Sir William Atkinson retired being recognised as one of the UK’s most respected headteachers after famously turning the Phoenix High School around.
Born in Jamaica, Sir William and his family moved to Britain when he was seven years old.
In 1971, he took up his first teaching appointment at Portsmouth Modern Boys’ School. Promoted posts followed in Islington Green School and Holloway Boy’s School in London.
Sir William worked as a Deputy Head in two London secondary schools before taking up his first headship at Copland Community School, Brent, followed by Cranford Community School, Hounslow.
In 1995, he became Headteacher of Phoenix High School, Hammersmith and Fulham.
When Sir William took over the running of Phoenix High School it was one of the most challenging schools in the UK, only four per cent of its pupils achieved five top-grade GCSE passes.
Under Sir William’s guidance, the school was turned around and eventually stood at the top of the Government’s exam league tables for improved performance with a figure of 96 per cent, receiving an Ofsted report as outstanding and beyond.
Sir William has received a number of awards for services to education including:-
- Leadership & Diversity Award: GG2 Teacher of the Year.
- Honorary Doctorate from the University of North London for Services to Secondary Education.
- Knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for Services to Education and Community Relations.
- London Schools & the Black Child “Teacher of the Year” 2008 Award Winner.
- Awarded Magisterio Prize for Educational Leadership, Madrid, Spain.
- Honorary Doctorate from The Open University for Services to Education.
His excellent leadership at Phoenix, 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.
Between 2010 and 2013 he was Executive Headteacher of The Phoenix Canberra Schools Federation.
In January 2010 the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services selected Sir William as a National Leader of Education and designated Phoenix High School as a National Support School.
Sir William Atkinson has been widely featured in the media, including the Channel 4 documentary series ‘The Unteachables’. He has also contributed to a range of television and radio programmes, including Newsnight, Panorama, Question Time, The One Show, Inside Out and Radio 4’s The House I Grew Up In.
As a keynote speaker, Sir William’s speaking topics include:
- Thriving in Adversity
- Change Management