Feats of collaboration

From dramatic turnarounds to innovative ideas and soaring results, the tales of this year's TES Schools Awards nominees all have one thing in common: outstanding teachers

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Away from the politics and policy upheaval that have dominated discussions about education this year, teachers have been quietly achieving feats that are eye-opening in breadth and dazzling in scale. This made compiling a shortlist for each of the 16 categories of this year's TES Schools Awards an almost impossible task.

It was made all the harder by the variety of the entries, with tales of turnarounds, broadening educational horizons, continued excellence and innovative one-of-a-kind schemes all competing for the same honours. Be it a primary school in Cornwall where after-school clubs form the backbone of the community, or a Scottish high school that is putting student health at the forefront of its agenda, the best of the UK is represented here.

Education secretary Michael Gove says that the awards, now in their fifth year, are just rewards for the hard work teachers are putting in. "We now have more brilliant teachers than ever before," he says. "The TES Schools Awards do a great job of ensuring they get the recognition they deserve."

This year, the primary and secondary school of the year categories in particular were flooded with entries and the standard was incredibly high.

Schools in the running for primary school of the year include Haseltine Primary School in London, which this year was rated outstanding by Ofsted, despite being judged the 10th worst school in the country as recently as 2009 in terms of Sats results. Crawford Primary School in London, also in the running for the award, performed a similar feat, transforming itself in just 18 months from a school threatened with closure to one judged outstanding by inspectors.

But the category shortlist contains more than just turnaround stories. Victoria Park Primary Academy in the West Midlands boasts an Artsmark Gold award and has partnered Microsoft on a recent ICT project, while Sir Robert Geffery's School in Cornwall has set up an innovative mentor scheme praised by Plymouth University.

Then there is George Eliot Primary School in London, which is the successful result of a merger between an infant and a junior school. The sixth finalist in the primary school of the year category is SS Simon and Jude Church of England Primary School in Lancashire, which is working to support several struggling schools.

In the secondary school of the year shortlist, continued improvement is the abiding theme. Holte Visual and Performing Arts College in Birmingham is celebrating its 12th successive year of increases in exam attainment. At Westminster Academy in London, the percentage of students achieving five A*-C grades at GCSE has consistently improved since 2007.

Meanwhile, at Woolwich Polytechnic School in London, attainment is being raised further with a peer mentoring scheme, and teachers at Trinity High School and Sixth Form Centre in Worcestershire are seeing improved results with individual intervention plans for students.

The remaining finalists in this category are taking a revolutionary approach to boosting achievement. Staff at Bohunt School in Hampshire are teaching a third of the key stage 3 timetable in a foreign language, while the admissions policy at Highcrest Academy in Buckinghamshire has been revolutionised to cater for all abilities.

Choosing between all the shortlisted entries is a panel of distinguished judges from all walks of educational life. They include Sir Tim Brighouse, former schools commissioner for London; Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary for policy at the Association of School and College Leaders; and Teach First director Sam Freedman.

Arguably, some of the toughest calls these judges will have to make will be in the categories for individuals, which have proved as popular as the team and subject awards this year. In the headteacher of the year category, all the finalists showed an aspiration to go beyond their school's walls, reaching out to the community and to other schools as well. Similarly, the finalists in the inspirational teacher of the year category all go beyond their job specifications in their commitment to improving the lives of children.

Indeed, whether it is an award for a subject area, team or individual, going beyond the call of duty is one of the main stories of this year's shortlist.

"The standard of this year's entries is exceptional," TES editor Gerard Kelly says. "It was a real struggle to narrow down the entries to a shortlist for each category as teachers are pushing themselves beyond their job description more than ever. I'd like to thank all the schools that entered and congratulate them on their fantastic achievements."

The winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge in London on Friday 5 July.

The shortlist

Primary school of the year

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