Norwich Principal named on Queen's Birthday Honours List

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Published on 09/10/20

David Thomas, Principal of Jane Austen College and Strategy Director for Inspiration Trust, has been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his outstanding services to education during the Covid-19 crisis. He has been awarded an OBE for his work helping not only his school - but children at schools across the country during lockdown.

Mr Thomas led the team at Jane Austen College to switch seamlessly to remote learning and ensure children could continue to receive an excellent education during closures. The package included assemblies, form time and live online 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.

"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." David Thomas


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. Oak National Academy’s lessons have been viewed over 20 million times by over 2 million users.

David Thomas, Principal of Jane Austen College, Strategy Director of Inspiration Trust and Curriculum Director at Oak National Academy said: “It was a real surprise to hear that I’d received this, and very generous of someone to think I might deserve it. 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."

Dame Rachel de Souza, CEO 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. 

“Teams from our schools continue to contribute resources to Oak National Academy to make sure any children self-isolating can continue with their education. It’s important, more now than ever, that schools come together to support and help one another.” 

Matthew Hood, Founder and Principal of Oak National Academy, said: “Oak National Academy was a huge, collective effort. This honour is really a recognition of the tireless work of the hundreds of teachers and colleagues who created it, in a matter of days. They showed the best of our profession - innovative, caring and dedicated to supporting children and their peers. 

“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.”

Oak National Academy is a sector-led effort to support teachers and schools by bringing high-quality online learning to children during school closures. The original project to facilitate lessons as an emergency response to lockdown, has continued to expand and offers a provision for remote and in-school teaching. The Oak National Academy has since delivered over 20 million lessons, with David directing the curriculum.