Formidably bright, Spielman was in banking and management consultancy before, in 2005 becoming one of the founders of Ark (see Heller). In 2011 Spielman was appointed Chair of Ofqual, the body that regulates qualifications, exams and tests in England, and in 2016 was chosen by Nicky Morgan to replace Michael Wilshaw as chief inspector of schools. Criticised for never having been a teacher, she is bringing fierce intellect and organisational acumen to Ofsted, making it her business to listen and to interact with the profession. A strong exponent of traditional academic education, she surprised many when in July she said that the obsession with “results driven GCSE exams and testing” was jeopardising the “broad and balanced education” at schools. She was critical of the early narrowing down of subject choices at the age of 13, with the arts as well as the humanities being squeezed. She is set to bring long overdue change to Ofsted, and to become the most powerful voice in schools over the next ten 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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