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Governor Pen Portraits

Leigh Blanchard (Chair of Governors)    

Leigh is enjoying an extensive career in Communication and Marketing Services. He has held various positions within Xerox Global Services currently being a Service Delivery Leader with accountability for managing the largest European Retail account.

Leigh was born in Lincoln in 1972 relocating to the Huddersfield area with his wife Nicola in 2001, they have 1 daughter in school.

Gillian Starke (Vice Chair)

Both our children, who are now grown, went to Kirkheaton Primary and we all have fond memories of their time here. I was a governor at Kirkheaton whilst our children attended and went on to be a governor at their secondary school. Having had many and varied jobs over the years, I am now retired. Most recently, I worked as a Clerk to Governing Bodies across Kirklees and Bradford. Both my time as a governor and my work with other governing bodies has given me over 15 years broad experience of school governance which I hope to put to good use at Kirkheaton. I am passionate about children achieving the very height of their potential whilst remaining happy, grounded and nurtured and I hope to contribute all I can to the development of the pupils at our wonderful school.

Adam McNeely (Parent Governor)

I have been a manager in the leisure industry for over 17 years with a focus on facility management.  I am currently a senior operations manager working for Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) who are a charitable trust that manage thirteen leisure facilities accross the Kirklees area.  I manage the day to day operations of four leisure centres & I am responsible for all aspects of these facilities from health and safety to financial management.  

I believe that my work managing these facilities has given me some transferrable skills that could contribute to the school govenor team.  My centres promote a healthy lifestyle & create opportunities for people to get active.  My role also involves working in partnership with Kirklees council, sports clubs & schools for education swimming lessons. 

More than two thousand children attend the swim schools I operate at my sites each week and hundreds more attend public swimming sessions & coach led sports sessions.  Providing a fun, safe environment & safeguarding is at the forefront of everything I do.  Over the past few years I have helped to manage budget cuts, implemented new ideas to drive my business & create plans to improve efficiency.  I sit on several strategic boards within KAL to help guide the decisions about products, workforce & services.  I manage the performance of over fifty contracted staff and many more casual employees.

I have two children in school, and as such I have a vested interest in the performance of Kirkheaton Primary School for several years.  I would be happy to lend my time and experience to help the school in any way I can.

Mrs Samantha Gallant

I have been head teacher at Kirkheaton since September 2008.  I am very proud of our school and love our fantastic children.  We are working really hard to take the school forward and give all the children the best start in life.  Above all, we want them to enjoy their childhood as this is so short in the 21st Century!  We want our children to leave our school with a wealth of happy memories but also equip them with life skills for their future.  Being a positive British citizen alongside using literacy and numeracy skills fluently is our main aim.

Our governing body is a passionate set of people who work tirelessly to drive our school improvement work.  They offer challenge and support and keep a close eye on all the statutory requirements of a school too.  I am privileged to have these people on board who support our school and ensure our work is the best it can be.

Kelly Barron

‘Originally from Scotland, I moved to the village with my family in 2017. Before settling in Kirkheaton, I spent a lot of time travelling including spending a number of months living and working in Dublin and on a small island in Thailand. I have previously managed teams in a number of different sectors most recently within remortgage Conveyancing and currently work within post-16 education. 

When we moved to Kirkheaton I knew I wanted to play my part in such a wonderful community. Knowing both of my children would be attending Kirkheaton Primary, my eldest starting in 2019, I have a vested and genuine interest in the school, it’s performance and the development of all pupils.’

Hazel Mackay

I am Hazel Mackay and have been retired for three years. I have in the past worked as an Inspector of Taxes for the Inland Revenue and then in education. I became a head teacher at a struggling one form entry primary school in Greater Manchester in 2008 and retired from this position in 2018, leaving behind a successful team leading an oversubscribed primary with an excellent reputation, especially for working with children with difficulties. I am looking forward to working with the team at Kirkheaton Primary.

Gianna Shepherd – Staff Governor


I am originally from Massachusetts but I began my journey abroad in 2009 when I moved to Florence, Italy. During my 4.5 years there, I worked as an au pair and then moved into the American study abroad scene where I fulfilled a variety of roles.


Shortly after moving to England, I began my teacher training programme through WRPITT (Wakefield) and have loved being in the classroom ever since. I joined the Kirkheaton Primary School team in 2016 and have mainly been in Year 1 and Year 2. Since returning from maternity leave in January 2022, I have been working alongside Mrs Earles and Miss Webster in Year 1/2.

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