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The governing body of the Academy of English is not only reliant on its teaching and non-teaching staff in its operations; but it also relies on the support, help and assistance from a select group of individuals, who we call Patrons of the Academy of English.

The Patrons possess a broad range of expertise and experience in their respective fields and are proven leaders in their fields. They offer the governing body of the Academy of English advice and assistance, especially in the fulfilment of the institution’s long-term strategic vision.


Mrs. Bernardette Holmes,  MBE

Bernardette Holmes MBE is Director of Speak to the Future, the national campaign for languages in England. Bernardette’s recent policy research, Born Global, funded by the British Academy, focuses on languages in employment and highlights the unique value that language capability and intercultural awareness bring to employability, to personal development and to social cohesion. Over the last three years, Bernardette has been advising government on curriculum reform for primary and secondary schools in languages and was the appointed content drafter for the new GCSE and AS and A Level examinations in French, German and Spanish. She is currently developing the A Level content for less widely taught languages.  Bernardette is policy adviser to the CRICLE network for the University of Cambridge.  As a teacher, trainer and national adviser, Bernardette brings a  wider range of educational and linguistic expertise to the table. She was definitive in securing the transfer of the former Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (CILT) library from Cambridge to the Academy of English, and is currently leading efforts to create an Advisory Board for the Library. Bernardette was distinguished in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2015 as a teacher and Modern Languages Advocate for her “services to education”.

Dr. Peter Sehrbrock

Dr. Peter Sehrbrock is a leading exponent in the teaching of and research into Special Educational Needs, particularly in the context of the Third World. After studying education at the Frankfurt am Main Johann Wolfgang von Goethe University, he spent five years teaching as a Dorfschulmeister in a village primary school in the Black Forest. Completion of a postgraduate qualification in Special Education Needs at the University of Tübingen/Reutlingen with a study period at the Wiener Sprachheilschule in the Austrian capital paved the way for a career in Special Education Needs, working in special schools in southern Germany. He moved to Oldenburg in 1980 to take up a position on the Akademischer Rat and later the Akademischer Oberrat, leading to cumulative doctoral thesis entitled Offener Unterricht als befreiende Pädagogik in der Sonderschule – Pragmatische Reflexionen. Up to 2007, Dr. Sehrbrock worked in the Institut für Sonder- und Rehabilitionspädagogik at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg as a Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter, leading the project: Behinderung und Dritte Welt (Disabilities and the Third World), in which he sent a number of students to countries as far afield as Gambia, Jordan, Ecuador, Egypt and Nigeria. His interest in the notion of open education led him to visit conferences at the University of Southampton as well as Town Hill Middle School. As a leading supporter and Patron of the Academy of English, Dr. Sehrbrock advises the Academy on intercultural dialogue and exchanges. He has, in addition, strengthened partnerships and being definitive in organizing internships between students from the University of Oldenburg and the Academy of English’s partner school, The High Arcal School.

Stefan Penchev

Stefan Penchev is a Bulgarian-born educationalist, teaching inspector and certified language auditor, specializing in English as a Foreign Language. He spearheaded his own English language school in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, introducing innovative solutions to teaching and learning, particularly in the field of computer-based learning. In 2000, Stefan participated in an ELTeCS project Quality Control across the Borders of Eastern Europe under the supervision of the British Council in Sofia. He was also a trained inspector of Language Schools for the European Association for Quality of Language Services (EAQUALS) and a founding member of OPTIMA, the Bulgarian Association for Quality Language Services. Following his teaching and auditing work in Europe, he moved to Asia and worked in a number of different educational settings across China. He is now based in the southern province of Guangdong in China where he specializes in the delivery of English as a Foreign Language to young children in his capacity as Academic Director at ESA Kindergarten. Always keen to develop his skills to a higher level, Stefan has successfully completed courses on teaching and learning at the Commonwealth Educational Trust. In 2011, Stefan donated an ESL library to the Academy of English, inaugurated as the Stefan Penchev ESL Library, which forms one of the core print-based resources of the Academy. His council, advice and support have navigated the Academy to the strong position in which it finds itself today.

Mr. Alan Dickson

Alan is former Chief Executive of Capability Scotland, President of the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CPISRA). He was elected and served on the Governing Board of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) from 2005 to 2013 as well as chairing the Legal and Ethics Committee of the IPC. He was also a candidate for president of the International Paralympic Committee. Today, he serves on the Board of The Yard and acts as patron to the Academy of English in that he advises the institution on marketing, fundraising and international links.

Mr. Ray Brown

Born in 1959 in London and living in Germany for over thirty years, Ray possesses not just a deep Anglo-German understanding, speaking both English and German, but has significant professional achievements to his name: as a flight instructor, aviation language examiner for the Luftfahrtbundesamt and also expert in physiology, including in the areas of physiotherapy and osteopathy. As patron of the Academy of English, he advises on educational language and testing matters, including in the areas for English for Specific Purposes (ESP), e.g. Aviation English and Medical English.

Mr. Barrie Redfern

As a retired broadcaster, Barrie Redfern has had an international career in TV and radio. He worked for a number of years as a BBC radio producer and presenter and then as a regional TV newsreader. He later moved to ITV – the British commercial television network – where he directed factual programmes. His later career saw him help launch a number of new TV channels across Europe, heading up their creative teams. Since retiring to north Germany in 2010 he has been active in local radio and TV, creating a whole range of programmes. Barrie assists the Academy of English in questions of media relations and promotion. 

Mrs. Gerlinde Pehlken

Having lived and worked in China for a number of years, Gerlinde and Wolfgang Pehlken are Oldenburg’s leading advocate for German-Chinese relations and are very active in promoting dialogue between the two countries. Gerlinde Pehlken herself is prolific author and has recently published the English-language book Memories of the Ming based on her historical readings and research into this Chinese dynasty. Gerlinde and Wolfgang are supporters of the Academy and have donated a number of English-language volumes to our Chinese English collection. They advise the Academy on matters of voluntary work and intercultural dialogue.

Mr. Duncan Howson

After studying Modern Foreign Languages at The Queen’s College, Oxford, Duncan worked in Theatre in Education for the Big Wheel Theatre Company. In these three years, he performed in schools in the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and England. This experience was the foundation for a career in education and an approach to teaching which aspires to be inclusive, empathetic, non-academic, entertaining and inspiring. Subsequently, he trained as an actor and clown, and taught Drama at Portsmouth City Boys’ School. He moved to Germany in 1991 and, after 18 years as a freelance English Language Coach, joined the Department of Civil Engineering at the Jade University of Applied Sciences, Oldenburg as Head of English. Duncan loves living in Germany between two cultures and languages and is delighted to be a patron of the Academy of English where he advises on and helps to plan extra-curricular language-based cultural events.