WorldSkills UK's Neil Bentley recognised in New Year's Honours List

Principals Karen Redhead, Nigel Duncan and Karen Dobson join a college caretaker on the New Year's Honours List 2018

Stephen Exley

Further education figures in New Year's Honours List

College principals, staff and governors joined the chief executive of WorldSkills UK among the the figures recognised in the New Year’s Honours List.

Neil Bentley, CEO of WorldSkills UK, was made an OBE for services to equality in business.

Among the other OBE recipients were a number of well-known college leaders. These included: Newcastle and Stafford College Group principal Karen Dobson; Fareham College principal Nigel Duncan; Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College principal Karen Redhead; and Elly Tobin, who retired as principal of Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College this month.

Ann Turner, who retired as principal of Myerscough College in March, was made an MBE, along with Angela Middleton, founder and CEO of training provider and apprenticeship consultancy MiddletonMurray Group.

Lynsi Hayward-Smith, a trustee at the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) and head of adult learning and skills at Cambridgeshire County Council, was made a CBE, while Helen Pettifor, who retired as the ETF’s director of professional standards and workforce development in September, was made an OBE.

Edinburgh College also featured prominently, with recently retired principal Annette Bruton made an OBE, and her successor Audrey Cumberford made an MBE.

Two college chairs of governors were honoured: Everton Burke of Burton and South Derbyshire College was made an OBE, and Christopher Bridge of Colchester Institute was made an MBE.

And James Whiskens, former caretaker at Fircroft College, received a British Empire Medal for services to student pastoral care.

Apprenticeships and skills minister Anne Milton said: “Congratulations to all those who were recognised in the New Year’s Honours List for their contributions to further education and skills. I would like to thank each and every one of them for their work.”


Neil Bentley OBE

Neil Bentley OBE WorldSkills UK

Dr Bentley joined WorldSkills UK in 2015. Prior to this, he worked for nine months as CEO of OUTstanding, a business network for LGBT leaders and their allies, and spent three years as trustee and deputy chair of Stonewall, the charity which campaigns for the equality of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people across Britain.

He also worked for 11 years at the CBI, most recently as deputy director-general and chief operating officer.

Dr Bentley said: “It’s a real honour to have received the OBE for services to equality.

It came as a complete surprise and I hope this recognition will help encourage more leaders in business and education to create inclusive working and learning environments to help more young people excel in work and life, irrespective of their background.

“That’s why at WorldSkills UK, we are working hard with our networks to get a better grip on our own inclusion challenges.

“We will be working with our alumni as role models to encourage more diversity and in particular push forward opportunities in apprenticeships for young people who identify as LGBT+.”


Lynsi Hayward-Smith CBE and Helen Pettifor OBE, Education and Training Foundation

Lynsi Hayward-Smith

ETF chief executive David Russell said: “Both Lynsi and Helen have made huge contributions to the success of further education in our country, so these honours are extremely well-deserved and give due recognition to the sustained impact they have had in their respective careers.

“Lynsi’s long and successful career as a senior leader in the sector, most recently delivering adult learning and skills in Cambridgeshire, allowed her to bring great wisdom and experience to the ETF board.  She has been instrumental in shaping the success of the ETF over its first five years as a trustee, ensuring we never lost focus on adult learning or on overall impact.

“Helen has had an unparalleled career in the FE sector’s national improvement agencies, and has been an inspirational example of ‘servant leadership’ to the ETF and the sector.

“She has a great depth of knowledge and understanding about our field, coupled with the experience needed to make national programmes happen successfully.  She has been an essential part of what the ETF is today, and I am delighted to see her personal contribution honoured publicly in this way.”

Helen Pettifor


Karen Redhead OBE, Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College

Karen Redhead

Ms Redhead joined the college in September 2018. She describes herself as a “product of FE” and has 28 years’ experience in education, having occupied senior roles in two national funding agencies and four colleges, including five years as deputy principal at Stockton Riverside College, four years as vice principal of South Tyneside College as, most recently, eight years as principal of Derwentside College.

Ms Redhead, who is currently undertaking a PhD on educational policy reform, said: “I’m absolutely delighted and honoured to be appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire. It is a privilege to help shape the future of young people and I will endeavour to continue making a positive contribution to FE.”


Karen Dobson OBE, Newcastle and Stafford College Group

Karen Dobson

Potteries-born Ms Dobson began her career in the public sector with the NHS as a nurse, ward manager and health visitor, before moving into further education as a lecturer in health and social care. She joined Newcastle College in 2002 as director of curriculum and strategy, and in August 2004 was appointed principal. 

