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Head's winning smile

An Aberdeen headteacher who "always starts the day with a smile" has won a national award for motivational leadership.

Helen Maitland, of Hanover Street primary, came first in the Leadership in Teaching category of the TESS-sponsored Education Resources Awards 2004, after staff secretly submitted an entry portfolio of glowing testimonials by colleagues, pupils and parents.

Under Mrs Maitland's influence, the school has developed a range of activities that includes a programme of reading initiatives, with an ambitious plan to introduce Scotland's first community Reading Bus.

Mrs Maitland received her award and a commemorative glass trophy at a ceremony in Birmingham. "It came as a complete surprise to me," says the headteacher, who has been in post since 1992. "It was lovely to hear what people had written about me, but I am only a cog in the wheel - I have a very strong team to support me.

"One of the best things about the award was the fact that it was judged on the basis of positive ethos and relationships, rather than on league tables or test results."

Her entry, submitted by depute heads Shiona Annal and Jenny Watson, attributed the "exceptional ethos" at Hanover Street to Mrs Maitland's leadership. "All staff, parents, pupils, friends of the school and the wider community are always made to feel very welcome . . . Not only are their contributions valued in the school, but these individuals are encouraged to become part of the school family."

Hanover Street's enthusiastic support of the Scottish Executive's home reading initiative, Read Together, prompted a recent visit by Peter Peacock, the Education Minister, who named three P7 pupils as national reading champions. With a pound;2,500 award from the first round of the initiative's small grants scheme, the school has recruited nearly 100 local reading champions from all walks of life to talk to children and parents about their love of reading.

The Reading Bus - now a city-wide fundraising initiative - was the idea of Jenny Watson, who was inspired while on a work placement with First Bus in Aberdeen. The company's Learning Bus, in partnership with Aberdeen College, has been successful in encouraging employees to learn new IT skills online.

"The atmosphere on the Learning Bus was very relaxed and non-threatening," she says. "I thought a similar bus dedicated to family reading would be a fantastic way of engaging those parents of fragile learners who didn't feel comfortable coming into school."

The Reading Bus Trust now aims to raise pound;100,000 through local business and community sponsorship, and should hit the road for a three-year "test drive" early next year. It will visit playgroups, pre-schools, schools, nurseries and community groups.

The project will be a multi-agency partnership between schools, local libraries, adult basic literacy, family learning and community learning, with support from community arts tutors, school liaison police officers, storytellers and authors.

"Helen Maitland, Jenny Watson and the rest of the team at Hanover Street are to be congratulated for the work they have done so far," John Stodter, Aberdeen City Council's corporate director of learning and leisure, said.

"We are particularly delighted that Helen was recognised for her leadership skills at the Education Resources Awards. This is a great accolade - not just for Helen and the school, but for Aberdeen as a whole. The prize is richly deserved."

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