A cut above

The TES Schools Awards celebrate the very best of UK education. Michael Shaw takes a look at the outstanding teams and individuals nominated this year

Michael Shaw

If you want to be dazzled by the sheer range of work being done by teachers in schools across the UK, or simply cheered up about the state of education today, just look through the shortlist for this year's TES Schools Awards.

The nominees range from a giant, high-tech secondary in Cornwall, which has gained international recognition for its use of computers, to a tiny primary on the Isle of Skye, which is spreading the traditional Scottish sport of shinty to schools in Ireland.

Teachers, parents and pupils submitted a record number of entries for the awards, now in their fourth year, making choosing the shortlist for each of the 15 categories fiendishly difficult.

Education secretary Michael Gove has congratulated all the nominated schools. "Great schools and brilliant teachers achieve amazing things for their students," he says. "I am delighted that their efforts are recognised by the TES Schools Awards."

Schools in the running for the Primary School of the Year Award include Iqra Community Primary in inner-city Bradford. It was burned down in an arson attack a year after it opened in 2001, but its staff were not deterred and it has twice gone on to be rated "outstanding" by inspectors.

Competing with it will be Stamfordham First School, a primary in Newcastle-upon-Tyne that has provided crucial support to families from a nearby army barracks, and particularly to children whose parents are on active service.

The schools that made the shortlist did more than hit data targets or impress inspectors. Our Lady of Pity Catholic Primary in Merseyside was nominated for the Primary School of the Year Award after taking the novel step of removing standard sanction and reward systems from its classrooms. Its teachers have not only succeeded with this approach but have also used it to help turn a nearby struggling school around.

Whether the award goes to those schools - or to St Anne's Primary in Londonderry, Grange Park Primary in Sunderland or Heathland School in London - will be decided by the main judging panel next month. The judges this year include former schools minister Lord Knight, former London schools commissioner Sir Tim Brighouse and former NUT general secretary Fred Jarvis.

Faith schools dominate the secondary school category, with half of the six nominations going to Catholic schools: St Ninian's High in Kirkintilloch, Glasgow; Our Lady and St Patrick's High in Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire; and St Ambrose Barlow RC High in Manchester.

Tauheedul Islam Girls' High School in Blackburn was also nominated. It has spent the past three years transforming other schools in the town and has been given approval to open its own all-boys school.

The two non-faith schools on the shortlist are Wade Deacon High in Widnes, Cheshire, and Baxter College in Kidderminster, Worcestershire. Baxter missed out on a win at last year's awards, but this year received four nominations, including for outstanding leadership team, outstanding businessfinancial team or initiative and teacher of the year.

The only other school to receive as many nominations was RSA Academy, a secondary that opened in Tipton, West Midlands, in 2008 and was designed around the principles of a curriculum developed by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

The focus of the TES Schools Awards remains on the achievement that schools make as a team. However, in response to popular demand, three new categories for individuals have been added this year: teacher of the year, ICT visionary in education and headteacher of the year.

While no London schools have been shortlisted for the Secondary School of the Year Award, the headteacher category features three nominations from the capital. Indeed, two of the heads - Cheryl Day and Jacqueline Bruton- Simmonds - have been credited for their tireless work transforming schools in the same borough, Hackney.

The ICT visionary category sees the inclusion of the first ever student to be nominated for a TES Schools Award: 16-year-old Lewis Phillips, a pupil at Inverkeithing High in Fife. The media network he established at the school, which encourages users to upload video reports, has proven popular with teachers as well as pupils.

"The quality of entries for the awards has grown more impressive every year, which is extraordinary when you consider the strength of our past winners," says TES editor Gerard Kelly. "This year's shortlist is a testament to the outstanding work done in schools throughout the UK, and there were many more remarkable teams and individuals who narrowly missed out on being nominated."

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony at the London Hilton, Park Lane, on Friday 6 July.


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Michael Shaw

I'm the director of TES Pro and former deputy editor of the TES magazine. I joined the publication as a news reporter back in 2002, and have worked in a variety of journalistic roles including editing its comment and news pages. In 2013 I set up the app version of the magazine, TES Reader, and the free TES Jobs app https://bit.ly/TESJobsapp Michael Shaw

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