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Formerly the Founder and Director General of a federation of colleges, academies and schools with IIP Gold Champion status – during an eight year leadership, Birkett "transformed education and lives across Luton and beyond, driven by his belief that every person should have access to a great education regardless of where they live or how wealthy they are." In July 2014 the Sutton Trust report named Barnfield as the second most highly performing academy chain in the country (in academic year 2013), outperforming state school competitors, with disadvantaged students achieving consistently above average attainment and making above average improvement. (Refer to Page 50)
In 2007 Birkett led the organisation in sponsoring two underperforming secondary schools and in August 2013 these academies celebrated their highest ever GCSE results. rising from bottom position to now be placed first and third in the town league tables. South Academy was named the third most improved school in the country in the Telegraph Top 100 Most Improved Schools  Barnfield South Academy, West Academy and Skills Academy all received SSAT (The Schools Network) Educational Outcomes Awards in 2013 by being in the top 20 per cent of schools nationally for student progress from KS2 results (at primary school) and their GCSE results at age 16. Barnfield South Academy won an additional award for being in the top 5 schools in the country for attainment.
In October 2013, the federation was audited by the Department for Education and the Skills Funding Agency as reported in the media and one of its specialist 14-18 skills academies was put under a pre-warning notice to improve.
In November 2013 Birkett collected the national Education Investor award for the Best Performing School Operator - Academy Chain. In April 2014 validated data from the SFA confirmed that the College had secured its highest ever results in 2013 with a 93.2% overall success rate - number one GFE (General Further Education) college in the country for 16-18 year olds; and number two GFE college in the country for all ages and durations and 19+ long.
Birkett is the only Further Education College Chief Executive to be awarded National Leader in Education (NLE) status.
- The London Gazette: . 16 June 2012.
- Birthday Honours List 2012
- GEMS Education Website
- Connie primmer. "Sir Peter says government report has identified ‘human errors’". Luton Today.
- "Barnfield Federation probe: Sweeping changes needed, says government". BBC news. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
- Paul Scoins (18 February 2014). "Barnfield College 'wrongly claimed' £1m of funding". BBC news. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
- Sir Peter Birkett listed in “Britain’s most famous reference book”