The sector has paid tribute to “education giant” Sir Tim Brighouse, remembered as “a towering beacon of light for schools” whose legacy will “last forever”.
The former schools commissioner for London, where he led the highly-regarded London Challenge, and chief education officer for Birmingham and Oxfordshire died yesterday after a short illness.
Harry Brighouse, speaking on behalf of Tim’s family, said: “He was a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather and a towering figure in the word of education.
“He never wavered in his belief that teachers and schools change children’s lives for the better.”
He leaves behind wife Liz, the leader of the Labour group on Oxfordshire council, four children and eight grandchildren.
‘A titan of the education service’
Knighted for his services to education in 2009, Brighouse was an instrumental figure in the London Challenge which is credited with transforming the capital’s schools.
Former education secretary Lord Blunkett called him a “titan of the education service”, and said “much of the outstanding achievement of turning around schools in the capital was down to his leadership”.
“I didn’t always agree with Tim, but his contribution to the British education system was outstanding, and he will be sorely missed. For the future improvement of schools across the country, we will need more Tim Brighouses in the years to come.”
Baroness Morris, another former education secretary, said she had “nothing but admiration for what Tim had achieved, not least in developing early education programmes and primary schooling, which we were able to build on in the drive to raise standards and opportunity following the Labour victory in 1997”.
“There are few people in recent times who have contributed so much to driving the standards agenda and enthusing the teaching profession with the commitment to bring about lasting change.”
‘An education giant’
Children’s commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza said “we have lost an education giant”. While Dawn Heywood, chief executive of the Windsor Academy Trust, where Brighouse was a member, added he was a “shining light in education. Your legacy will last forever”.
Alongside his education reform achievements, many also paid tribute to Brighouse’s character.
Susan Brown, Oxford city council leader, tweeted: “Tim’s contributions to education in our country were immense but all those who knew him will miss him for his wit and kindness.”
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson added Brighouse was a “deeply impressive man, a paragon of kindness and an outstanding figure in Britain’s schools. Through his work, his thinking and vision, he transformed lives.”
In a Schools Week profile in 2014, former editor Laura McInerney wrote during his time as chief education office in Birmingham, results “constantly increased”.
But Brighouse “became renowned for kindnesses, sending more than 5,000 handwritten letters of congratulations to teachers, and even turning up with champagne to one school after a tough Ofsted inspection.
When asked what prompted this, he said: “Blummin’ hell…that’s about being human!
“It isn’t that I won’t confront difficult situations where people have made a balls-up of something, because I have, and I do, and I would. But I do think they deserve dignity.
“And if somebody has not made a success of a particular school, they may have made a success of it earlier on – they may have been a very good head in another place or they may have been a fantastic deputy or they may be fantastic with difficult kids.”
‘A beacon of optimism’
The profile started with the line: “The longer you talk about a problem in education, the more likely you tend towards the solution ‘Clone Tim Brighouse’.”
McInerney tweeted yesterday: “Tim was the best of us. Brilliant, in the truest sense of the world. A profound loss, in this moment, but only because his whole life has been education’s gain.”
Professor Colin Diamond, who later worked for Birmingham council, said that “rarely does a week go by in Birmingham without Tim coming up in the conversation 20 years after he left for the London Challenge.
“The best director of education by a country mile whose legacy endures. Feel so lucky to have met him and worked together.”
Meanwhile Sir Jon Coles, chief executive of the United Learning academy trust and who played a key role in the London Challenge alongside Brighouse, said “we have truly lost an exceptional person”.
He quoted the playwright George Bernard Shaw: “’Life is no ‘brief candle’ for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.’”
‘A towering beacon of light’
Brighouse, who was 83, was still active in education reform, publishing a 640-page book last year alongside Mick Waters titled ‘About our schools’ which included interviews with scores of education leaders.
In a joint opinion piece with Waters in Schools Week last year, he argued for a baccalaureate, an annually published balanced score-card of school performance and the merging of Ofsted and Ofqual.
Sir David Carter, the former national schools commissioner, described Brighouse as a “towering beacon of light for schools and children. To have influenced so many people over so many years is a wonderful legacy. A man who gave so much and I was lucky to learn from him.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added Brighouse “was such an advocate for teachers and leaders, for trusting in professionalism, for celebrating the quietly enduring impact great educators have on lives they will rarely then see”.
“He was a beacon of optimism who will be much missed.”