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Ruth Silver was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland. She served as Principal of Lewisham College for 17 years until 2009, was chair of the Working Men's College governing board from 2002 to 2005, and, in 2010, became the chair of The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS), a public body for Further Education and skills development.
Silver has been an adviser to the Select Committee in the House of Commons and a member of the Skills Commission. She has sat on the Edge Foundation (ADHD), which aims to raise the status of vocational learning; the Horse's Mouth, an online peer-mentoring enterprise; and the Trinity Laban Conservatoire.
Silver was appointed Chief Assessor for the Centre of Excellence in Leadership's Principals Qualifying Programme.[when?] Her employment has included child guidance, teaching and inspection, and in-service at the Department for Education and Skills, developing national education policy on personal development in young people. She is a member of the London Skills and Employment Board.
In 2006 Silver was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition for her services to Further Education, having previously been appointed CBE in the 1998 New Year Honours..
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