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Anthony Seldon

Sir Anthony Seldon
Born (1953-08-02) 2 August 1953 [1]
Nationality British
Occupation Head master, contemporary historian, commentator and political author
Known for Master of Wellington College

Sir Anthony Francis Seldon, FRSA FRHistS FKC (born 2 August 1953),[1] is a British schoolmaster and a contemporary historian, commentator and political author, known in part for his biographies of John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He was the 13th Master (headmaster) of Wellington College, one of Britain's co-educational independent boarding schools.[2] In 2009, he set up The Wellington Academy, the first state school to carry the name of its founding independent school.[3] Before that, he was head of Brighton College. Seldon is the author or editor of over 35 books on contemporary history, politics and education, was the co-founder and first director of the Centre for Contemporary British History, is the co-founder of Action for Happiness,[4] is a governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company[5] and is on the board a number of charities and educational bodies. He is also both honorary historical adviser to 10 Downing Street and a member of the First World War Centenary Culture Committee. Seldon was knighted in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to education and modern political history.[6][7] In April 2015, he replaced Terence Kealey as Vice-Chancellor of University of Buckingham, the first private university in Britain.[8]


  • Education 1
  • Career 2
  • History, politics and other writing 3
  • Work in education 4
  • Achievements and awards 5
  • Other work 6
  • Television 7
  • Family 8
  • References and notes 9


Tonbridge School

Seldon was educated at Tonbridge School and Worcester College, Oxford, where he received a BA degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. He then obtained a PhD degree in Economics at the London School of Economics in 1981.[9] He also has an MBA degree from the Polytechnic of Central London.[1] He qualified as a schoolteacher at King's College London, where he was awarded the top teaching prize in the year across all subjects.


Seldon's first teaching appointment was at Whitgift School in Croydon in 1983, where he was Head of Politics and taught in the Sixth Form. In 1989 he returned to his old school, Tonbridge, and became Head of History and General Studies. In 1993 he was appointed Deputy Headmaster and, ultimately, Acting Headmaster of St Dunstan's in South London. He then became Headmaster of Brighton College from September 1997 until he joined Wellington College in January 2006 as its 13th Master. He became Executive Principal at The Wellington Academy (a separate school) in 2013.

At both Brighton College and Wellington, he drove the school up the league tables for examination results, and both are now among the best-performing academic schools in the country. Wellington College was named 'Best Public School – Tatler 2013' and 'Most Forward-Thinking School – The Week, 2013'. At Wellington College, Seldon introduced the International Baccalaureate, and the school is now one of the top performing IB schools in the world. He took a three-month sabbatical from January to March 2014 (leaving Wellington to be run in the interim by his deputies, Robin Dyer and Jane Lunnon, who claimed it would be "business as usual").[10] Dr Seldon announced on 23 April 2014 that he will be leaving Wellington College in the summer of 2015, after nearly ten years as the 13th Master.

History, politics and other writing

Anthony Seldon's books include Churchill's Indian Summer (1981),[11] which won a Best First Work Prize; Major, A Political Life (1997);[12] The Powers Behind the Prime Minister (1999) co-written with Professor Dennis Kavanagh;[13] 10 Downing Street: The Illustrated History (2000);[14] The Foreign Office: The Illustrated History Of The Place And Its People (2001);[15] Blair (2004);[16] Blair Unbound (2007),[17] Trust (2009);[18] Brown at 10 (2010) with Guy Lodge;[19] Public Schools and The Great War (2013) with David Walsh;[20] The Architecture of Diplomacy: The British Ambassador's Residence in Washington (2014) with Daniel Collings;[21] and Cameron at 10 (2015) with Peter Snowdon. He has edited many books, including the series The Thatcher Effect (1989);[22] The Major Effect (1994);[23] The Blair Effect (2001);[24] The Blair Effect 2001–2005 (2005);[25] Blair's Britain (2007);[26] and The Cameron Effect (2015) with Dr Mike Finn. Other prominent edited books include Ruling Performance, with Professor Peter Hennessy and Conservative Century, with Professor Stuart Ball. He has written a number of booklets on education, including Private and Public Education: The Divide Must End (2000);[27] Partnership not Paternalism (2001); An End To Factory Schools (2010);[28] The Politics of Optimism (2012); and School United (2014). His 2011 Cass Lecture was published as 'Why Schools? Why Universities?'[29] He also founded two journals, Contemporary British History (as Contemporary Record) and Twentieth Century British History.

