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Lockdown learning sees Norwich school principal made an OBE

PUBLISHED: 16:40 10 October 2020

David Thomas, principal of Jane Austen College in Norwich. Picture: Inspiration Trust/Angela Sharpe Photography

David Thomas, principal of Jane Austen College in Norwich. Picture: Inspiration Trust/Angela Sharpe Photography

Angela Sharpe Photography

A Norwich headteacher has been made an OBE for his work helping not only his school but children at schools across the country during lockdown.

Jane Austen College in Colegate, Norwich. Picture: Denise BradleyJane Austen College in Colegate, Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley

David Thomas, principal of Jane Austen College, has been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his outstanding services to education during the Covid-19 crisis.

Mr Thomas, who is also strategy director of Inspiration Trust, which runs seven secondary and five primaries across Norfolk and Waveney, led the team at Jane Austen College to switch to remote learning ensuring children could continue to receive education including online assemblies, form time and live virtual lessons.

He was also simultaneously involved in the launch of Oak National Academy, working tirelessly as their curriculum director, to develop the online learning platform that is being used by more than 250,000 children each week.

Jane Austen College teachers put together a collage with a positive message for students to let them know they are still thinking of them during lockdown. Picture: Jane Austen CollegeJane Austen College teachers put together a collage with a positive message for students to let them know they are still thinking of them during lockdown. Picture: Jane Austen College

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Oak National Academy is an online school, built by volunteer teachers and staff to support schools during lockdown.

Mr Thomas was involved in building a team of hundreds of teachers, who spent the summer holidays recording 10,000 lessons, spanning reception to year 11, so that any child who is off school this year can continue to learn.

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Oak National Academy’s lessons have been viewed over 20 million times by over two million users.

His OBE comes in an honours list dominated by people who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic.

He said: “It was a real surprise to hear that I’d received this, and very generous of someone to think I might deserve it.

David Thomas, principal of Jane Austen College in Norwich. Picture: Inspiration Trust/Angela Sharpe PhotographyDavid Thomas, principal of Jane Austen College in Norwich. Picture: Inspiration Trust/Angela Sharpe Photography

“The past few months have been a testing time in education, but school staff have rallied together to achieve something great. I am deeply honoured to be a part of Jane Austen College and Oak National Academy. The success of both is down to the collective effort of incredible teams of people who are determined that no pandemic should compromise our children’s futures.

“I’ve seen our teachers going above and beyond, our students persevering through even these biggest of challenges, and our families supporting them every step of the way. Each and everyone one of them deserve this accolade for their tremendous efforts.”

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Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of Inspiration Trust, said: “I’m incredibly proud that we could support our principal with his ambitions. As a trust we believe every child deserves an excellent education - and David has embodied this value through his work at our family of schools as well as Oak National Academy.”

Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of Inspiration Trust. Picture: Tom BarnesDame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of Inspiration Trust. Picture: Tom Barnes

Matthew Hood, founder and principal of Oak National Academy, said: “We all know the significant impact missing school can have and the whole Oak team is delighted to have played a small role in supporting teachers as they kept their students learning through the toughest of challenges.”


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