Frank's royal appointment

6th January 2006 at 00:00
Veteran caretaker Frank Lightfoot is thrilled to be going to the palace to receive his MBE - one of a string of New Year honours for school staff

David Hart, the former general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, and Anna Hassan, the head of an east London primary, were the toast of the education world this week.

The duo headed the latest list of education's glitterati in the New Year honours.

Mr Hart, who retired as general secretary of the NAHT last year after 27 years, was given a knighthood. Mrs Hassan, head of Millfields community primary, in the London borough of Hackney, became Dame Anna.

Mr Hart said: "This is a fantastic way to round off my career. It's the icing on the cake. I'm very proud of all the heads who have been recognised.

"The work of heads and teachers was neglected for so long but now the government recognises school leaders are the driving force behind raising standards. I like to think I have helped make them the potent force they are."

Mrs Hassan said: "I am still in shock. It is unbelievable. I think my award is for being belligerent, tough and sticking to my guns."

Seventy-nine education workers were rewarded in the New Year list. They included Helen Williams, director of the Department for Education and Skills school standards group. She received the Companion of the Order of the Bath.

David Sherlock, chief inspector of the Adult Learning Inspectorate and TES columnist, received a CBE, as did Robert Howarth, chief executive of Macmillan city technology college, Middlesbrough and four heads.

The heads included Tony Broady, who retired as head of Walker technology college in Newcastle at Christmas. More than a quarter of teachers at the school have worked there for more than 20 years. Christine Gilbert, chief executive of the London borough of Tower Hamlets, and Colin Hilton, executive director of children's services in Liverpool, also received CBEs.

Mr Hilton has transformed Liverpool from a failing service to one that Ofsted now ranks among the top in the country in his six years in the job.

Nonetheless, he was so surprised by his award that he left the letter of notification unopened. "I thought it was a bit of junk mail," the 50-year-old said. "It was lying among the bills for days.

"But it is very pleasant. I am very pleased. Working here is like painting the Forth bridge: it is a never-ending process. You have to constantly strive to do better for people."

OBEs went to four retired and four serving heads, along with two principals of further education colleges. Hilary Omissi, deputy director for children and learners at the government office for the south-east, Alan Sykes, a former schools inspector; and John Singh, a member of the School Teachers'

Review Body, were also recognised.

MBEs went to two headteachers, one FE vice-principal, and the principal of a private-tutorial college.

Twelve teachers, two of them retired, also received MBEs, as did five chairs of governors.

Greg Hall, deputy head of Guru Nanak Sikh secondary, in west London, received an MBE. He said: "One of the issues of Sikhism is humility so I don't go round talking about it. It is a shame the school can't get the award. Even a dandelion is taken for a flower if it is at the Chelsea flower show."

Robert Pepper, deputy head of Dame Alice Owen's school in Hertfordshire and the director and conductor of the English Schools Orchestra was awarded an MBE. The orchestra for pupils aged 14 to 18 was previously known as the Grant-Maintained Schools national orchestra.

Eight school support staff also received MBEs, including cleaners, caretakers, dinner ladies and a cook.

Among them was Christine Townend, who has been a lunchtime supervisor at Eastwood primary, in west Yorkshire, for 31 years. "It is quite a hectic job. There isn't a moment to look at your watch," the 60-year-old said.

"But it keeps you young."

Frank Lightfoot, the 74-year-old caretaker at Summerbank primary in Stoke-on-Trent, also received an MBE. The grandfather-of-four has been a caretaker for the past 31 years, and intends to continue, once he recovers from a gallstone operation this week.

"To be a caretaker, you have to get involved with everything," he said.

"You've got to be dedicated and enjoy working with children. I love the job. And I'm very excited about meeting the Queen."


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