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Awards and what they're worth

It has become something of a joke that Vic Ecclestone won last year's Teacher of the Year award for showing streetwise boys that the footwork in ballet is not unlike that seen in a boxing ring. Working on one of the toughest estates in Bristol, he proved that "disinterested" pupils will turn up in their hundreds for after-school activities.

Mr Ecclestone, a special needs teacher at Hartcliffe school, said: "I have only done what thousands of other teachers do every day of their working lives."

However, he believes that the public back-patting which accompanied the awards - the biggest of which is sponsored by Disney - could not have come at a better time. "When the management of teachers appeared to be by public humiliation, it was good that an organisation was acknowledging that teachers are important. " He is now spending a year studying projects with socially deprived teenagers in New York and Europe and working on plans for a performing arts centre in Bristol Carolyn Plunkett, who won the 1992 TES Maths Teacher of the Year award, went from teaching at Biggin Hill infants school in Bromley to being in demand for training days and conferences. She now teaches maths at the independent Bishop Challoner School.

"I remember being completely staggered at being chosen," she said. "I was and still am just a normal classroom teacher. It was strange being featured in a book about the top women of 1993 and being asked to attend a Women of the Year event. The biggest impact it had on me personally and professionally was to increase my interest and love of maths. I hope that rubs off on the pupils. "

Pat Partington, a past president of the National Association of Head Teachers and chair of the panel that chooses the Disney Teacher of the Year , said there was still some cynicism in schools about the award.

She said: "A poster is sent out to every school for the pupils' notice board but we are never sure if they are put up. What we are looking for is good classroom practitioners who give a little bit extra."

Dorothy Lepkowska

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