Redbridge College principal awarded OBE in New Year Honours after turning ‘failing’ college around

The principal of Redbridge College has been awarded an OBE for services to further education in the New Year Honours.

Theresa Drowley has been at the college, in Barley Lane, Little Heath, for eight years after leading colleges in other parts of the country.

She was told about the honour in December but had to keep it a secret from everyone – even friends and family.

Ms Drowley, 64, said: “I’m so proud and honoured. It was really a surprise.

“When I got a letter from the cabinet office, I had no idea what it could be.


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“I’ve still not come down from the rooftops.

“The letter asks you if you will accept the honour and I had it back in the post within the hour.

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“It’s difficult because you want to shout about it and tell everyone.”

When Ms Drowley took the post at Redbridge College in 2004, she described it as “failing”, but last year it was heralded the most successful college in London.

It had a success rate, which measures learner achievement of 87.8 per cent in 2010/2011, putting it in the top 10 performing further education colleges in England.

The college has more than 3,500 students and offers vocational courses including BTECs and NVQs.

It also has its own hair and beauty salon, restaurant, record label and media company.

Ms Drowley, of The Lindens, Loughton, said: “I’m so proud of my staff for everything they’ve done.”

After an early career as a computer programmer, she was head of an infant and junior school and also worked as a deputy and vice principal before arriving at the college.

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