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Birthday Honours see head made a Dame

The Government continues to put education in the limelight, reports Chris Bunting

TONY Blair's enthusiasm for honouring headteachers showed no signs of abating in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

Mavis Grant, headteacher at Mary Trevelyan primary school in Newcastle upon Tyne, was made a Dame of the British Empire at the top of an honours roll bulging with headteachers and education mandarins.

This Government has already conferred knight or damehoods on four other headteachers, but Mrs Grant is the first serving head from the primary sector to be given a senior honour.

"I was thrilled, but reflecting on it seriously I think it is great to see primary education acknowledged in this way," she said, "It is also nice to see a school in this sort of area being picked out." Her school has 88 per cent of its pupils eligible for free school meal but, in three out of the past four years, has produced key stage 2 test results at or above the national average.

Initiatives have included a citizenship education programme developed in co-operation with the local magistrates court, a bussing scheme which has cut absence by 10 per cent, a behaviour management strategy based on football-style red and yellow cards, and one of the country's oldest after-school clubs, run by staff volunteers.

The school took part in the pilot scheme for the National Literacy Strategy, and had the highest gains of any school in the trial.

Government recognition for Mrs Grant's work was first shown when she was included in Bernard Crick's advisory group for citizenship education. And recently she has been invited to take part in the Government's inquiry into KS2 testing .

But the damehood came as a complete surprise. "It is lovely because it has given the children and the parents a huge lift. There are often a lot of negatives said about this part of Newcastle."

The other senior honour in the education world went to a more traditional kind of recipient: permanent secretary Michael Bichard was knighted for his four years at the top of the Department for Education and Employment.

Michael Herbert, former chief executive of the Funding Agency for Schools, Elizabeth Passmore, head of OFSTED's school improvement division and Philip Hunter, director of education for Staffordshire, all became CBEs.

Eleven headteachers, five education officials, a governor, a teacher, a school cook and three lollipop ladies also featured.

Also honoured was TES columnist Libby Purves, with an OBE for her services to broadcasting and journalism. Another broadcaster, Trevor McDonald, was knighted. Sir Trevor has played a high-profile role in the Nuffield inquiry into language learning, and headed the previous government's Better English Campaign.

Clare and Michael Morpurgo, of Farms for City Children, become MBEs.

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