senior leadership team

Dave Dearsley
Head Teacher
Sarah Owenson
Deputy Head Teacher 
Quality of Education
Brendan Palmer
Assistant Head Teacher  Pastoral

Thomas Chalmers

Assistant Head Teacher  Bridges Lead

Lorna Dickson

 About Dave Dearsley  

Having completed a degree in sport and physical education, Dave started working as a teaching assistant in a specialist provision for students with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Dave found working with hard to reach children incredibly rewarding and decided that he wanted to complete his teacher training whilst continuing to work in special education.

Dave went on to work in a range of special school settings including pupil referral units, SEMH provisions and independent autism specialist schools fulfilling a range of roles through to his current position of Head Teacher at Churchward School.

As a teacher, Dave specialised in PE and Maths but also taught a range of other subjects including Science and English to a range of students. Throughout his career he has encouraged students to believe in themselves and has used outdoor education as a key part of this using the countryside as a vehicle to build confidence and self-esteem. He has set up and run Forest School programmes and taken students climbing, mountain biking and kayaking as well as completing a residential sailing trip to the Channel Islands.

Whilst in various Senior Leadership positions Dave has been responsible for pastoral, safeguarding, teaching & learning and assessment as well as always taking responsibility for developing an area of the school whether that be introducing a range of therapeutic interventions or supporting the growth of a school and ensuring consistency and high standards.

Always looking to challenge himself and the team around him, Dave has relished the chance to set a new school up from scratch and is looking forward to whatever the future holds for Churchward School.

Outside of school Dave looks forward to spending time with his partner and their son whilst also continuing with his enjoyment of being outdoors including taking care of their horses.

About Sarah Owensen

Sarah is an experienced senior leader in several educational establishments including independent and state schools, and most recently in the higher education sector. A teaching professional with a PhD in virology and biochemistry, Sarah has more than 20 years’ experience in the education sector where she has taught, led, managed, and implemented multiple programmes to improve the educational provision for all the students in her care. She takes a creative and dynamic approach to engage stakeholders develop and implement educational strategy and build strong teams that deliver high standards of educational services.

Sarah's Key Skills are:
Passionate and inspiring team leader
High personal commitment to leadership in the area of education quality and standards.
Energetic, innovative and creative approach to enthuse and progress learning
Strong communication skills, and collaboration with staff
Organisational planning and change management.
Development focused, collaborative with good interpersonal skills.

About Brendan Palmer

Brendan was set on a path for a career in sport but due to a major injury this came to an abrupt end.  Brendan returned to education, worked hard and was accepted to university to study Sports Science (Physiology) with Maths (Biomechanics). He achieved representative honours in rugby which he only took up at college.  After his degree, Brendan decided a career in teaching seemed the logical choice. 

In his teacher training his special study was on students who struggled to access parts of the curriculum due to their individual needs and this interest has never left him.  His first teaching role was PE specific in a large school in Somerset with 1800 students.  Brendan went on to teach in two other schools before taking the decision to take a teaching post in the south of Spain.  As his career developed, he gained a range of responsible roles such as 6th Form Lead, Key Stage leadership roles and leading a range of departments.  Working with students in an international setting taught Brendan an even wider range of skills in  engaging students into a teaching curriculum. 

Brendan has set up three new Duke of Edinburgh’s Award provisions as he is always looking at different ways to engage with young people and get them to be the best they can be.  By teaching a range of different subjects his experience and skills continue to develop to offer students a better teaching package.

In his role before joining Churchward School, Brendan was becoming increasingly frustrated with the number of students in his care who needed additional support but not having the time or resources to make the difference to those young people that really needed it.

Churchward School offered Brendan the chance to work directly with students and have an impact on the school running and development to support these young people.  Brendan works hard and is always willing to take advice and improve what he can offer the people around him.  Brendan is a family man, married with one son, and has even been coerced into becoming a rugby coach for his son's age group.

About Thomas Chalmers

As a passionate sportsman who played representative sport in swimming, rugby and football, Tom’s career path was always going to start as a Teacher of Physical Education which he has been lucky enough to do for over 18 years.

Tom qualified from the University of Southampton with BA Hons in Physical Education and Education and has undertaken many roles in mainstream education including Head of Department and Head of Year. He also has his National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL) and has undertaken a range of courses in attachment, safeguarding and Behaviour for Learning.

Throughout Tom’s career he has been passionate about helping all students to be the best they can be and go on to be successful independent young people. It was this passion that led Tom to work as an Assistant Head Teacher, in an SEMH provision, in Swindon for four and half years to support some of the most vulnerable students in the local area. Having done this, he then took the opportunity to work abroad in New Zealand as a Head of Department and lived there for 2 years. Upon returning to the UK, Tom was adamant that he wanted to continue to work with some of the most important young people in our community and is fortunate enough to be able to do so at Churchward School where he feels privileged to head up the Bridges Programme at the Bagbury site.

Tom is passionate about what he does and will work hard to support and guide our students as they share their journey and the next steps with us here at Churchward School.

About Lorna Dickson

Lorna achieved a BSc in sociology with English and then went on to undertake a PGCE specialising in secondary English. Lorna’s career to date, has been a fun filled journey, where she moved her way up from classroom teacher to be an established Head of Department in a large comprehension school, whilst also leading Literacy across all the schools she has worked in.

Lorna is an experienced teacher of twenty years, with a passion for supporting students who have special educational needs and require extra support to achieve their full protentional.

Lorna trained as a SENDCo to pursue her passion and drive to help those students who were currently flying under the radar with no help or support. Lorna established her role further whilst working with students who had been permanently excluded from mainstream education and those who had severe trauma and struggled to attend school. This was incredibly rewarding and was then that Lorna realised her true vocation was working with students who have additional needs and making sure that they received the right education and opportunities to enable them to access the outside world after leaving school and succeed. Lorna started her work here at Churchward School as an English Teacher in 2019 and became the school’s SENDCo in 2022.