A former college principal has spoken exclusively to FE Week of his shock after being chosen to receive a Knighthood for his services to further education (FE).

Geoff Hall, who left New College Nottingham (NCN) after seven and a half years in May 2010, is one of just 27 people to receive the order in the New Year’s Honours List 2012.

Mr Hall, now the Chairman of the Information Authority board, said he was “stunned beyond belief” after discovering his confirmation letter at home in November.

“I saw the envelope poking out from under a living room chair where one of the dogs had buried it,” Mr Hall said.

“It had obviously been there a couple of days. I then realised it might be something to do with the honours, so I opened it and was stunned beyond belief.”

Mr Hall says he’s been “overwhelmed” by people’s responses.

“People who frankly I’ve lost contact with have been going to enormous lengths to try and get a hold of me and say well done,” Mr Hall said.

Mr Hall is one of just a handful of college principals to ever receive a Knighthood, following Sir George Sweeney in 2000, Sir Bernard O’Connell in 2004 and Sir Bill Moorcroft in 2008.

He added: “I was saying to somebody that twenty years ago – to be told I could get a Knighthood from working in further education, I‘d have said you were crazy, it just didn’t used to happen!

“So the recognition that further education is getting now is obviously much greater than it used to be, so that’s wonderful.”

Mr Hall started as a lecturer at South Trafford College and later became an FE officer with Birmingham City Council.

“When I got the further education officer job in Birmingham I was very young, and that was seen as a pretty spectacular rise,” Mr Hall said.

“Back in those days the post was seen as the equivalent of a polytechnic director. It was a huge job.”

Mr Hall quickly became the director of education for the London borough of Bexley and later joined the Further Education Funding Council for England (FEFC) as director of education programmes.

“I think we did some very radical things there, we had published added value league tables for secondary schools, which was way ahead of its time. We had testing on entry in primary, you know, ideas that could have been developed nationally,” he said.

A further 17 people were recognised for their services to FE, skills and/or training in the Honours List.

Elizabeth Rushton, who retired as prinicipal of West Herts College at the end of 2010, said it was an “honour and a thrill” to find out she would be receiving a CBE.

“I am passionately committed to further education and value greatly the role local colleges can play in their local communities,” she said.

“It was a privilege to be West Herts College principal for six years, leading a dedicated team of professionals that transformed the college.”

Gill Worgan, principal and chief executive at West Herts College, as well as former deputy principal to Rushton, said everyone at the college was “delighted” to hear about the honour.

“It is wonderful that people who have dedicated their professional lives to further education are honoured for their exceptional service,” Mr Worgan said.

Malcolm Wharton, principal of Hartpury College in Gloucestershire, will also receive a CBE for his services to the sector.

“The achievements of Hartpury College are outstanding and remarkable – but they are not my achievements,” Mr Wharton said.

“They reflect the hard work and dedication of the entire loyal and talented staff of Hartpury. I regard myself as accepting this honour on their behalf and I do so with great pleasure and considerable pride.”

The 157 Group said the orders reflect the “passion and commitment” of principals who champion learning in the sector.

Lynne Sedgmore CBE, executive director of the 157 Group, said: “I would like to wholeheartedly congratulate these outstanding principals rightly acknowledged by the government for their contributions to further education and skills.

“The Orders reflect the passion and commitment of the recipients in championing learning and reinforce the significance that further education powerfully contributes to overall communities.”

The British honours system has evolved over 650 years. Anyone in FE can receive an award, if they meet required standards, and successful nominations are detailed at New Year and in mid-June.

FE Week broke the story here.


FE sector recognised in New Year’s Honours list

Fifteen people have been awarded an OBE or MBE for their services to further education (FE), skills and/or training in England in the New Year’s Honours List 2012.

Richard Chambers, former principal of Lambeth College, is one of six leading professionals receiving an OBE for his contributions to the sector.

“Everyone at Lambeth College is enormously proud of Richard,” Dame Lorna Boreland-Kelly, chair of governors at the college said.

Mr Chambers retired from his post In October 2011 following six years of leadership at the college.

Dame Lorna Boreland-Kelly added: “His personal experience of FE led him to become a lifelong champion of education and a pioneer of linking education to business.”

David Croll, principal of Derby College, will also be receiving an OBE for his services to FE.

“I am obviously delighted to accept the OBE on behalf of everyone at Derby College who has worked so hard over the years and continues to do so to make this an astounding centre of excellence for further education,” Mr Croll said.

David Croll became principal of Derby Tertiary College in July 1995 and has since led the institution through a number of mergers with Mackworth, Broomfield Hall and South East Derbyshire College.

Mr Croll added: “Having brought four colleges together under the Derby College banner and ethos over the years, raised standards and invested heavily in developing state of the art facilities for our staff and students, this is a wonderful testament to the recognition and value that is put on our achievements.”

Catherine Hurst, principal of Wigan and Leigh College, said she stayed quiet after receiving her OBE letter because she thought it could be a prank.

“I must admit that it was quite a surprise, to the extent that I was wondering whether it was a joke!” she said.

Mrs Hurst began her teaching career at Bury College in Catering and Commercial Studies, later joining Wigan and Leigh College as vice principal for curriculum in 2002.

“My life was within further education because my father was a vice principal and then a principal,” she said.

“So even from an early age, every Sunday was spent walking in Dartmoor with students as my dad took them on walking excursions.”

Richard Waterfield, chair of governors at Wigan and Leigh College said: “This is a reflection of Cath’s commitment to further education in the Borough and beyond

“It is nothing less than well deserved.”

Anyone in FE can receive an award if they meet the required standards, however the New Year’s Honours List 2012 does not recognise any teachers or lecturers.

The Institute for Learning (IfL) says more staff and trainers should be recognised either with an MBE, OBE, CBE or Knighthood.

Lee Davies, deputy chief executive at the IfL, said: “We are pleased that IfL members, who show their dedication to excellent teaching and training through continuing membership of their professional body, have been honoured in this way.

“We believe, however, that there are many more outstanding teachers and trainers in our sector who should be recognised in the twice-yearly honours lists for transforming lives and for making an enormous contribution to the economic and social well-being of this country.

“To facilitate this, IfL can help prepare nominations, and we welcome suggestions about outstanding teachers and trainers for consideration.”

Carole Stott, chair of governors at City Literary Institute, who is to receive an MBE, agrees that while the FE sector has done relatively well in the honours list this year, there will always be more who deserve the same recognition.

“Well for everyone who is honoured in this way there are dozens more doing brilliant work, and of course not everyone who deserves it gets this kind of recognition,” she said.

Other FE staff and trainers who received honours were: MBEs for: Christine Gaskell Chair of the North West Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network (for services to Training and Apprenticeships), David Harris, Divisional Managing Director for Cowlin Construction (for services to Education and Training in the Construction Industry), Geoffrey Oakes, former Clerk to the Board of Governors at Reaseheath College, Malcolm Parkinson, Chair at Capel Manor College, Enfield, Middlesex, Denise Rowland, former Head of School for Early Years Health and Social Care at New College Durham, Graham Schuhmacher, Head of Development Services at Rolls-Royce Plc (for services to Apprenticeships and Skills Training), Carole Stott, Chair of Governors at the City Literary Institute (for services to Adult Education), Ellen Winser, DL Chair of Board of Governors at Truro and Penwith College, Michael Bonsier, Chair, Coulsdon Sixth Form College

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