Richard Gerver

Richard Gerver receiving his honorary degree, HonDEd, 2016
Credit: Ede & Ravenscroft


Richard Gerver has been described as one of the most inspirational leaders of his generation. He argues that great leadership is about serving the needs of the people that work for you and rely upon you. The three core principles that underpin Richard's philosophy are communication, empowerment and impact.

Richard was born in London in 1969 but moved to Derby in 1989 to study at what was then the Derbyshire College of Higher Education, now the University of Derby. During his first year, he met a fellow Derby student in the last year of her teaching degree. Not only was she destined to change his personal life, they married in 1993, but also his professional life; she introduced him to the idea of teaching. After Richard gained his degree in 1992, he stayed on to complete his PGCE the following year.

He went on to become the headteacher of Grange Primary School, a school recognised nationally for its innovate approach to teaching and learning. When Richard arrived at Grange Primary School pupils were disaffected, teachers were gloomy and morale was on the floor. Through his vision and passion he enabled the school’s steady transformation using a brand new curriculum which pupils were in control of and was based around a model town. Pupils ran the town’s democracy, economy and community and the school's results doubled and the children's progress was high.

What they came up with was Grangeton - a virtual town within the school. They ran it five days a week for every week of the term. It had businesses and services to meet the needs of the community - the kids. The school council was the town council, with the mayor elected from Year 6. Each year the mayor was also a member of the school’s real governing body, helping to make decisions about the way the school was run. The enterprises included things like a newspaper, a museum, a craft shop and two healthy eating shops. There was a cafe two mornings a week with a twist: it was Parisienne and pupils had to order in French. There was a media centre with a purpose-built TV and radio station. The school decided that 14 was too late to wait for work experience, but with the pupils being primary aged the work experience came to them: The TV team was trained by the BBC, MPs came in to advise on local democracy, ASDA advised on the cafe and Egg on customer relations.

Richard now, is one of the most celebrated speakers in the world. His insights into change, leadership and education are unique thanks to his own extraordinary journey, which has seen him go from struggling actor, copywriter and estate agent, to becoming an award winning teacher and school principal, whose ground breaking work in education was celebrated by the British National Teaching awards and UNESCO amongst others. Since leaving his twenty year career in education, Richard has worked to explore the links between great leadership, human potential, change and innovation.

In 2011 he was awarded the title of Business Speaker of the Year and has written two critically acclaimed best-selling books: Creating Tomorrow’s Schools Today (Bloomsbury) and Change; Learn to Love it, Learn to Lead it (Portfolio Penguin). The latter topped the business book charts for over two months. Both books have been translated into a number of languages, reflecting Richard's international reach. His third book Simplicity; An Uncomplicated Guide to Being Successful & Achieving Your Full Potential (Wiley) will be published later this year.

Richard's speeches are always passionate, provocative and humorous; thanks to his natural and honest style, he is able to draw upon his own experiences to humanise often challenging and complex issues. He is passionate about people, their potential and the future. It is Richard's ability to bring an authenticity and uniqueness to his work that has helped to win him the global acclaim which has led to his invitations to speak on the most recognised stages, including TED and the RSA.

He spoke at our Newly Qualified Teachers event this year - inspiring them to be bold and to have courage to be agents for change in the teaching profession. He gives of his time freely and generously and has maintained his links with the University and we are delighted that he spends so much time with us. Indeed he takes part in many of our Derby Business School events, is part of our Network of Entrepreneurs and his contribution straddles several of our disciplines, making the link between education and commercial expertise.

Richard recognises and reminds us that in an ever changing world we need to learn how to adapt and thrive - not to fear change but to see it as an opportunity for creative reinvention.

Chancellor, in recognition of his achievements in an educational discipline and his work with the University in recent years, we are delighted to award Richard Gerver the honorary degree of Doctor of Education.

[January 2016]