No single figure has done more to highlight public and political awareness of the continuing inequalities in our school system than Peter Lampl, philanthropist and founder/chairman of the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Fund. Educated in grammar schools and at Oxford, Lampl went to the US to make his career and fortune. On his return, he was shocked to discover “A kid like me had little chance of making it to Oxbridge” and that his grammar school had become “all fee-paying”. So he set up the Oxford Summer School to give bright school students the encouragement to aim for the top universities. In 1997, he founded the Sutton Trust to enhance social mobility. Many thousands of young people have benefited from his various schemes, while the Sutton Trust has issued a series of devastating reports examining static social mobility, despite all the improvements in schools over the last 20 years.

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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