary General.
He plays a key part as a member of the Team of the National Sikh Museum in Derby and Sikh Community and Youth Services, Nottingham. He has propounded the expansion of Sikh Schools in UK and the development of Punjabi Language teaching in supplementary schools. His community services are well recognised.