Ofqual chief and academy leaders recognised in New Year’s Honours List

The outgoing head of England’s exams watchdog and leading figures in the academies movement are among those in education receiving the most prestigious gongs in this week’s New Year’s Honours List.

Steve Lancashire, founder and chief executive of Reach2 – one of the country’s largest academy chains – is to be knighted; as is academy sponsor Jack Petchey CBE.

Susan Jowett, chief executive of the Spencer Academies Trust in the East Midlands, is being made a Dame; and the Department for Education’s director of academies and maintained schools, Susan Baldwin, is to be made a Companion of the Order of the Bath.

Glenys Stacey, Ofqual’s chief executive, (pictured) is also to become a Dame. She took over at Ofqual in March 2011 and her spell at the helm has not always been easy.

It fell to Ms Stacey to deliver the clampdown on grade inflation required by ministers. And in 2012 Ofqual found itself public enemy number one for many teachers who blamed the regulator for sudden unexpected drops in crucial GCSE English grades.

However, the High Court cleared Ofqual of any blame for the resulting controversy and in February 2013 Ms Stacey achieved one of her biggest successes. Her pressure paid off as the then education secretary, Michael Gove, abandoned his unpopular plans to replace GCSEs with English Baccalaureate Certificates and to introduce an exam board franchising system.

Since then overseeing a huge GCSE and A-level reform programme has led to more pressure for Ms Stacey, with rows with ministers over standards in new maths GCSEs and Ofqual’s decision to remove the assessment of practicals from science GCSE and A-level exam results.

But members of the government are clearly still impressed by her leadership. It has emerged that Mr Gove, now justice secretary, personally invited Ms Stacey to apply for her next job as chief inspector of probation.

Last night she said: “I am deeply moved to have been honoured in this way. Like many others, I have found great satisfaction in serving the public and I am looking forward to my new role.”

Mr Lancashire paid tribute to the role his upbringing played in his career, saying: “My passion for learning and education was instilled at a very early age by my parents. They taught me to believe in myself and in the power of education to change lives and bring opportunity.

“I try to bring this belief and passion to the children in our trust. They deserve no less.” He added that his knighthood was “testament to the hard work and commitment” of everyone who worked in his academies.

Reach2 was founded by Mr Lancashire in 2012 and is now the largest primary-only academy chain, with some 50 schools across England. In October he opened a second chain, called Reach4, specialising in all-age schools, which will be backed by the government’s £10 million Northern Fund for academy sponsors.

In November Mr Lancashire told TES how his chains represented a new take on academy sponsorship, eschewing the rebranding of schools and expensive central offices.

Mr Petchey has sponsored the Petchey Academy in Hackney, east London, since it opened in 2006. The 90-year-old is an East End entrepreneur who left school aged 13 with no qualifications.

Business ventures from car dealing and garages to property, travel and investment made him a multi-millionaire and in 1999 he set up the Jack Petchey Foundation to support education and youth projects.

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