Being a good teacher is the hardest job in the world

Of all the hard jobs in the world, one of the hardest is being a good teacher. Being a good headteacher is even harder. Every child in Yorkshire deserves the best possible education, whatever their background, and we rely so much on those committed individuals who can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instil a life-long love of learning.

Stuck between pupils, parents and politicians, our best education role models don’t always get the recognition they deserve, which is why I was so happy to see some of Bradford’s finest being singled out in the New Years Honours list. Developing our young and enterprising population is so important to our district’s future prosperity and wellbeing. The men and women who carry this responsibility deserve all our support.

Duncan Jacques, chief executive officer of the Exceed Academies Trust, becomes a CBE for services to education. The multi-academy trust currently runs six schools – Copthorne Primary School, Horton Grange Primary School, Horton Park Primary School, Appleton Academy, Holybrook Primary School and Harden Primary School – serving communities with some of the highest levels of social and economic deprivation in the district. All bar one of these schools have been judged as Outstanding or Good by Ofsted.

Mr Jacques said he was “delighted, surprised and honoured” with the award and on social media thanked all those who had sent him congratulations, including Jenni Mayo, headteacher of Oakworth Primary School, who said “many children in Bradford have benefited from your high aspirations and visionary leadership”. Kersten England, chief executive of Bradford council, summed it up when she said Duncan is “a great leader and educator… can’t think of a more important role in team Bradford right now”. I’ll second that, on behalf of the Bradford Economic Partnership, which fully recognises the contribution that teachers make to creating the workforce of the future.

Ruby Bhatti becomes an OBE for services to young people and housing. Ruby is an experienced solicitor, formidable advocate and dedicated public servant who has devoted much of her time to important causes in the Bradford community. Ms Bhatti’s numerous education commitments include board roles at the Dixons Academies Charitable Trust, Rainbow Schools Trust and the Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust. She supports other education leaders on governance on behalf of Bradford council and the Department for Education.

Ms Bhatti told her local newspaper: “The honour is an extremely humbling one which I dedicate to my late parents who brought me up and always tried to help others.” We need people like Ruby to make sure our schools are run properly. Thank you, and congratulations. 

Christopher Brown also becomes an OBE, for services to higher education. Mr Brown, of Sutton-in-Craven near Keighley, is chair of council at the University of Huddersfield, a post he has held since 2004. He helped steer this important Yorkshire institution to gold-rated status according to the Teaching Excellence Framework. Mr Brown, who read law at Oxford, is a former chief executive of gear maker David Brown Group plc and chairs the West Yorkshire engineering companies Wakefield Acoustics and Thermal Energy Ventures.

After successful business careers, it can be tempting for departing executives to disappear to the golf course. Not Mr Brown, who has dedicated nearly 15 years to the advancement of higher education in God’s Own County. He’s also a director at Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club. (That’s rackets, not clubs.) Congratulations, Chris.

Wahida Shaffi becomes an MBE for services to women, young people, interfaith and community relations. Ms Shaffi is the best sort of teacher in our society. She has more than 20 years’ experience of working with diverse communities from across the world. After completing an MA in international politics and security studies at the University of Bradford’s Department of Peace Studies, Ms Shaffi has gone on to facilitate, deliver training, complete research, develop and manage programmes and produce films on subjects related to equality, diversity, gender, conflict and interfaith locally, nationally and internationally in Bradford, the UK, Sri Lanka, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Romania and Pakistan.

Did I mention Ms Shaffi is also the national director of the Catalyst programme, formerly the national women’s lead with the Christian Muslim Forum and is currently finalising the final phase of her Churchill Fellowship? I’ll leave it to her friend Jenny Ramsden who described Wahida on social media as “the strongest, kindest, nicest, most intelligent woman”. Congratulations on your award.

Duncan Jacques CBE, Ruby Bhatti OBE, Chris Brown OBE and Wahida Shaffi MBE… just a few of the inspiring teachers, in the broadest sense, at work across the Bradford district and in 2019 and beyond. Happy new year everyone.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club.

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