Our school governors are drawn from different parts of the Furness area and consist of parents, carers, staff, local authority and the community. They are a voluntary group who strive to enable Dowdales to be the best it can be and want the students to develop their potential to their full and to grow into successful, caring people.

From the Governors

Maintaining the school ethos is very important to us. The school ethos is what gives Dowdales “that special feeling”.

Therefore, we concern ourselves with:-

  • The school’s aims and values.
  • The school’s general appearance.
  • The school’s reputation and character.
  • The school’s standard of achievements.
  • The school’s principles, policies and plans.
  • The levels of parental support.
  • The school’s involvement within the community.
  • The school’s interaction with other schools.
  • The relationships between governors, staff and pupils.
  • Our attitude to parents.
  • Our style of communication to parents, carers and others.
  • The quality of information sent out by the school

We aim is to focus on raising standards and promote effective teaching and learning through self-evaluation.

All Governors are elected and appointed by the Governing body in accordance with the governing body's instrument of government.

Meet the Governors

031115_1Ms Julie O'Connor

Committee Membership: Headteacher

Term of office: October 2010 - Current

Register of interest: None






201117_1Mrs Caren Hindle (Chair)

Department Link: Extended School, School Meals, Policies

Committee Membership: Curriculum and Personnel, Health and Safety, Pay Review

Other Responsibilities: Chair of Curriculum and Personnel Committee

About me

I have been a Governor at Dowdales for over 20 years, originally a parent governor when my son went to Dowdales and then transferred to a community governor when my children had left Dowdales.  As I now have a grandson at Dowdales  I think it is important to support the school and staff in the excellent work that has already been undertaken to make the school the success it is today and to help take the school to the next level over the coming years for students  to be able to achieve the very best they can.

I enjoy seeing  the progress of students from the day they arrive as eager Year 7 pupils to the successful young adults that leave at the end of Year 11.

Term of office: October 1996 - November 2018

Register of interest: None


201117_2Mr Mike Ridyard (Vice Chair of Governors)

Department Link: SEND, AVA Students, Disadvantaged Students

Committee Membership: Health and Safety

About me

I have worked in Dowdales as a careers adviser since 2002 and been a Governor since 2006. Both my children attended Dowdales and enjoyed it immensely and did well academically as a result.

It is really interesting and rewarding to see and discuss all the hard work done by the teaching staff and other staff in school and the results as the students achieve great things educationally. 

Term of Office: December 2005 - November 2018

Register of interest: None181115_2

051015_7Ms Debbie O'Connor

Committee Membership: Finance and General

Term of office: October 2015 - November 2018

Register of interest: None




051015_6Ms Emma Aubrey

Committee Membership: Curriculum and Personnel

About me

I have worked at Dowdales for 14 years when I was first employed as an English teacher. Subsequently, I lead the English department for six years. I have had a role on the Senior Leadership Team for four years and I am now one of the Deputy Headteachers at the school. The governing body supports the senior leadership of the school to make the education and provision for the students at Dowdales the best it can be.

Term of office: April 2012 - November 2018

Register of interest: None


051015_5Dr Barrie Crossley

Department Link: English, Performing Arts and Drama

Committee Membership: Finance and General Purpose, Curriculum and Personnel

Term of office: September 1990 - November 2018

Register of interest: None




Mr Fred Drew

Department Link: Geography, History

Committee Membership: Curriculum and Personnel

About me

I was an employer of ex Dowdales students for 28 years and worked in Dalton during that time. I first became a Governor during the eighties. I am now retired.

The thing I most enjoy about being a school governor is being part of an excellent local school.

Term of office: June 2009 - November 2018

Register of interest: None


Mr Kevin Durkin

Department Link: PE, Attendance

Committee Membership: Health and Safety, Maths Committee

Term of office: December 2009 - November 2018

Register of interests: LEA Governor at Dalton St Mary's Primary School


070916_8Mrs Helen Bircher

Department Link: Art, Pastoral System, Children Looked After, Child Protection, Safeguarding

Committee Membership: Curriculum and Personnel, Maths Committee

Other Responsibilities: Safeguarding Governor

About me

I decided to become a governor because my eldest son was at Dowdales and therefore took a keen interest in ensuring that Dowdales was doing the best it could for the education of my son. Since then, my eldest son has left, but my youngest son joined the school.

I am a link Governor for Pastoral Care and Art, which means that I work closely with these departments.

I work at BAE Systems and am a member of the Ambassador scheme and therefore have a keen interest in ensuring that local schools and companies support the education of our children in all subjects, not just STEM subjects.  The students are our next generation of workforce and their education will ensure that Barrow and the surrounding areas prosper by having the right make up of skills and experience.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a Parent Governor is contributing and ensuring that Dowdales is supporting our children and allowing them to be the best they can be.

