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Alan Tuckett among FE figures on New Year's Honours List

The adult education pioneer joins college and training provider leaders, governors, teachers and support staff on New Year's Honours List

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The adult education pioneer joins college and training provider leaders, governors, teachers and support staff on New Year's Honours List

Adult education pioneer Alan Tuckett has been knighted in the New Year’s Honours List.

The former chief executive of adult learning body Niace (now the Learning and Work Institute) has been awarded his knighthood for services to education, particularly adult learning.

He was one of several leading figures in the FE sector to be recognised. Gateshead College principal Judith Doyle – FE leader of the year at the Tes FE Awards 2016 – was made a CBE, along with Lindsey Whiterod, chief executive of neighbouring South Tyneside College. The latter college has also tasted Tes FE Awards success, having claimed the college and overall provider of the year titles in 2017.

Another CBE recipient is Barbara Holm, principal of Westminster Adult Education Service, while South Devon College principal Stephen Criddle was made an OBE.

Three well-known faces from independent training providers were also recognised with MBEs: Debbie Gardiner, executive chairman of Qube Learning; Alexander Khan, chief executive of Lifetime Training; and Christine Jeffery, non-executive director of Skills Group UK.

‘Exciting possibilities’

Mr Tuckett (pictured below) is professor of education at the University of Wolverhampton, past-president of the International Council for Adult Education and an honorary fellow of the Unesco Institute for Lifelong Learning.  He served as chief executive of Niace from 1988 to 2011, and created Adult Learners’ Week.

He told Tes that he was “really pleased” to be recognised specifically for his work on adult learning.

“Adults have had a really tough time for the last 10-15 years,” he said. He added that with the development in fields such as artificial intelligence and robotics, a new approach to upskilling adults is required.  “The idea you can go on with a clockwork model and focus on labour market entry for young people goes right out of the window.”

He added that the industrial strategy had some “exciting possibilities” for adult learning, but raised concerns about the impact of the government’s focus on apprenticeships as a means of increasing the skills of the workforce.

“In principle, you can’t argue with it,” he said. “But how much is deadweight? It’s like Train to Gain: it took money from things people wanted to do and paid employers for things they should have been doing anyway.

“Other countries have upped investment in training for staff since the financial crash, but we haven’t.”

Alan Tuckett knighted


More focus was needed on adult learning, both in the UK and overseas, he added. “Worldwide, 750 million people can’t read or write. We know literacy is a pre-condition to empowerment.”

The focus on adult education in this New Year’s Honours List  – in the shape of Mr Tuckett and Ms Holm – was welcomed by Sue Pember, director of policy and external relations at community learning body Holex.

“We are delighted that all Barbara’s excellent work for adult education has been recognised in this way,” she said. “Her OBE is richly deserved. As well as her work leading an excellent adult education centre, she was the chair of Holex and as such has been a fantastic advocate and ambassador for adult education.

“We are also pleased that adult and community learning featured so highly in the New Year’s Honours List and we are thrilled that Alan Tuckett has been knighted.”

Success in the North East

Ms Doyle was recognised for “services to education and skills in the North East” – and specifically at Gateshead College, where she has worked for her entire 30-year career. She was appointed principal and CEO in 2013, and oversaw its overall grade rising from "requires improvement" to "outstanding". 

“I’m completed overwhelmed,” she said. “I’m thrilled, delighted and extremely honoured. It hasn’t sunk in yet.

“It’s a wonderful thing. I never thought that this would happen. It’s great that the work of the FE sector is having a light shone on it, and especially for the North East. Everyone working in this wonderful sector is making such a difference, and it’s great that people are sitting up and taking notice.

“I’ve worked in FE for my whole career. I’ve got a fantastic team of people at Gateshead, and I’ve had support from some wonderful people who have worked with me."

Receiving an MBE also marked a successful 2017 for Ms Whiterod at South Tyneside College, which, as well as claiming two titles at the Tes FE Awards, has completed a merger with nearby Tyne Metropolitan College.

