Chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw and “superheads” Dame Rachel de Souza and Martin Tissot are included on the list of top 100 most influential Catholics.
Sir Michael, who leads schools inspectors Ofsted, is number two on the list released by Catholic journal The Tablet – with only the governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney wielding more influence.
Prior to joining Ofsted in 2012, Sir Michael was a teacher and headteacher for 43 years – most recently as the executive principal at Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney.
Chief executive of Inspiration Trust Dame Rachel de Souza is ranked at 55 on the list. Her Norfolk-based academy chain has 10 schools, with approval to open a further two free schools.
She told Schools Week: “I’m very flattered to be on this list and it is quite unexpected. I’m delighted that the great privilege of educating children and leading transformational academies allows me to draw on my own excellent Catholic education – particularly the inspirational teaching of my Jesuit teachers and classmates at Heythrop College, University of London.
“As a young teenager from Scunthorpe who hadn’t experienced much of the wider world, they opened my mind with the great philosophers, from the Greeks to Wittgenstein and beyond. They opened my heart with their social teaching.
“Their reforming work in South America, Africa and beyond laid the foundations for my own lifelong passion for education reform and transformation.”
Executive head of three Catholic schools Martin Tissot features on the list at number 83. He is credited with turning round the three schools in London. He is executive head of St George’s School in Maida Vale, acting head of Bishop Douglass School in Barnet, and executive head of St Thomas More Catholic School in Wood Green. In 2014 St Thomas More was judged the single most improved school in the country.
Winchester College Headmaster Ralph Townsend is in at number 70 on the list, while Carmel McConnell, whose Magic Breakfast charity feeds 17,000 primary school children daily, appears at 45. Catherine Pepinster, editor of The Tablet, said: “A striking feature of the list is how many of those featured have risen to prominence from modest or even underprivileged backgrounds. While recent studies reveal that social mobility in Britain is at a standstill, Catholics have gone from being a minority group, largely a community of working class immigrants, to playing a key role in British professional and public life – a story that is testament to the transformative power of education in Catholic schools.”