It’s great to understand the improvement plans that the school has and how these are development and ultimately supporting the education of our children.

I also enjoy the communication side of our role and improving how we communicate with the students, parents and the local community.

Term of Office: April 2011 - May 2019

Register of interests: Parent Governor


061115_1Mrs Alison Smith

About Me

I joined the Governing Body as Clerk to the Governors in January 2014 and very much enjoy working in a school environment as my background is in the prison service. I worked within education in a prison/probation setting for 12 years. Attending all the Governors’ meetings gives me a comprehensive overview of the school and I particularly enjoy hearing the many success stories and attending the Presentation Evening.

Register of interest: None




070916_9Mrs Nicola Barnes

Department Link: Citizenship, Finance

About Me

I attended Dowdales before going on to work for the local authority for 20 years, and more recently a Driving Instructor. I joined the governing body at Dowdales School in March 2015 after my role as a Governor at a local primary school expired. I currently have a child in Year 11 and another child who will be starting at Dowdales in September 2016.

Since becoming a Governor I have really enjoyed the presentations from staff members who have joined the meeting to give Governors an insight into what actually goes on in school and the commitment they give to the children. As a parent of child at Dowdales I have found this both useful and extremely informative.

Term of office: March 2015 - March 2019

Register of interest: None


260117_2Mr Keith Garnett

Department Link: ICT, Religious Studies

Committee Membership: Member of Curriculum and Personnel Committee and Health and Safety Committee.

About Me

I attended Dowdales as a student and now my two oldest children are also students.

I decided to become a Governor because I was interested in the education of my own and the other children in the school.

I wanted to use my experiences in the links between education and work places to benefit the school and help achieve their objectives.

I have worked at Sellafield Ltd since I left Dowdales and I’m now a Chartered Mechanical Engineer. I have been involved in supporting STEM events and mentoring young Engineers.

I really enjoy the role of parent governor as it allows me to understand and be involved in the running of the school and how the students are educated.

I hope to bring my experiences to the role and help the school maintain and improve on its high standards.

I’m looking forward to seeing the improvement plans implemented and understanding how these will improve the overall education at Dowdales.

Term of office: October 2016 - October 2020

Register of interest: None


Mrs Liz Gaskell

Department Link: MFL

Committe Membership: Health and Safety, Curriclum and Personnel

About Me

I have recently joined the team as parent governor. Both my daughters attend Dowdales and my husband works at the school. I am very intrested in my daughters learning experiences and feel being part of the Dowdales team can both support and hopefully influence the way the school is run for the benefit of all involved.

I have enjoyed learning about the complexities involved in the running of Dowdales and I am looking forward to playing an active role and getting involved in school events.


260117_1Dr Linda Potts 

Department Link: Mathematics, Inclusion

Term of office: October 2016 - January 2018

Committee Membership: Member of the Curriculum and Personnel Committee and the Finance and General Purpose Committee.

About Me

I have had a connection with the school since 2003, working in collaboration with colleagues from Dowdales, in secondary education across Furness. In that time I have seen the school make tremendous progress, through the dedication and hard work of its talented staff. 

As a governor at Dowdales it is a privilege to work within the team to support and help take the school forward to the next level of excellence in the future.

I really enjoy meeting students and staff to hear about the innovative and exciting work going on in every area of the school. It is also pleasing to see how the improvement plans developed by the Headteacher and her colleagues come to fruition in the academic success and personal achievements of the confident young people who leave Dowdales at 16.  Every effort is made by staff to ensure that the students are fully prepared with all the skills they need for their future careers in an ever changing world.

Register of interest: None


051015_4Mr Craig Bland (Former Chair)

Term of office: December 2003 - Term Ended November 2017

Department Link: Recruitment and Selection, Policies

Committee Membership: Finance and General Purpose, Pay Review

Other Responsibilities: Chair of Governors

Register of interest: None





Mr David Lysons

Term of office: September 1988 - Term Ended November 2017

Department Link: Science, Recruitment and Selection

Committee Membership: Curriculum and Personnel, Health and Safety, Pay Review

Other Responsibilities: Chair of Health and Safety

About me

I first became involved with Dowdales when my two sons joined the school. My first involvement with the school was with the Parent Teacher Association, and in 1988 became a member of the school governing body. In my time at Dowdales I have seen many changes to the role of school governor.

I enjoy being involved with Dowdales, working with a group of people dedicated to ensuring every student achieves their full academic potential in a safe and happy environment and leaves with the necessary skills to cope confidently with life after school.

Register of interest: None