“I’m over the moon,” Ms Whiterod said. “It’s wonderful for the college. It’s a personal award, but I’m keen to share it with the whole college. We’ve got some fab people who are changing the lives of our students every day. It’s a fantastic job. I’m CEO but I’m a member of a great team of people.

“Our profile has really skyrocketed this year. The Tes FE Awards have had a fantastic impact on the college’s profile – schools are now keen to come and talk to us.”

South Devon College was also a winner at the 2017 awards, claiming the employer engagement category. On receiving an OBE, Mr Criddle said: "I am really delighted. This is a reflection of, and a wonderful tribute to, the passion and commitment of all the teams at South Devon College who do such amazing things for our students and our wider Torbay and South Devon community."

Training providers

Representatives from training providers also received several accolades. These included Ms Gardiner of Qube Learning, who received an MBE for “services to apprenticeships and charity”.

She was appointed CEO  of the company in 2006, and in November became executive chairman. She said: “To be awarded an MBE is a great honour and one which I’m so delighted to receive. Working within this sector is very important to me. I’m a firm believer in giving people a chance, providing them with the support, guidance and training they need to have the best chance of success. This honour is a credible acknowledgement of not only the work I have done, but also the momentous effort Qube Learning have put in too.”

Ms Gardiner is also a member of the board of directors at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP). Chief executive Mark Dawe said: “It is fantastic to see leaders from the independent provider sector gain recognition for the passion and commitment that they show in driving forward the skills and social mobility agendas. 

“They share a determination in ensuring that the young people on their apprenticeship and other training programmes are getting the best possible support, and AELP is absolutely delighted that they are being rewarded for it.”

New Year’s Honours List: FE recipients


Alan Tuckett. Professor of education, University of Wolverhampton. For services to education, Particularly adult learning.



  • Judith Doyle. Principal and chief executive officer, Gateshead College. For services to education and skills in the North East.
  • Lindsey Whiterod. Chief executive, South Tyneside College. For services to education and the community in South Tyneside.
  • Matthew Boyle. President and chief executive, Sevcon. For services to engineering and skills.
  • Barbara Holm. Principal, Westminster Adult Education Service and founder, National Adult Community Learning Support and Development Network. For services to adult education.



  • Stephen Criddle. Principal, South Devon College. For services to education.
  • Joyce White. Chief executive, West Dunbartonshire Council. For services to local government, further education and girlguiding.
  • Arwyn Watkins. Managing director, Cambrian Training Company. For services to education and training in Wales.



  • Richard Carter. Governor, West Suffolk College. For services to education.
  • Michael Finney. Director of advice, admissions and marketing, South Cheshire College. For services to education.
  • Jacqueline Gerrard. Chair of the corporation, Strode's College, Egham. For services to education.
  • Jonathan Heggarty. Director of curriculum, Belfast Metropolitan College. For services to further education in Northern Ireland.
  • Gillian Lane. Formerly vice-chair of governors, Central College Nottingham and governor, Acorn Primary Federation. For services to education.
  • Thomas McBride. Head of department for business services, South West College. For services to further education in Northern Ireland.
  • Kathryn Podmore. Formerly principal, Birkenhead Sixth Form College. For services to education.
  • Anthony Impey. Founder and chief executive officer, Optimity. For services to apprenticeships, small businesses and broadband connectivity.
  • Debbie Gardiner. Executive chairman, Qube Learning. For services to apprenticeships and charity.
  • Alexander Khan. Chief executive officer, Lifetime Training. For services to apprenticeships.
  • Kathleen Burns. For services to post-16 education and skills in Wales.
  • Gillian Dillon. Senior executive officer, district employer and partnership manager, Department for Work and Pensions. For services to employment and skills in the Humber.
  • Christine Jeffery. Non-executive director, Skills Group UK Ltd. For services to skills training and charity.


British Empire Medal

  • Hayley Ryan. Teaching innovation manager, Southampton City College. For services to education.
  • Robert Savage. Caretaker, Southern Regional College, Greenbank Campus. For services to further education in Northern Ireland.  

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