Duckworth is the world authority on teaching character, virtues and resilience, the very skills the young will need when algorithms at work outperform the processing skills that traditional exams test. Every parent understands that human skills and virtues need to be taught alongside academic ones, even if not all politicians are there yet. We owe much to Angela Duckworth, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Early in her career, while teaching in New York public schools, she noticed that motivation and character mattered just as much in academic achievement as raw IQ. She has advised the White House (before Donald Trump), Fortune 500 CEOs and the British government. Her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, is a must read for everyone. In the UK, work on character and virtue in education is being driven by Prof James Arthur at the formidable Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham.

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.



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