Co-Founder of Pears Family School on New Year Honours list

8th January 2021  |  By: Michelle Cunliffe


Brenda McHugh, Co-Founder of the Pears Family School, has been awarded an MBE for services to education in this year’s New Year Honours list. The New Year Honours list recognises the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the United Kingdom.

The Pears Family School was founded and is sponsored by the Anna Freud Centre, and was co-founded by Neil Dawson and Brenda McHugh. Stephen Taylor was the Founding Headteacher and now the school is under the leadership of Headteacher Matthew Hillman; Professor John Cape is Chair of Governors.

The Pears Family School, co-located with the Anna Freud Centre at the Kantor Centre of Excellence, is a school for children who have been excluded from mainstream education, and successfully returns children to the most appropriate full time education.

The Pears Family School puts families at the heart of all its work. Parents, carers and pupils learn together. Parents and carers receive training and guidance to support their own learning and that of their children. The Pears Family School has continued its ground-breaking work during coronavirus where looking after vulnerable children and their families has been crucial.

Brenda McHugh, Co-founder of Pears Family School, says: “At the Anna Freud Centre and in the Pears Family School, so many people do extraordinary things every single day. I am humbled to have my small contribution identified for this honour, but I like to think of this as recognition of all the amazing work and dedication of everyone involved.

“In an email I received recently, a parent said: ‘You are one of ours Brenda, and in a way this feels like we have all been recognised and many of us have felt invisible for a very long time.’ I think this sums it up well.

“I am truly grateful to all of the Anna Freud Centre and Pears Family School staff for supporting this new model of a school, which we hope will be an inspiration for Alternative Provision reform and evidence of the value of parent engagement for future teacher training. 

“I hope in a small way that this honour will be useful in our joint work of improving the life chances for excluded children and families – and bring about genuine social change.”

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