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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
Head 'bowled over' by top honour
Dr Colin Lucas
Oxford University's vice-chancellor is also knighted
The latest head teacher to be knighted is expecting "a ragging" from his students when they find out.

Robert Dowling, head of George Dixon International School and Sixth Form College in Birmingham, is one of only a handful of people in education made a knight in the Queen's birthday honours.

Another is Colin Lucas, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford.

Twelve years ago, Robert Dowling also founded Selly Oak Special School in Birmingham, and it is for "services to special needs education" that his award has been made.

Big surprise

That school is now a leading centre for teaching children with dyslexia, and a "beacon" school praised by Ofsted for its excellence.

He has also gained a reputation for rescuing struggling schools - first Uffculme School in Birmingham, then George Dixon, where he has been head since 1999.

He said he was "bowled over" when he got the letter about his knighthood.

"My mouth just fell open, and my wife asked me what was wrong."

He still hadn't come to terms with it.

But there won't be any "Sir Robert Dowling" on the head teacher's door - he says he calls himself Bob and will continue to do so.

'Ordinary bloke'

"You can't be head of a school and become a different person," he said.

"I'm just an ordinary bloke just doing a job. I'm just doing what hundreds of other people do just as well.

"You feel almost ashamed that other people haven't got it as well. I know some superb people in this job."

He had not decided how to tell his students.

"I don't know how I'll face them because I'll get such a ragging," he said.

"But they're a lovely bunch of kids and I think they'll be pleased and so will their parents.

"This is a close-knit community in a deprived area."

Mr Dowling, 59, is from Co Kerry in south-west Ireland and he came to England in 1963. He has three children and two grandchildren.

Oxford honoured

Another knight, Colin Lucas, has been vice-chancellor of Oxford since 1997 - defending the university through the government's attack on perceived elitism.

In a statement, he said: "I am proud that the achievements of my university and the value of higher education to the country as a whole have been recognised in this way.

"I am committed to ensuring that Oxford University continues to play a key role in its city, region and country and in higher education internationally."

As well as holding various internal posts his outside appointments include chairing the so-called Russell Group of 19 elite, research-led UK universities.

Dr Lucas read modern history at Lincoln College, Oxford, before becoming a lecturer at the University of Sheffield in 1965.


After a spell at Manchester he returned to Oxford then went to the University of Chicago as Professor of History in 1990.

In 1994 he became Master of Balliol College, Oxford, a position he held for six years.

His specialism is 18th Century France and the politics of revolution, and among his honours he can count some prestigious French accolades, including Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur.

Another Oxford history man, Professor Sir Michael Howard, becomes a Companion of Honour for services to military studies.

Ian Kershaw, professor of modern history at the University of Sheffield, is knighted for his services to History.

Other honours

And Partha Sarathi Dasgupta, Frank Ramsay professor of economics at the University of Cambridge, is knighted for services to economics.

There is also a knighthood for Tony Vineall, who recently stepped down as chair of the School Teachers' Review Body, which advises ministers on pay and conditions in England and Wales.

As ever there are many CBEs, OBEs and MBEs for people in education in the widest sense, including an MBE for someone who has been a "lollipop lady" for more than 30 years.

June Hartshorn, 66, is the longest serving crossing patrol warden in Wolverhampton.

"I just love it, I love the children," she said.

"The weather never puts me off - I'm acclimatised to it. I've even taken a shovel out in the snow to clear a path for the kids.

"You're supposed to stop at 70, but I'd be happy just to carry on."

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