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Monday, 12 October 2020 23:46

Sir Paul Carter, CBE, was appointed Knight Bachelor in Birthday Honours List

Sir Paul Carter’s well-deserved honour is mainly in appreciation of his 14 years as Leader of Kent County Council for services to Local Government,  but I have known him for over 20 years in the field of education, where his passion, strong beliefs and understanding of what needs to be done to deliver the best for all the children of Kent has made a powerful impact on shaping the service. He and I first met when Paul was KCC Cabinet Member for Education before he became Leader, during which role he exhibited the same qualities. Although interested in all aspects of schooling, Paul’s main interests were in vocational and special education in both of which he has made a very strong mark.

Sir Paul Carter

Paul was often controversial, never afraid to pick up an issue, a true leader taking others with him, and a successful businessman in his own right. This appreciation will itself be controversial, for he has certainly made enemies in his determination to battle for the benefit of the people of Kent, and it could be argued that this award is long overdue, perhaps because he often took the fight for the people of Kent to government. You will find the KCC tribute to Sir Paul here, describing many of his other achievements.

My perspective is almost wholly related to education, one of my most vivid memories of Paul being when I met him by accident in the queue for the cross-channel ferry at Calais, taking one of his historic Bentley racing cars to the Nurburgring in Germany to race it, as seen here (try and spot Paul in the picture!). We were jointly involved in a battle against the notorious Lilac Sky Trust at the time and he instantly became immersed in the issues, probing my views for the next half hour, leaving our wives sitting patiently in the cars.

I was not involved in vocational education but saw how Paul shaped that aspect of education in Kent, with 14-18 centres being developed across the county for the benefit of young people with a practical rather than academic bent. Sadly, as so often, Paul was out of step with government and these have now been almost entirely dismantled with policies that have seen all young people being forced to focus on an academic curriculum up to the age of 16, whatever their abilities. The recent government initiative of University Technical Colleges, catering for the same age group on a small scale and at enormous expense has been almost entirely a flop!

It is in Special Education that I have seen his impact most closely, initially when he was horrified to learn of the very high number of pupils being permanently excluded from schools in Kent especially those who had Statements of SEN. In 2009-10 out of 202 permanent exclusions 51 were of statemented children. Paul immediately responded, took and continued firm action, so that both figures have dropped every year since, down to 24 in total for 2019-20. Paul initiated and drove the replacement of all Kent’s Special School creaking premises with modern buildings and facilities, and has protected the sector against an inclusion policy for all pupils driven by KCC officers some years ago.

Paul has spoken out many times against the excessive freedoms and advantages enjoyed or in too many cases mis-used by academies, but has softened his views more recently in the light of many successes in the sector, recently becoming a Director of one of Kent’s largest and most successful groups, the Leigh Academies Trust for the second time around .

Throughout his involvement with education in Kent,  Paul has got involved with and driven many individual issues and initiatives, probably most famously the Sevenoaks annexes for Weald of Kent and Tunbridge Wells Boys grammar schools.

The education service, Kent’s children and indeed Kent as a whole have much to thank Paul for, and I am sure as he continues as a backbencher for KCC he will continue to keep a close eye on events.   

Last modified on Thursday, 15 October 2020 06:59

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