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William Atkinson

Sir William Atkinson

Former Headteacher, Phoenix High School

Sir William Atkinson has over forty years of experience in the field of education.

Identifying structural weaknesses in the system, overcoming challenges, and developing new ways of educating the youth of tomorrow, he is highly sought after as a keynote and conference speaker, combining his own inspirational story with takeaway motivational messages.

His excellent leadership as Head Teacher of Phoenix High School in Shepherd's Bush, overcoming low results and bad behaviour, was reported to have been the inspiration for the Head Teacher character in the BBC's school drama, Hope and Glory.

Starting out his teaching career in the 1970s in Portsmouth, William moved to London shortly after and began to make a name for himself while teaching at several schools, all of them in multi-ethnic areas.

It was his work at Phoenix, from 1995 to 2010, that allowed him to capture the attention of the public. Not only was he responsible for the students at the school, but he had to manage the performance of the teachers. In 2008, Ofsted inspectors highly praised Sir William, noting his incredible feat.

Having previously worked as a Head Teacher at Cranford Community School, Hounslow, and Copland Community School, William’s extensive knowledge of how to create an education community and how to achieve good results is unparalleled.

After struggling with his own schooling experience and failing the 11+ twice, William found himself lost in the education system. His interest was sparked when a teacher challenged him, since challenge has always been something that he has valued.

As well as being a former member of the DfEE Standards Task Force, William sat on the Home Office Justice Task Force and the Home Office London Youth Crime Reduction Task Force.

He was a member of the London Black and Minority Ethnic Cracking Crime Partnership Board until 2006, and a Deputy Chair of the UK Judging Panel for The Teaching Awards until 2009. He was also a member of the British Board of Film Classification advisory panel on children's viewing until the summer of 2010.

William has been widely featured in the media, including the Channel 4 documentary series The Unteachables. He has contributed to a range of television and radio programmes, including Newsnight, Panorama, BBC Question Time, Breakfast Television, The One Show and Radio 4’s The House I Grew Up In.

Proving that no challenge is too big, Sir William gives kids opportunities and allows them to move past their disadvantaged backgrounds.

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