In memory of Professor Peter Matthews OBE, 1944-2020

We were saddened to learn of the passing of our esteemed colleague Professor Peter Matthews OBE on September 1, following a brief illness. Our thoughts are with his wife and two daughters, their families and friends. 

Peter was an inspirational figure and friend throughout our collaborative community.  As an international expert in evaluation, our endeavours were shaped by his creative criticism. Many of our programmes owe their refinement and longevity to his incisive and pragmatic observations. Peter also acted as a mentor to many of us, a role in which he revealed his empathetic and compassionate nature. He was a prolific and consummate writer – only recently were we discussing his next contribution to this blog, which was to be on leadership development. 

After consulting his family, we are re-running the biography we published when we introduced Peter as a co-author on this blog. You can read it below.

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One would expect someone who takes time off to sail around Britain to possess a determination to get things done and I can confirm that Professor Peter Matthews OBE does indeed fit that description.

Peter has built a career around thoroughness, establishing an international reputation in the area of school improvement, more specifically in inspection and evaluation. He worked for many years at OFSTED, helping to formulate their standards, and later for the OECD. This is a man who believes passionately that quality of teaching and learning directly impacts standards in education, and he has the research and personal testimony to support this. 

Peter Matthews is an education consultant and visiting professor at the UCL Institute of Education. His specialist interests include school evaluation, effectiveness and improvement, and school and system leadership. He undertook the first evaluation of the Outstanding Teacher Programme and has undertaken many research and development projects for the Department for Education, OECD, Challenge Partners and numerous other organisations. Previously he has been a teacher, teacher educator, local authority chief adviser, senior civil servant and Her Majesty’s Inspector, responsible for school inspection and evaluation. In 2003, he was awarded an OBE for services to education.

I first met Peter in 2007 when he was sent by the National College to capture our early work on Teaching Schools. Over a long conversation he managed to elicit from me the ideas that underpinned the approach we were developing. His thoughtful, incisive and empathetic questioning gave me the confidence to bring many of our ideas to fruition. As a result, the encounter proved a fantastic learning experience and this marked the beginning of a long professional and personal friendship. The outcome of that meeting was the paper, Teaching Schools Concept, which formed the blueprint for this type of approach to school improvement. One that we are celebrating today.  

Later, as the accreditation of Teaching Schools gained acceptance, we determined that selecting them from public data and their own testimony was not a guarantee of their success in supporting other schools.  We had learnt this from our work for London Challenge.  There, we had found when selecting consultant leaders that in addition to their school’s performance data and Ofsted Report, we required a site visit to ensure the culture of the school supported collaborative learning.  When the fledgling Teaching Schools Council sought an appropriate person to fulfil this onerous role, they unanimously elected Peter.  

It was with his background experience in undertaking this role and mine as CEO of Teaching Schools that we published in 2011 our next paper for the DFE Teaching Schools – First amongst equals? At this point with the formation of the coalition government and the Department of Education being led by Micheal Gove, Teaching Schools became a central strand of the Government’s approach to school improvement. A role that continues to this day.

Peter continues to be as busy as ever.  Most recently he has worked in Jordan and Guernsey and I have the privilege of presenting with him on the IOE’s International Leadership MBA.  

That circumnavigation of the British Isles? He did that when he was 70.