Our judges rank amongst the most highly-respected, senior educators in the UK and have been chosen based on their passions and professional experience across our Awards categories.
Hero Brown, Editor-in-Chief, Muddy Stilettos & Muddy Stilettos Best Schools Guide (Chair)
A top national journalist for over 25 years across the UK’s broadsheet newspapers and women’s glossies, Hero Brown launched Muddy Stilettos in 2011 when she moved out of London with her young family and couldn’t find any honest reviews on where to eat, stay, shop or send her kids to school. Ten years on, Muddy Stilettos is the UK’s biggest lifestyle site for ABC1 women outside London with 1m users each month, and a sharp focus on how to get the very best out of where you live. Reviews of the best independent schools are an integral part of Muddy Stilettos, with readers responding to Hero’s informal, honest and in-the-know take on the top Prep, Senior and Sixth Forms.
Patrick Derham, OBE, Ex Headmaster, Westminster School
Patrick had an unconventional upbringing: seven schools before the age of 12, and partly as a result of a dysfunctional family, he was taken in by the Shaftesbury Homes and lived on board the training ship Arethusa for two years. At 16 an unknown benefactor changed his life by paying for him to go to Pangbourne College and he became the first member of his family to go to university. After studying history at Cambridge, Patrick taught at Cheam and Radley before becoming headmaster of Solihull school in September 1996, Rugby in September 2001 and Westminster in 2014. Passionate about widening access, Patrick set up the Arnold Foundation for Rugby school in 2003, which provides a boarding education at Rugby to disadvantaged children, and was instrumental in setting up the national charity Springboard Bursary Foundation. He was a trustee of IntoUniversity from 2007 to 2020. In the Queen’s birthday Honours list 2018 Patrick was awarded an OBE for services to education.
Lucy Elphinstone, Headmistress, Francis Holland School, Sloane Square
Lucy Elphinstone’s award-winning career in education spans leadership roles at nursery, prep and senior schools. After a degree in English at Cambridge University, Lucy entered the world of publishing, eventually becoming a ghost writer for Hodder Headline and writing four books whilst bringing up her four children in Scotland. A move into Montessori and prep school teaching led to a role as Director of Drama at Fettes College, Edinburgh, followed by a relocation to England to become Head of English at King’s College Taunton and Head of Sixth Form at Downe House. Passionate about delivering outstanding pastoral care and wellbeing provision and developing entrepreneurial spirit in pupils, over the last nine years she has been the Headmistress at Francis Holland, Sloane Square. In 2021 Lucy was awarded Best Head of Public School (Tatler Awards) and the school won Outstanding New Initiative for Creative Enterprise Programme (Independent School Awards).
Mark Semmence, Headmaster, Repton School, Derbyshire
Mark Semmence is the 36th Headmaster in Repton School’s 464 year history, and he has presided over the expansion of the Repton family of schools nationally and internationally (there are now three schools in the UK) and seven internationally with another three due to open in the next few years. Mark arrived at Repton following five years as Headmaster at Mount Kelly, where he oversaw a highly successful transformational programme (including the merger of Mount House and Kelly College) and seven years at Rugby School as Assistant Headmaster. Mark was educated at Durham (BA and MBA), Warwick (MA) and London (PGCE) Universities, and before his teaching career, he enjoyed a decade in the international sports marketing sector, working in London, New York, and Dubai with clients such as the ATP, ICC and the Cricket and Rugby World Cup organising committees.
Emma Goldsmith, Head of Dragon School, Oxford
Emma Goldsmith has been Head of Dragon School in Oxford since September 2021. She is the twelfth person to lead the renowned day and boarding Prep School since it was founded in 1877 and the first woman to do so. Emma is enthusiastically involved with IAPS, is an active ISI inspector and Vice Chair of ISEB. Emma has considerable experience in co-educational prep and senior schools and enjoyed notable success during her years as Head of Winchester House School, awarded Prep Head of the Year. Before that, she taught at Oakham and Rugby and went on to become Deputy Head at Bloxham School where she also worked as Housemistress, setting up the first girls’ boarding house. Emma was educated at Durham Johnston Comprehensive before reading English at the University of Manchester.
Dr Guy Schady-Beckett, Director, Next Step Education
As Head of Research at Next Step Education, organisers of the Independent Schools Show and the company behind Bonas MacFarlane, the tutoring and education advisors, Guy has a unique birds-eye view of the topics that seem to bother British and international parents. Helping educators to communicate with parents has occupied much of his career. Guy started out working in arts journalism, then after a brief spell at the whiteboard teaching English and drama (Windlesham, Durston House), in 1994 founded Drayson Beckett Ltd, an advertising and market research agency whose clients included a varied collection of independent schools (UCS, Highgate, Bute House, Wells, Stonar, Royal School Haslemere, Winchester House, Frensham Heights, Moreton Hall, Duke of Kent). Guy and his civil partner have two teenaged children, he is a member of the London Adopters Forum, sails precariously fast boats, is a life-long student, and convenes a public history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research.
Stefan Anderson, Principal of Tring Park School for the Performing Arts
Stefan was born in Toronto and educated in Ottawa. A graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, he moved to England to study at the Royal College of Music and then Emmanuel College, Cambridge where he was Organ Scholar. He was appointed Assistant Director of Music and Organist of Wellington College in 1983, and then Director of Music at the King's School, Canterbury (1995-2002) before being appointed Principal at Tring Park School for the Performing Arts in Sept 2002. As a choral conductor, pianist and organist Stefan has performed and recorded extensively in the UK, Europe and North America. He’s been Chairman of the Music and Dance Scheme schools, a Director and member of the National Executive Committee of the Boarding Schools Association and Chairman of the Independent Schools Association (London North). In his spare time he likes to travel, cookery and the theatre.
Professor Dr. Ger Graus, Global Director of Education, KidZania
Professor Dr Ger Graus OBE is a renowned figure in the field of education. He was the first Global Director of Education at KidZania, and, prior to that, the founding CEO of the Children’s University. In 2019, Ger was invited to become a Visiting Professor at the National Research University in Moscow, Russia. He is a Board Director at Hello Genius. Ger moved to the UK in 1983 where he became an Education Advisor, a Senior Inspector, and Director of Education. He is a member of the Bett Global Education Council, Junior Achievement’s Worldwide Global Council, chairs the Beaconhouse School System’s Advisory Board, Pakistan, advises the Fondazione Reggio Children, Italy, and has been invited to help shape the future of education in Dubai as a member of the Dubai Future Councils. He also advises a number of start-ups, such as Twin Science, Verofax and GoBubble. In the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List Ger was made an OBE for services to children.
TOVE OKUNNIWA, MBE, ex CEO London Sport
Tove has spent many years involved in all aspects of sport; as CEO of London Sport, a non-profit supported by Sport England and the Mayor of London, dedicated to making London the most active city in the world; leading two sport and entertainment marketing agencies - MEC Access and Havas Sports & Entertainment - advising clients such as Barclays, Coca-Cola, Visa, Danone, Lloyds Bank, Marriott, Specsavers and as Head of Marketing at BBC Sport. She is a Board Member of Sport England as well a trustee of Catch 22, a social business dedicated to helping young people, and was previously Vice-Chair of England Boxing. In June 2021 Tove was awarded a CBE for Services To Sport. Tove has just taken up a new role as Director of Group Partnerships for the BBC.