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Queen's Birthday Honours: Sawbridgeworth father of two Ben Levinson awarded OBE for turning around inner-city school Kensington Primary in Manor Park, east London

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The great strides a teacher from Sawbridgeworth has been making as head of an inner-city primary school earned him an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Married father-of-two Ben Levinson, 44, has been at the helm of Kensington Primary in Manor Park, east London, for the past seven years and in that time he has spearheaded a huge turnaround of the 650-pupil school.

From a school that in 2014 "requires improvement" to being assessed two years later as "outstanding", in 2020 Kensington was named primary school of the year for its "trailblazing curriculum".

Ben Levinson with pupils from Kensington Primary, east London (48161082)
Ben Levinson with pupils from Kensington Primary, east London (48161082)

Ben told the Indie he believed his honour was in tribute to the turnaround of the school.

"First and foremost we've looked at what 21st-century education should be," he said. "The education we offered was not dissimilar to that in Victorian times. We've really reconstructed the education we give the children."

Kensington Primary has a "very mixed community", with 99% of the children from the black and ethnic minority community and 95% having English as a second language.

He said Newham being one of the most deprived boroughs in the country presented challenges.

"We run a food bank out of the school, handing out lots of food parcels to families," he said, but it also offered opportunities.

The success of his tenure at the school revolves around producing young people who are able to make their way in the world, and the increased number of students who go on to top universities from the borough is testament to that.

"We're really focused on producing that rounded education," he said, adding he hoped to lay a base so children are able to survive in a different environment when moving on in education.

Ben and his family have been in Sawbridgeworth for eight-and-a-half years having moved from a flat in Tottenham, north London.

He said that when they decided to move they got on a train at Tottenham Hale and got off at every station to see where they could live.

"By a long way Sawbridgeworth was our favourite," he said. His daughters Eva, 9, and Noa, 7, go to local schools – Noa to Fawbert & Barnard Infants and Eva to Reedings Junior – and he has family in High Wych and Old Harlow.

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