Anyone who is pessimistic about what can be achieved with ICT should have been along for the ride. Particularly inspiring was the work from secondary schools. Walking up the drive to Royd's Hall High School, Huddersfield, we encountered a senior member of staff. "Who are you here to see?" she asked politely. We told her; she smiled warmly and said, "Ah, the legend that is Dunny."
Peter Dunn (no one calls him that) teaches science and we soon realised that we were in the presence of a gifted teacher who was smart and amusing enough to carry his students with him. Dunny is one of those teachers who could teach a great lesson blindfolded in a field with his hands tied behind his back. His lesson on movement was spell-binding, a Yorkshire version of a Royal Society lecture. The principal technology he used was a web cam with a gooseneck so flexible that he could bend it to project what was on his desk on to the whiteboard so that everyone could see what was happening.
It was Yorkshire's year. Gwyn Ap Hari at times is like a man possessed. He loves to throw out challenging statements: "It is teachers that will reclaim the role of evolving learning to take education into the future,"
is one on his website. Gwyn, head of ICT at Hatfield Visual Arts College in Doncaster, also runs a website called "Smart Assess" that is about assessment. Assessment may be a bore to many but Gwyn can make it sound like poetry. Gwyn's essay "Exploding the Black Box" is a combative look at formative assessment and an interesting read.
The teacher as researcher or writer is a theme that ran through the awards.
Research is not something you expect in the category New to Teaching. It is the category where you expect innovation and excitement and it was all there this year. Jane Cooke, who won, teaches at Ivybridge Community College in Devon and was appointed head of ICT after little more than a year and is as thought-provoking as anyone you are likely to meet at the beginning of their career. The teaching we saw was exceptional and her challenging views, based on her original research on VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments) have interested all who have heard them.
Just as creative was Peter Dobbin from Aquinas College in Belfast. Aquinas is one of those places you walk into and realise straight away that it is special. That kind of atmosphere is a tribute to the senior management team who are extremely supportive of their young and enthusiastic staff. The science department entered for an award last year and just missed it.
Peter, who won the secondary category, teaches modern foreign languages.
Not the easiest subject to enthuse students about but Peter does and in his spare time he publishes all the excellent resources that he produces with Birchfield.
The day in the South West was particularly special as we saw two art teachers. Walking into the rooms of gifted art teachers is one the pleasures of school visits. Ross Wallis at Sidcot School in North Somerset was just about to take down the art from his GCSE students. We wandered round open-mouthed at the sophistication and range of the work that has been done. Sarah Auld from Frome Community College is a very cool, skilful teacher who has thought through what she is doing. She can inspire her students to pass exams as well as to learn what is necessary about art and ICT. Students pick up the skills in a very natural way and deploy them well. The quality of the work that is produced is sometimes stunning. The art room is garlanded with advice to students and checklists that enable them to plan their work for maximum effect.
The judging sessions where the final two people in each category have to make a presentation is tough both for those presenting and for those judging. The standard was very high and sometimes the arguments went on and on. Runners-up in the Support category Adele Ruddock, from the ICT Team in West Sussex, and Justin Wheelhouse, network manager at Holy Trinity in Crawley, have set up a highly innovative and successful forum for ICT technicians. The forum enables people to swap ideas, problems and solutions. Like the West Country teachers mentioned above, they did not win, but their contributions were both valuable and replicable.
Advice and Support: North Islington Zone ICT Advice and Support, London
Collaboration: Joint winners
South East Wales Schools and Museum E-Learning Partnership
Inclusion - Primary and Secondary: Pete Wells, Portland School, Sunderland
Inclusion - Post-16 and Lifelong Learning: Steven Mundin, Alex Dean, Alan
Cockayne - Higher Rhythm Recording Studio, Doncaster
Leadership - Foundation and Primary: Susan Smith, Hunwick Primary School, County Durham
Leadership - Secondary: Paul Thomson, Jordanhill School, Glasgow
Leadership - Post-16 and Lifelong Learning: Elizabeth Morrison, Fermanagh College, Enniskillen
Learning Assistance - Foundation and Primary: Pippa Carey, Alexandra Junior School, Hounslow
Learning Assistance - Secondary and Post-16Lifelong Learning: Ian Green, Sandwell College, West Midlands
New to Teaching: Jane Cooke, Ivybridge Community College, Devon
Teaching - Foundation: Helen Newman, Sanday Community School, Orkney Isles
Teaching - Primary: Miles Berry, St Ives School, Surrey
Teaching - Secondary core: Paul Dunn, Royds Hall High School, Huddersfield
Teaching - Secondary non-core:Peter Dobbin, Aquinas Grammar School, Belfast
Teaching - Post-16 and Lifelong Learning: Syd Rimmer, Barking College, Essex
Next year's awards will be launched at the awards ceremony on Thursday next week, with the nominations open online at www.becta.org.ukpracticeawards
The deadline for nominations will be at the end of March and visits will take place in May and June. Finals will be in September and then the winners and runners up will be announced in October. The awards ceremony will be at BETT 2007.
Gwyn Ap Hari