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Granite city picks up an Oscar for closing the gap

ABERDEEN'S education department has beaten off competition from North Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire to carry off the Caithness Glass trophy for the authority that has done most to "close the gap" between disadvantaged pupils and others.

The council was one of 11 winners among schools and individual teachers in the Scottish education awards, the annual teaching "Oscars" sponsored by the Scottish Executive, the Daily Record, BT Scotland and the CBI.

John Stodter, Aberdeen's director for learning and leisure, said the award was a recognition of the city's efforts to raise standards generally as well as to boost the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

The TES Scotland reported a month ago that findings from the city's early intervention programme appeared to show, for the first time, that the authority had reversed the trend where the initiative also benefited those who were doing well at school, reinforcing the attainment gap.

Aberdeen's survey showed that a six-point difference in maths in P1 was halved while a gap of 26 points in reading in the same year had been reduced over the past three years to 17. Mr Stodter attributed the improvement to a combination of "robust" assessment from the beginning of P1 and refined teaching approaches.

The ceremony, held at Hampden Park in Glasgow, was told by Cathy Jamieson, Education Minister: "Successful schools are not just those which achieve good exam results. It is important that we recognise and reward the wide range of achievements in our schools and these awards do just that."

Glasgow emerged with a string of winners, completing a remarkable double this year for King's Park Secondary in the city. Martin Thomson's inspirational teacher prize for unrivalled "vitality and energy" in promoting music complements the "ICT in practice" award won by Aileen Monaghan, the school's head of music, at the annual show run by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta).

The city featured, too, in the award for educational supporter, nominated by pupils, which went to a member of the non-teaching staff at Hampden special school for primary pupils.

Elizabeth Arbuckle was said to put in efforts which "go beyond the mundane" on behalf of the pupils who have complex learning difficulties. All three teachers short-leeted in this category were from Glasgow schools.

Another award went to All Saints Secondary for promoting integration, particularly for pupils with special needs and from asylum-seeking families. The school has 85 children in this category who come from 25 different countries and speak 16 languages.

The judging panel, chaired by Iain McMillan, director of CBI Scotland, was particularly impressed by the fact that 97 per cent of the All Saints pupils said in a questionnaire for the their HMI report last year that they enjoyed being at the school.

But the runaway winner for entries on the short-leet went to North Lanarkshire, whose local awards were the inspiration for Jack McConnell, the First Minister, to extend them to the national stage when he was education minister. The council had nine nominations, including two winners (see panel).


* School in the community

Portree primary's enterprise project created a social history about local people who had lived through the experience of the First and Second World Wars. Children sought help from the community with funding, marketing and advertising for the production of a book and a CD-Rom of wartime memories.

* New ideas in learning

St Maurice's High in Cumbernauld, which adopted a raft of measures to raise pupil self-esteem by developing new skills, encouraged an interest in the environment, helped pupils move up from P7 and stimulated pupils'

commitment to work outwith the school day

* Education for ambition

Cathkin High in Cambuslang encourages pupils to have high aspirations, using close links with working life and with Motherwell College. Support from a mentor is a feature of the school's work-experience programme in which 15 pupils take part one day a week.

* Raising basic standards

Abronhill High in Cumbernauld has focused on bringing in improvements in the P7-S1 experience, largely by integrating its work with primary schools.

* Making the links

Lunnasting primary in Shetland, which has been an eco- school for the last eight years, the first in Scotland. It has developed strong international links, culminating in the visit of one of its pupils, Stephanie Wiseman, to the Earth Summit in South Africa last year.

* Anti-bullying award

Trinity High, Renfrewshire, which encourages all pupils to be involved in stamping out bullying and instructs them how to go about preventing and reporting it.

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