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Thursday, December 31, 1998 Published at 00:57 GMT

Life peerage for college principal

Dr O'Neill will bring her experience of higher education to the Lords

From college principal to school janitor, from professors to lollipop ladies, New Year Honours have commended the work of more than 70 individuals from across education.

Onora O'Neill, principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, says her first reaction was one of "sheer and total surprise" when she heard that she was to be offered a life peerage.

But she says it will be "very exciting to be in the House of Lords during the process of reform and democratisation".

[ image: Headteachers are recognised with a knighthood and 17 other awards]
Headteachers are recognised with a knighthood and 17 other awards
An expert on philosophy and ethics, awarded the CBE three years ago, Dr O'Neill has served on the Human Genetics Advisory Commission and the Animal Procedures Committee.

From her perspective as head of a leading Cambridge college, she says "the great conundrum facing higher education is how to maintain the commitment to widening access to higher education while remaining committed to sustaining quality".

As head of an all-women's college, she says her work in the House of Lords will continue the "long, slow cultural revolution to achieve substantive equality".

Far from the colleges of Cambridge and honours for the grerat and the good, an award of an OBE to Michael Holmes, a janitor at Central Primary School, Inverness, is in recognition of his contribution to the life of the school.

[ image: Three lollipop ladies received awards for their work in protecting children]
Three lollipop ladies received awards for their work in protecting children
As well as his work looking after school premises, Mr Holmes helps as a volunteer for football coaching at weekends and has set up a gardening club, which won the school an award as "Greenfingers Junior Champions of Scotland".

Another school caretaker, Samuel Gamble from Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland, is also to receive an OBE.

Awards have been made to 18 headteachers, including a knighthood for Lyndon Jones, principal of Harris City Technology College, Croydon, a school recently praised for being among the most improved in the country.

Also commended for achieving outstanding improvement in school is Anne Collingwood, who has been given an OBE in recognition of her work in turning around a struggling primary school.

Five years ago, Crook Primary School in County Durham became the first ever primary school to be publicly identified as "failing" and Anne Collingwood has now been honoured for her part in raising standards at the school.

An OBE is also given to Roger Coles, head of Oxted County School, Surrey, which was among those "named and acclaimed" by the Office for Standards in Education as giving pupils "an excellent start to their education".

Richard Houlden, the headteacher of Hirst High School in Ashington, which has won technology college status, is to receive an OBE. The award is likely to win the approval of the Labour MP for nearby Tynemouth, Alan Campbell, as he was a history teacher at the school until the last general election.

Three lollipop ladies, or as the honours list describes them, school crossing officers, have been honoured - Doris Parmenter from Hartley Witney, Hampshire; Dolly Irene Morgan from Glynneath, South Wales and Joan Thomason from Balcombe, West Sussex.

Education officials have also been recognised, with OBEs for David Mallen. County Education Officer in East Sussex and John Dobie, lately acting Director of Education, City of Edinburgh Council.

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