Coates is the doyenne of head teachers on the list. She made her name turning around the troubled Burlington Danes Academy in West London. For this extraordinary achievement she was created a dame. Then education secretary Michael Gove named her one of Britain’s top “Super Heads”. In 2015, she published Headstrong: 11 Lessons in Leadership drawing on her lifetime of experience, making the case for personal, activist and robust direction by the head. Coates believes in strong discipline throughout the school, regular exams and testing, and sets the highest expectation of students and staff. “Quite frankly I think that those who criticise the proliferation of testing in schools are simply on the wrong side of the argument,” she said. All her pupils were ranked, highly controversially, in each year group on their performance, from 1st to 180th, with the position publicly displayed around the school. After leaving headship, Coates oversaw a pioneering study championing the role of education in prisons.

The Seldon List 2017


These 20 figures, ten women, ten men, encompass those who I believe are having or will have the most powerful effect on our schools and universities. Some are household names, many are not. They all should be. Education at every level is riven by major disputes, and now more so than ever. The list of 20 contains those with pungent views on these debates, which include: whether we should be educating young people to lead a good life or merely for jobs; whether a traditional academic curriculum is suitable for all and whether it is right that it fails a third or more; and whether the state or the market should be dominant in deciding the content and delivery of education.

Reducing the figures to just 20 was agonizing: a further ten at least were very close to inclusion. Next year’s table will drop 10 from here. The key factor in the selection is who is setting the agenda for education, whether leaders of individual institutions, politicians and administrators, or academics and writers.

As education affects all of us, far more than we may think, these 20 contain some of the most influential figures in the country today.

Sir Anthony Seldon

Sir Anthony is one of Britain’s leading contemporary historians, educationalist, commentator and political author. Anthony Seldon is currently the Vice Chancellor of Buckingham University. He was head of Brighton College and of Wellington College, two of Britain’s leading independent schools. He is author of over 40 books on contemporary history, including the inside books on the last four Prime Ministers, politics and education, is co-founder of Action for Happiness, honorary historian to Downing Street and a Director of The Royal Shakespeare Company.



In partnership with

Dukes, Battersea Sunday Times