Shirley did not take a ‘traditional’ route through education, returning to take her A levels at the age of 23. From leaving school, she worked in a variety of sectors, latterly running her own business while undertaking a Political Studies degree (First Class Honours, Leeds University, 1993) and teaching qualification as well as bringing up her family. After working in a series of teaching positions in further education, Shirley arrived at Dixons City Technology College as a teacher of Humanities in 1996. By 2000, she was promoted to Head of Post-16. With the conversion to academy status in 2005, Shirley was appointed to the substantive post of Deputy Principal, later becoming Principal in 2011.
Shirley became an Executive Principal in 2016 and now oversees Dixons City, Dixons Cottingley, Dixons Manningham and Dixons Marchbank. She maintains a keen interest in learning in the classroom and one of her strategic roles is working with the middle leaders to develop world class learning schemes and resources. Shirley remains, first and foremost, committed to making a difference in economically challenging areas and is therefore very proud of everything Dixons has done over almost 30 years to improve the life chances of young people in Bradford.