Shropshire residents recognised in New Year's Honours list

The contributions of Shropshire residents to sport, education, history and charity have received royal recognition in the New Year's Honours list.

From left; Teresa Clarke CBE; Sir Keith Vivian Thomas, FBA, Order of the Companions of Honour; Jane Allen MBE; Georgina Gibbons BEM; Andrew Anthony Jowett OBE.
From left; Teresa Clarke CBE; Sir Keith Vivian Thomas, FBA, Order of the Companions of Honour; Jane Allen MBE; Georgina Gibbons BEM; Andrew Anthony Jowett OBE.

Five Shropshire residents have been named by the Queen in the annual honours list, with Teresa Clarke of Newport, made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE).

Mrs Clarke, prison group director West Midlands Prison Group, is recognised for her services to "improving outcomes for care leavers".

Sir Keith Vivian Thomas, FBA, receives the Order of the Companions of Honour for services to the study of history, while Andrew Anthony Jowett, CEO of Shrewsbury-based Build It International, is awarded the OBE for services to education in Zambia

Jane Allen, chief executive of British Gymnastics, based at Lilleshall, has been made an MBE for her services to the sport, while Georgina Gibbons, from Shrewsbury is being given the British Empire Medal for her services to education.

They join household names from the world of show-business, sport and politics to have been recognised by the Queen. The overall list has seen British-born Australian songstress Olivia Newton-John made a dame for services to charity, cancer research and entertainment, while critically acclaimed director Sam Mendes gets a knighthood for his contribution to drama.

From politics, Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith, the architect of the controversial Universal Credit system, is knighted alongside colleague Bob Neill.

Elsewhere, England's cricketing heroes, including Joe Root and Ben Stokes, are also recognised.

Mrs Allen, 65, has overseen British Gymnastics since 2010, during a period where the sport has "grown immeasurably, winning medals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games across all three gymnastics disciplines, making it the most successful Games to date for gymnastics."

She spoke of her delight at the award, but said it had been the result of a team effort.

She said: "I am very proud of ensuring British Gymnastics is a strong national governing body overseeing the sport in the UK and representing over 400,000 members and 1,500 clubs. This of course could not have been possible without a great team around me and without the great work of the clubs across the UK.

She added that she had been most proud to see the sport grow, and British gymnasts succeeding on the international stage during her tenure.

She said: "I have enjoyed immensely my time at British Gymnastics as CEO. It has been very rewarding to see the sport grow at both participation level as well as on the international stage with our fantastic gymnasts doing so well at World Championships and Olympic Games.

Volunteers

Mrs Gibbons, 61, from Shrewsbury, was instrumental in setting up an inclusive pre-school for children with special needs, where they learn alongside children without special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The organisation started in 1989 with the Shrewsbury Opportunity Group, which began as a toddler drop-in group.

Ultimately it has grown in to Opportunity Pre-School, based at Primrose Drive in Shrewsbury, with 28 children currently attending.

She said she was honoured at the award, but paid tribute to the volunteers and others who have been key to the group's success.

The announcement of Mrs Gibbons’ recognition also described her as “an inspirational pillar of support within the Shropshire community”.

It added that she is “widely recognised as being an ambassador for early years providers and an expert in supporting children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)”.

Mrs Gibbons said it was a huge surprise to have received the award, but that she was very proud at the recognition.

She said: “It was a lovely surprise and it has been very hard keeping it a secret.”

Mrs Gibbons also said that she was delighted at the way the group had been able to provide support over the years, but added that she was pleased that inclusive settings are now more commonplace than in 1989.

She said: “I am really pleased, it is amazing that we still have people who are prepared to give up their time as volunteers to run the group because we rely completely on the goodwill of volunteers.

Resolved

“We are still providing an inclusive setting for children with and without special needs but I would hope that now there is less need for us and that all children with special needs can attend their local setting and have support.”

Explaining the history of the group she said: “I have been involved with Shrewsbury Opportunity Group since its inception in September 1989. This was initially, a toddler drop-in group led by parents with a shared vision for the inclusion of children with and without special needs, and for those with life-limiting conditions.

“I was subsequently appointed as the leader of the pre-school. We lost all our equipment when the cellar at St Nicholas Church Hall by the English Bridge was flooded in the late nineties, so I resolved to secure National Lottery funding and we successfully opened a purpose-built nursery on the present site at Kempsfield in October 1999.”

She added: “Opportunity Pre-school follows a ‘Reggio Emilia’ approach that sees ‘children as having special rights rather than special needs’. We are a registered charity and still run by an elected committee. The Opportunity Group continues to thrive and develop. This is due especially to the continued support of our management committee, Shropshire Council’s early years team and the dedication of our staff.”

Andrew Jowett has received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to education in Zambia as CEO of Shrewsbury-based Build It International.

He co-founded the charity in 2007, and it provides construction skills training to unemployed young people, alongside building urgently needed schools and clinics in some of Zambia’s most disadvantaged communities.

Under his leadership the charity has raised £11 million helping to train more than 1,000 young people and complete 44 community building projects – including 34 schools.

He said: “It is an honour to receive this award in recognition of the work Build It has accomplished. Education and training opens up so many opportunities, but a huge number of young people in Zambia are denied access to even the most basic schooling.

"It has been a pleasure to lead an amazing team of dedicated Zambian and UK professionals, working with partners across education, training and construction to give more young people the chance of a brighter future.”

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