Sir Ken Gibson, Head teacher of Harton Technology College in South Shields, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate for his services to Education by the University of Sunderland.
Having helped transform two North East secondary schools in recent years, Sir Ken is regarded as a ‘super-head’ for the way he brings struggling schools back on track and received a knighthood in The Queen’s birthday honours in 2013.
This week he was awarded the Honorary Doctorate by the University during the summer graduation ceremonies at the Stadium of Light, where thousands of students also received their awards by Chancellor Steve Cram.
Sir Ken Gibson said: “I was flabbergasted when I was told the news I’d be receiving this honour, I’m delighted!
“It’s also been a wonderful experience to be part of the graduation ceremonies this week.”
You could say teaching is in Sir Ken’s genes, his mum Helen was a head teacher at East Boldon Infants School, where he was taught by her. Both his wife and brother are teachers and between them all they’ve been educating in South Tyneside for a combined 120 years.
Sir Ken has now been teaching for 37 years, and 33 of those have been at Harton, which has been rated by Ofsted as an “Outstanding” school for the last 10 years.
While still steering the ship at Harton, he also spent three years supporting Jarrow School and Academy 360 in Sunderland, as well as a term at Boldon School in South Tyneside, as consultant head.
“At one stage I was working in three schools simultaneously on two occasions, that was a challenge because I still teach maths too!,” he explained.
“I have always maintained my interest in teaching; after all it’s what I entered the profession for.”
Asked what the secret to creating a successful school is, Sir Ken commented: “It’s leadership at all levels, the quality of provision in the classroom fundamentally, a huge emphasis on teaching and learning and behaviour is absolutely key. You need to get the behaviours right to provide a platform to provide the foundation to then move a school on.”
He added: “I believe in a very inclusive approach and show mutual respect to the students; you have to win hearts and minds both with the staff and the students, that’s what I have always tried to do.”
So what advice does Sir Ken have to the next generation of teachers graduating at Sunderland this week?
“This is the best job in the world, despite all the challenges and changes to education,” he said. “But you do need patience, tenacity, enthusiasm and the will to make a difference. Fundamentally you need to like children and be able to enthuse.”
Despite all the recent accolades, Sir Ken still says one of the proudest moments of his career was the reintroduction of the sixth form at Harton Technology College in 2010, he says the decision has added hugely to the ethos in every aspect of provision at the school.