She oversaw the merger between Newcastle and Stafford colleges in 2016, and a £13.5 million investment in campus and student facilities. Ms Dobson has also been shortlisted in the FE leader of the year category at the Tes FE Awards 2019. The ceremony takes place on 22 March 2019.

Ms Dobson said: “I am absolutely thrilled and very surprised to be named to receive an OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List and am proud of the things I have helped to make happen during my time in the further education sector. I am also humbled by the recognition, which would not have been possible without the incredible support of the governors, the hard work and dedication of my senior team and staff, our wonderful and diverse student body and of course the constant help and support from my wonderful family.” 

Newcastle and Stafford College Group chair of governors Simon Leech said: “Karen is an unsung champion in the FE sector who epitomises all one might expect of someone worthy of this recognition.”


Nigel Duncan OBE, Fareham College

After working for six years as a lecturer at Solihull College, Mr Duncan was appointed head of school at Lowestoft College, where he spent 14 years. In 2002, he was appointed curriculum director at West Herts College; three years later, he joined Fareham College as vice principal. He was promoted to principal in 2012, and has overseen a successful period at the college, which was named college of the year at the Tes FE Awards 2018. The OBE rounds off a satisfying period for Mr Duncan.

“I never expected it,” he said. This is the pinnacle of a great couple of years for the college. I couldn’t have done it without all the amazing staff at the college. They have helped me mould and develop the college, and in the last couple of years it’s come to fruition.

“There are a lot of challenges out there in the world of FE, but we’re in this job because we want to help students to progress.”


Everton Burke OBE, Burton and South Derbyshire College

Everton Burke

Mr Burke has been chair of the corporation at Burton and South Derbyshire College for six years. 

Starting his college career as a catering lecturer, Mr Burke contributed significantly to the hospitality sector through his role in many national working groups, advising on qualification adoption and development for the catering industry. He has been a champion of Stem subjects to young Afro-Caribbean students, and was a founding member of the Caribbean Reference Group commissioned by West Midlands Police leading up to the London 2012 Olympic Games. He also at as a magistrate for nearly 20 years.

Mr Burke said: “I am taken aback at receiving this wonderful honour. I have always had a strong desire to play an active role in the further education sector. Giving school-leavers the skills, qualifications and competencies they need to secure meaningful and lasting employment, and being a role model for black and minority ethnic communities is so rewarding. The sector gave me 25 years of wonderful opportunities and I am keen to repay this by giving back as much as I can.” 

Dawn Ward, principal of the college, said: “I am thrilled for Everton and his family and am so proud he has been recognised in this way. His commitment to both the college and the further education sector as a whole is truly significant and this honour is an incredibly fitting tribute to him and his many achievements."


Honour's List: FE recipients

CBE - Lynsi Hayward-Smith - trustee, Education and Training Foundation. For services to further education.

OBE - Neil Bentley - CEO, WorldSkills UK. For services to equality in business.

OBE - Annette Bruton - former principal, Edinburgh College. For services to education.

OBE - Everton Burke - chair of governors, Burton and South Derbyshire College. For services to further education.

OBE - Karen Dobson - principal, Newcastle and Stafford College Group. For services to further education in Staffordshire.

OBE - Nigel Duncan - principal, Fareham College. For services to further education.

OBE - Raymond Linforth - vice-chancellor and principal, University College Birmingham. For services to higher and further education in the West Midlands.

OBE - Helen Pettifor - Former director of professional standards and workforce development, Education and Training Foundation. For services to further education.

OBE - Karen Redhead - principal and CEO of Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College. For services to further education (in former role as principal of Derwentside College).

OBE - Eleanor Tobin - former principal, Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College. For services to education and young people.

MBE - Christopher Bridge - chair of the board, Colchester Institute. For services to further education and skills.

MBE - Audrey Cumberford - principal, Edinburgh College. For services to further education and the community in the West of Scotland.

MBE - David Hughes - chair, East Midlands Apprenticeship Ambassador Network. For services to education.

MBE - Angela Middleton - founder and CEO, MiddletonMurray Group. For services to apprenticeship training, youth employment and business.

MBE - Claire Paul - director for leadership development and new talent, BBC. For services to apprenticeships and education.

MBE - Rachel Pilling - head of safeguarding, The Manchester College. For services to further education and safeguarding. 

MBE - Judith Poole - head of student support and wellbeing, Blackpool and The Fylde College. For services to education.

MBE - Derek Randall - chair of governors, Bridgwater and Taunton College. For services to further education.

MBE - Ann Turner - Former principal and CEO, Myerscough College. For services to land-based education and training.

British Empire Medal  - James Whiskens - Former caretaker, Fircroft College. For services to student pastoral care.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

Latest stories