Honorary degree for teacher who helped improve Bristol’s state education
Press release issued: 16 February 2012
An inspirational head teacher who has revolutionised education in Bristol and changed the life chances of thousands of pupils, will today [16 February] receive an honorary degree from the University of Bristol. Professor Ray Priest helped to establish City Academy in 2003, which was the first academy in the South West and its success has subsequently made a huge contribution to improving the state education system in Bristol.
His commitment to improving the educational opportunities for youngsters in the city is being recognised by a Doctor of Laws degree, awarded by the University of Bristol which first conferred his teaching degree in 1978.
From his initial training as a secondary school drama teacher, Professor Priest climbed the career ladder to head of drama and then deputy head of year at his first school, before progressing to deputy-head at another London school.
In 1992, he was appointed head of St George School, Bristol, and spotted the opportunity to change the educational prospects for young people in East Bristol when the Labour government announced the Academy Programme.
Professor Ros Sutherland, Professor of Education at the University of Bristol, is delivering the oration and said: “Under Ray’s leadership, the new City Academy became a focal point for community cohesion and gave the community a real sense of belief and confidence in their local school.”
The number of students following on to Higher Education increased significantly within five years of the £30-million state-of-the-art Academy opening in Lawrence Hill. Its design, which centres around five learning ‘villages’, has become a blueprint for building new secondary schools across the country.
Professor Priest stepped down in 2010 after 18 years as a head teacher and is now enjoying a new career in South East Asia.
Professor Sutherland added: “I am delighted that the energy and vision of Ray Priest is being recognised today by the University of Bristol.
"From a very cold day in February 1978 when he graduated from a Degree at the University of Bristol, to a very cold day in February 2012, Ray has worked tirelessly to improve the educational opportunities of young people. He has involved parents, local businesses and local universities, working in partnership towards the goal of improving education for young people in Bristol.”