William Atkinson

Estelle meets one of the country’s most respected headteachers In Estelle Morris meets William Atkinson, the former Secretary of State for Education finds out more about one of the most respected head teachers in the country, and the inspiration for Lenny Henry’s character in the BBC drama Hope and Glory. William Atkinson arrived in the UK from Jamaica at the age of seven, and was put into a remedial class after being mistaken for a nine year old. Luckily, help was at hand: ‘I met an absolutely fantastic teacher who saw in me qualities I didn’t believe I had. And that person was responsible, I believe, for actually turning me around’. Mr Atkinson went on to become a teacher himself, and in 1995 became head teacher at the Phoenix Secondary School, in London’s White City. At the time it was one of the country’s most challenging schools, but last year, 60% of his students achieved A* – C grades in their GCSEs. He says his life’s work has been to inspire his pupils and raise their expectations.

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