New year’s honours 2024: Damehood for Gibb’s phonics guru

Forty-four people with links to England's schools community recognised

Forty-four people with links to England's schools community recognised

A leading creator of government-approved phonics programmes described as “inspirational” by ex-schools minister Nick Gibb has been made a dame in the new year’s honours.

Ruth Miskin, whose company RM Literacy Ltd developed the Read Write Inc and Fresh Start reading programmes used in thousands of schools, is among 44 people with links to England’s school system recognised this year.

Dr Vanessa Ogden, chief executive of the Mulberry Schools Trust, has received the CBE, as did Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association.

Watkin said it was “hard to convey the extent to which this award reflects my extraordinarily good fortune to work with the most talented, dedicated and hard-working SFCA team in the service of the most successful, generous and warm family of sixth form college leaders”.

“It is a privilege to accept this award on behalf of a lot of very special colleagues and friends.”

Also receiving the CBE are Colin Morrison, the founder and chair of Boarding School Partnerships and Tim Gardam, the chief executive of the Nuffield Foundation, which funds education research.

Gardam said he was “as delighted as I was surprised to receive the award”.

“I see it as a tribute to the work of the researchers the Nuffield Foundation has funded over the years to advance our understanding of education, and the impact it can have on both individual lives and society as a whole.”

‘Completely blown away’

Tiffany Beck, the founder and chair of trustees of the Maritime Academy Trust, has received the OBE. Beck is also head of education and PR firm PLMR.

Tiffany Beck
Tiffany Beck

She said she was “completely blown away by this honour”.

“This is very much thanks to the people both within Maritime Academy Trust and my dear friends and colleagues across the sector and at PLMR.

She said these colleagues had “taught me so much about what makes schools so special, what makes education so powerful and why it is so important that together we are not just trying to do things better, but actually doing better things”.

Also receiving the OBE is Jonathan McGoh, the co-founder and chair of the Reach Foundation and Reach Academy Feltham and Helen Waite, deputy director for family support at the Department for Education.

Gibb’s resignation honours?

Miskin’s damehood follows the recent departure from the Department for Education of Nick Gibb, the long-serving schools minister who championed phonics and lavished her with praise.

He has called her “inspirational” and has cited her as a key influence on his views on phonics.

Last year, an Education Endowment Foundation study found children who learn to read using Read Write Inc made one month’s additional progress compared to their peers, while older pupils using Fresh Start typically fell at least two months’ behind.

The schemes were at the time of the report used by 8,000 schools.

However, the £1 million evaluation was beset with problems, including a second trial being canned because of the pandemic, leading the EEF to urge caution when interpreting the findings.

Miskin is not the only creator of phonics materials to be honoured. Christopher Jolly, the publisher of Jolly Phonics, has also received the OBE.

Ex-Ofsted director honoured

Michael Cladingbowl, a former Ofsted national director for schools and inspection reform, has received the MBE, as has Karen Shepperson, the watchdog’s current director of people and operations.

Cladingbowl said it was “certainly a surprise to get the letter saying I’d been recommended for an honour and, of course, I was very pleased. But most of all because it represents recognition of the great work done by everyone involved in education.

“I’ve been really lucky in working with so many talented folk over the years, including in all the schools or trusts I’ve worked in or been a governor or trustee for. I reckon this award is really all about the fabulous and hardworking  people in all those schools.”

Two people have this year been recognised for their advocacy work on behalf of parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities.

They are Geraldine Hills, founder of Manchester Parent Champions and Elaine Robinson from Parents of Oldham InTouch. Both have received the MBE.

Recipients of the BEM include Mary Boyes and Greta Edwards, both cleaners at North Shore Academy in Stockton-on-Tees.

Of 41 honours for those linked to England schools, seven went to those working in the charity or third sector, five went to current or former MAT CEOs, five to academy trust chairs, five to current or former civil servants and five went to school support staff.

Recipients also included four heads or other senior leaders, one governor and one teacher.

You can read the full list of schools-related honours here. If you think we’ve missed someone out, email

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