During his time at Brighton College, Seldon wrote Brave New City: Brighton & Hove Past, Present, Future, an analysis of the city of Brighton and Hove focused principally on its buildings. He described it as "a passionate advocacy of the need for progress [...] Brighton and Hove must now move into a [new] era and become an international city".[30]

He is writing a book on the Cameron premiership.[31]

Work in education

Seldon is a head teacher and appears on television and radio and in the press,[32] and has written regularly for national newspapers including The Times,[33] The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Guardian.[34] His views on education have been sought by the government and political parties. For fifteen years he has organised conferences that have helped set the educational agenda, attracting many heads from across the United Kingdom. He is a passionate exponent of co-education, the International Baccalaureate, independent education, the teaching of happiness and well-being, and the development of the all-round child. Among his innovations and campaigns have been the following:

  • Introducing well-being or happiness classes at Wellington College in 2006,[35] including regular 'stillness' sessions. Her Majesty's Government has now introduced well-being as a target for national policy
  • Pioneering work on holistic education in schools, based on the Wellington model of 'eight aptitudes' derived from Professor Howard Gardner's 'multiple intelligences'[36]
  • Campaigning to bridge the divide between state and independent sectors, and campaigning for independent schools to sponsor academies, as Wellington College did when it started the Wellington Academy
  • Introducing 'leadership education' for all pupils and championing 'character education'[37]
  • Establishing parent classes and parent learning, which he introduced in the early 1990s at Tonbridge School in the celebrated Tonbridge Parents' Arts Society
  • Adopting the Harkness table' teaching approach used in the US[38] and the 'Middle Years' approach of the IB[39]
  • Setting up the first 'carbon copy' schools in China, with Wellington College Tianjin opening in 2011 and Wellington College Shanghai in 2014,[40] and a champion of schools and universities opening in the BRIC countries
  • Championing 'restorative justice', and reducing rules and punishments in schools
  • Opening the first 'bookless' or digital school library at Wellington in 2012, and championing digital learning
  • Actively promoting modern languages teaching[41] and Mandarin teaching in schools, including setting up the first Mandarin Centre in a UK school in 2012[42] as part of a sustained push on the teaching of Mandarin in UK schools and being the first serving head to take Mandarin GCSE (in 2014)
  • Actively campaigning against 'factory schools' and in favour of personalised schools with personalised education[28]
  • Campaigning for Shakespeare to be studied and acted in all schools in his capacity as a governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company
  • Convening conferences for schools, founding the Brighton Conference from 1998 and The Sunday Times Festival of Education from 2010[43]

Achievements and awards

Insignia of a Knight Bachelor

Seldon has honorary doctorates or fellowships from the University of Buckingham,[44] the University of Brighton[45] and Richmond University[46] and is a former Professor of Education at the College of Teachers.[47] He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS) and of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). He was appointed a Fellow of King's College London (FKC) in 2013. He was knighted in the Queen's 2014 Birthday Honours list.[7]

Other work

In 1986 Seldon co-founded, with Professor Peter Hennessy, the Institute of Contemporary British History, the body whose aim is to promote research into, and the study of, British history since 1945. Seldon is a co-founder of Action for Happiness[4] with Richard Layard (Baron Layard), and Geoff Mulgan. He is on the Advisory Board of the New College of the Humanities in London. Seldon is a patron of The Iris Project,[48] which runs Literacy through Latin schemes in schools in deprived urban areas and DrugFAM,[49] which supports families affected by a loved one's use of drugs or alcohol.


Among his television work, he has presented In Search of Tony Blair (Channel 4, 2004)[50] and Trust (BBC Two, 2010).[51] A YouTube clip of him talking about education can be found at


Seldon is married to Joanna, who also teaches and writes, and they have three children (Jessica, Susannah and Adam). According to Who's Who, his interests are sport, directing plays, family and old English sports cars. He is the youngest son of economist Arthur Seldon, who co-founded the Institute of Economic Affairs and directed academic affairs at the think tank for 30 years.

