Meet the Senior Management Team

Mr Dominic Burke - Headteacher

I am proud to be one of the several Yorkshire ‘exiles’ who work at Balcarras. Originally I am from Leeds and all of my education was completed inside the county—my degree at York, a Masters at Sheffield and my teacher training back at Leeds. In 2002, I crossed the county boundary in search of my fortune and arrived at Prince Henry’s High School in Evesham, where I taught history for five years. In 2007, I joined Balcarras as Head of history and have enjoyed every minute teaching at the school. In 2016, I was immensely proud to become Headteacher and my ambition is to see the school continue to provide a first-rate education for each and every one of its pupils. 

Away from school I have two young sons who are full of energy and take up plenty of my spare time. I enjoy playing football and running and I also own a piano that I play occasionally. I am bad at all of these things but I am past caring. I enjoy them and that’s all that counts.  

I am a loyal supporter of Leeds United and have stuck with them through numerous ‘ups and downs’ (mainly downs!). Ever the optimist, I remain confident that one day we will return to our rightful place at the apex of English and European football.

As well as being Headteacher of Balcarras,  I hold the following positions:

CEO and Accounting Officer of the Balcarras Trust
Director of the Gloucestershire Association of Headteachers Limited (GASH Ltd)
Chair of the Gloucestershire Initial Teacher Education Partnership (GITEP) Management Committee
Vice Chair of the GLOW Maths Hub Strategic Board
Academy Representative of the Gloucestershire Schools Forum
Treasurer of the Cheltenham Association of Secondary Headteachers
Member of the Gloucestershire Association of Secondary School Leaders (GASSL)
Member of the Gloucestershire Education Forum

Mr Neil Baxter - Deputy Head

Originally from Leicestershire, I worked for 12 years in West London teaching mathematics and P.E., before relocating to Cheltenham. During my time in London I was Head of Mathematics for 5 years and Assistant Head for 3 years.

I have two teenage sons who are both delightful and full of life and keep us very, very busy. In my spare time I like to swim, cycle and play basketball.

I was Head of Sixth Form at Balcarras from 2006 to 2013 and thoroughly enjoyed seeing so many successful A-Level students progress to either university or their chosen careers. In my current role as Deputy Head I oversee pastoral care and the school timetable, among other duties.  I have an MA from Cambridge University in mathematics and then trained in teaching mathematics and P.E. at Loughborough University.

Mrs Becky Atkin - Assistant Head

After graduating with a degree in chemistry from the University of Durham in 1992, I trained to be a teacher and took up my first teaching post at Katharine Lady Berkeley's School in 1994. I had a variety of teaching and pastoral responsibilities there for five years.

I joined Balcarras in September 1999 as the deputy head of the sixth form. I have really valued and enjoyed being involved in the development and expansion of the sixth form. I joined the senior management team in September 2006 and have enjoyed the challenge of the various projects but have particularly loved developing our School Direct programme and working with trainee teachers.

My interests outside school are playing the violin for the Gloucestershire Symphony Orchestra, running and a young daughter who keeps me very busy.

Mr Darren Leatherbarrow - Head of Sixth Form

I am originally from Wigan and remain proud of my Lancastrian heritage, though I did 'cross the border' to study my degree, reading history at Leeds University. I qualified to teach in 1997, and thus far all my teaching posts have been in Gloucestershire - Wyedean School, Rednock School, and Balcarras.  I joined Balcarras in 2004 as the Head of History, before taking stewardship of Selvey House in 2007, and most recently Head of Sixth Form in 2018. 

Away from school I am married, and have two daughters, both of whom share and tolerate my passions for cinema, travel, sport and music.  In terms of sport, I love running, cycling and football.  I am known to be a follower of Manchester United, but my first love is as a supporter is Wigan RLFC - who play the correct code of rugby!  I am a huge fan of music of all genres, though my passion for music is not matched by my mediocre talents as a frustrated guitar player.  I continue to persevere in the truest punk tradition and can claim to have mastered enough chords to graduate beyond the level of 'novice' - finally!

I am very proud to have had a role in shaping the Balcarras community in the last ten years, and equally proud and excited to have the opportunity to continue to contribute to the evolution of the school in the years to come.

Mrs Elizabeth Cullis - Assistant Head

I was born and brought up in Bristol and went to UCL where I graduated in Geology. I then spent 4 years at Plymouth University as a part time lecturer and research scientist studying past climate change in Turkey. Realising that I could prepare the undergraduates academically much better for University than they seemed to have been I decided to return to Bristol where I did my PGCE.

I joined Balcarras as a 'Newly Qualified Teacher' in September 2003 and became Head of Geography in early 2007. A year later I gained my 'Advanced Skills Teacher' qualification and have really enjoyed developing teaching and learning both within the geography department, the whole school and a wider network of Gloucestershire schools. I was appointed as Assistant Headteacher in 2014 and am delighted that I can continue to develop my career at Balcarras.

My main passion outside of school is seeing the world, I have been lucky to travel to and explore over 40 countries (many of which have been trips at Balcarras) and I have no intention of slowing down! I enjoy many activities such as hiking, camping, skiing, SCUBA diving and I am an avid Bristol Rugby fan (and Bristol City FC too for my sins!).

Mr Ian Davidson - Assistant Head

I graduated in combined sciences from Leicester University in the late 60s at the height of student unrest.  The excitement was such I stayed on a further two years, first as sabbatical deputy president of the students’ union, then finally to take my PGCE.  Options to become a permanent student having run out, I started teaching science at Highwood School in Nailsworth. 

I arrived here at Balcarras, as Head of Science in 1982, four years before the school opened!  After reorganisation in 1986 I was reappointed and later promoted to Assistant Head.  I retired in 2009 but I haven’t managed to unload all my responsibilities so I still keep coming to work!

Mr Gary Towers - Deputy Head

I graduated with a degree in zoology from the University of Wales Swansea in 2001 and remained at the university to complete my teacher training. My first teaching post was at Tewkesbury school where I held a variety of roles including head of Key Stage 4 science. I also spent some time seconded to the local authority’s science advisory team.

I joined Balcarras in 2011 and was appointed as Head of Science in 2013.  I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of running such a diverse and thriving department and continue to be fascinated by all aspects of science education. In 2017 I was appointed to the schools senior management team as a Deputy Headteacher and am proud to have a role in shaping the future of this outstanding school.

Outside of school I enjoy running in the beautiful Cotswold Hills and travelling the world to observe its diverse wildlife with my wife who also has a degree in zoology.

Miss Liza McCarthy - Assistant Head

As some of you will know from my accent I was born in Aberdare in South Wales and some of you will also know I am very proud to be Welsh! I have been fortunate, since being inspired by my secondary PE teacher, to know that a career in education was to be my route through working life.  I studied at the University of Gloucestershire and gained a BEd Hons in Physical Education.  My first experience of Balcarras school was whilst on teaching practice in 1996 and I was delighted to be appointed as a PE teacher at Balcarras in 1998.  In 2006, I was appointed as Head of Foley House and was tremendously proud of all the pupils’ achievements during that period.  In 2014 I left Balcarras to become an Assistant Headteacher (Pastoral) at Dene Magna and I am delighted to return to Balcarras school in the same role.  Relationships are of prime importance to me and I look forward to cultivating these with all members of our school community. 

Outside of school, my interests lie in sport, travelling and spending time with family and friends.  I am an avid supporter of Welsh rugby and Liverpool.