'To Sir with Love' headmaster to be knighted
-one of two UK Guyanese on Queen's Honours List
By John Mair in London
January 1, 2004
Two members of the UK Guyanese Diaspora have been honoured by the Queen in the New Year Honour's list just published. Colleen Harris, the former Press Secretary to Prince Charles, is made a member of the Royal Victorian Order whilst little known headmaster Dexter Hutt becomes Sir Dexter.
In what has echoes of the Sidney Poitier film "To Sir with Love", Sir Dexter Hutt, as he will be addressed from today is to be knighted for 'turning round' an inner-city comprehensive school, Ninestiles in Acocks Green in Birmingham. Sir Dexter's school has 1500 children, nearly one third of them from non-white families and a quarter of whom receive free school dinners - a reliable index of poverty. Under Hutt the proportion going on to university has gone from 23% to 62% in the last five years.
He was born in Guyana 55 years ago and spent much of his teaching career in Birmingham. Sir Dexter has not been afraid to speak his mind. He pointed out that boys under-achieve compared to girls at secondary school because of their obsession with football and computer games. On receiving his knighthood, a rarity in the state education system, he praised the part played by his ninety six staff in transforming Acocks Green: "I am lucky to have the support of so many talented people at school and lucky to do a job where I can help improve the lives and perspectives of young people' he said.
Colleen - or Lorraine as the citation refers to her - is the better known of the two. She is a signed up member of the so called 'Guyanese Mafia' in Britain alongside others like Baroness Amos, the leader of the House of Lords and Trevor Phillips, the chair of the Commission for Racial Equality.
Just two months ago, Colleen left the employ of Prince Charles where she had fought off continual media storms shadowing her employer.
Since November she has been the Director of Communications for Trevor Phillips at the CRE having quit Royal employ to 'spend more time with her family'. Colleen Harris, MVO, was born in Guyana but brought up in South East London. Her Royal New Year honour makes her omission from the list of awardees for the 2003 Guyana High Commission (UK) awards even more perplexing.
These two latest Guyanese in the UK Diaspora join a long list that stretches from Sir Sonny Ramphal and Sir Clive Lloyd right through to Lord Waheed Alli and Baroness Amos.