References and notes

  1. ^ a b c SELDON, Anthony Francis', Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press"'". (subscription required)
  2. ^ "School Results". The Times. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  3. ^ "Wellington College to run Academy". BBC website. 29 April 2008. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Dr Anthony Seldon: Truly happy people are made, not born". The Independent (London). 13 April 2011. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  5. ^ "RSC Annual Report 2011-12" (PDF).  
  6. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60895. p. b2. 14 June 2014.
  7. ^ a b "John Dunford and Anthony Seldon among educationalists recognised in honours list". London. 13 June 2014. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Seldon, Anthony (1981). The Churchill Government of 1951–55: a study of personalities and policy making (PhD thesis). London School of Economics. 
  10. ^ Hurst, Greg (13 December 2013). "Gove's reform champion to take sabbatical". The Times. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 
  11. ^ Seldon, Anthony (2010). Churchill's Indian Summer: The Conservative Government, 1951–1955. Faber and Faber. p. 694.  
  12. ^ Seldon, Anthony (1997). Major: A Political Life. W&N. p. 512.  
  13. ^ Dennis Kavanagh, Anthony Seldon (1999). The Powers Behind the Prime Minister: The Hidden Influence of Number Ten.  
  14. ^ Seldon, Anthony (1999). 10 Downing Street: The Illustrated History. HarperCollins Illustrated. p. 232.  
  15. ^ Seldon, Anthony (2000). The Foreign Office: The Illustrated History Of The Place And Its People. HarperCollins Illustrated. p. 240.  
  16. ^ Seldon, Anthony (2005). Blair. Free Press. p. 768.  
  17. ^ Seldon, Anthony (2008). Blair Unbound. Pocket Books. p. 608.  
  18. ^ Seldon, Anthony (2010). Trust: How We Lost it and How to Get it Back. Biteback. p. 256.  
  19. ^ Anthony Seldon, Guy Lodge (2011). Brown at 10. Biteback Publishing. p. 560.  
  20. ^ Anthony Seldon, David Walsh (2013). Public Schools and the Great War. Pen & Sword Military. p. 320.  
  21. ^
  22. ^ Dennis Kavanagh, Anthony Seldon (1989). The Thatcher Effect: A Decade of Change. Oxford Paperbacks. p. 372.  
  23. ^ Dennis Kavanagh, Anthony Seldon (1994). The Major Effect. Macmillan. p. 288.  
  24. ^ Seldon, Anthony (2001). The Blair Effect. Little, Brown.  
  25. ^ Seldon, Anthony (2005). The Blair Effect, 2001-5. Cambridge University Press. p. 496.  
  26. ^ Seldon, Anthony (2007). Blair's Britain, 1997–2007. Cambridge University Press. p. 708.  
  27. ^ Seldon, Anthony (2000). Public & Private Education: The Divide Must End. The Social Market Foundation.  
  28. ^ a b Seldon, Anthony (2010). An End To Factory Schools. Centre for Policy Studies. p. 88.  
  29. ^ Seldon, Anthony. "Why Schools, Why Universities?". Sir John Cass's Foundation. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  30. ^ Seldon, Anthony (2002). Brave New City: Brighton & Hove Past, Present, Future. Lewes: Pomegranate Press. Introduction.  
  31. ^ Seldon, Anthony (24 April 2014). "Anthony Seldon to retire as headmaster of Wellington". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  32. ^ "Anthony Seldon". Journalisted. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  33. ^ "Anthony Seldon". The Times. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  34. ^ "Anthony Seldon". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  35. ^ Payne, Stewart (18 April 2006). "School to give pupils lessons in happiness". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  36. ^ "All that is me". Education News. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  37. ^ Seldon, Anthony (15 May 2012). "We need to fix Britain's character flaws". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  38. ^ Paton, Graeme (6 October 2008). "Oval Harkness table plan to stop pupils hiding in class". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  39. ^ "Wellington College to poll parents on plan to drop GCSEs in favour of Baccalaureate". Daily Telegraph (London). 16 December 2008. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  40. ^ "Wellington College tightens China link". The Times. 1 March 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  41. ^ Seldon, Anthony. "Keynote speech: The Schools Network Annual Languages Conference, University of Warwick. 6 October 2011" (PDF). Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  42. ^ "Mandarin language centre opens at Wellington College".  
  43. ^ "Festival of Education". Website. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  44. ^ "University of Buckingham". Website. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  45. ^ "University of Brighton Honorary Doctorates". Website. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  46. ^ "University of Richmond Honorary Degree Recipients". Website. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  47. ^ "College of Teachers". Website. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  48. ^ "The Iris Project". Website. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  49. ^ "DrugFAM". Website. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  50. ^ "In search of Tony Blair".  
  51. ^ "Trust Politics". Website. BBC. Retrieved 6 September 2013. 
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