The Seldon List: OECD chief and schools minister top trad-dominated education influencers list


Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s education chief, Nick Gibb, the schools minister, and Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted, have topped a new list of the most influential people in education.

The list, drawn up by Sir Anthony Seldon with the help of a panel of 20 educationists, is likely to be controversial as it dominated by education “traditionalists”, and includes only one woman, yet features Aristotle, who died more than 2,300 years ago.

The list is Seldon’s second. The first, produced without the input of others, was released in 2017 in The Sunday Times, but the University of Buckingham vice-chancellor and former Wellington College master wanted to change its format.

“I thought it needed to be more rooted in what people said, so therefore we came up with a panel of 20 people and they produced sometimes very long lists.”

Andreas Schleicher

Seldon then whittled the lists down to produce a top ten.

Schleicher, who presides over the landmark PISA study at the OECD, takes first place on the final list.

The second-placed Gibb features prominently not just because of his longevity – he has served on the education frontbench for most of the past eight years – but because of his “ideological approach”, Seldon says.

“He is profoundly philosophically-driven, with a vision for education,” he said. “Gibb is the Rome to Michael Gove’s Greece. He is the successor.”

Spielman shares third place with DT Willingham, the American psychologist.

Seldon says the final list shows the extent of the current influence of traditionalists on English education in 2019.

Nick Gibb MP

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the list was “interesting, but highly contestable”, and warned the failure to include any progressives was “a real own-goal”.

“I have nothing against the individuals on the list, and they may be influential, but influential on whom?”

She accepted that traditionalism “is the current zeitgeist in terms of the political establishment”, but argued that was “not the case” in education more broadly.

“I think many teachers are having to teach a curriculum and implement an assessment system that they profoundly disagree with. We all know in many schools there’s a huge push-back against the direction of travel at the moment.”

However, Bousted said she was “delighted” to see her union colleague Geoff Barton on the list. “I think he’s very influential,” she said.

Seldon was advised by a panel that included Sir Kevan Collins, the chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, Becky Francis, the director of the UCL Institute of Education, Neil Carmichael, the former chair of the education select committee, Tom Bennett, the government behaviour tsar, Dame Alison Peacock, the leader of the Chartered College of Teaching and Barnaby Lenon, the chair of the Independent Schools Council.


The list

  1. Andreas Schleicher
  2. Nick Gibb
  3.  Amanda Spielman/ DT Willingham
  4. Sir Michael Barber
  5. ED Hirsch
  6. Dylan Wiliam
  7. Geoff Barton
  8. Anant Agrawal
  9. Aristotle

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