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Lucky 13 win Plato achievement gong

It was praise all the way at the teaching 'Oscars'. Karen Thornton reports

They are, among other things, shaping the 14 to 19 curriculum in Wales, protecting great crested newts, dishing out wet paper towels, and advertising local firms on cows.

But now 13 teachers, heads and assistants have something in common - a hefty Plato to put on their mantelpieces and pound;4,500 in prize money and information and communications technology equipment to take back to school, in recognition of their achievements.

The 13 collected the education world's equivalent of an Oscar at this week's Welsh Teaching Awards ceremony at a sun-baked Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Two of the winners came from one school. Eithne Hughes, deputy head of Ysgol Bryn Elian, in Old Colwyn, won a Plato for leadership, while colleague Jeff Powell, head of humanities, collected the prize for innovation in a secondary school.

Eithne Hughes, a member of a government working group looking at reforms of the 14 to 19 curriculum in Wales, told guests and winners: "I love what I do, I love the children I serve, and I believe we serve them well, together."

Menter mw ("cow venture") has been one of a series of entrepreneurial ventures inspired by Tim Williams, 36, winner of the secondary teacher of the year award.

Mr Williams, a business studies teacher at Tre Gib comprehensive school, Llandeilo, said: "We worked with a local farmer and we got local businesses to pay us. The pupils designed these cow coats, with adjustable velcro straps for the fuller-figure cow. There were about 15 cows walking around the fields with business adverts on their coats."

Meanwhile, teaching assistant of the year Susan Withers's favourite comment of: "Here's a wet paper towel and a letter for your mum," has become a staffroom catchphrase at Penygarn junior school, Pontypool.

She joined the school 10 years ago, providing literacy and numeracy support for all eight classes, and now leads a team of four teaching support assistants.

Professor Roy James, the former chief inspector of schools in Wales, who chaired the judges' panel, said: "The greatest privilege was seeing the teachers working. What strikes me is the wealth of talent in our schools in Wales.

"We are still inspired by the commitment, creative energy, focus and skills which teachers, heads and support staff give."

Jane Davidson, education and lifelong learning minister, urged the winners and their guests to nominate colleagues for next year's awards - and double the 3,500 nominations received across the UK this year.

"I am always astounded, as I go around schools in Wales, at the quality of practice I see," she said.

Each of the 13 section winners collected their Plato, plus pound;2,000 cash and pound;2,500 of ICT equipment for their schools. Seven others awarded special commendations received pound;250 for their schools. The Welsh section winners go forward to the UK finals in London in the autumn.

"Many is the time I have run out of the tunnel on to the pitch and scored a try for Wales... in my dreams," said Eric Evans, assistant head of Dyffryn Taf school, Whitland, Dyfed, as he collected his Plato for lifetime achievement.

"Now I can go on to represent Wales."

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Pam Roberts, Park Street infants, Abergavenny (primary teacher); Tim Williams, Tre Gib comprehensive, Ffairfach, Llandeilo (secondary teacher); Susan Palmer, Ysgol Cynfran, Colwyn Bay (innovation, primary); Jeff Powell, Ysgol Bryn Elian, Colwyn Bay (innovation, secondary); Carol Parker, Cwmaman infants, Aberdare (primary headteacher); Clive Hampton, Eirias high school, Colwyn Bay (secondary head); Michelle Johnson, John Summers high school, Queensferry, Deeside (new teacher); Eithne Hughes, Ysgol Bryn Elian, Colwyn Bay (leadership); Sue Southam, Guilsfield primary, Welshpool (community involvement, primary); Sue Davies, Pen-y-dre high school, Merthyr Tydfil (community involvement, secondary); Susan Withers, Penygarn juniors, Pontypool (teaching assistant); Eric Evans, Dyffryn Taf, Whitland (lifetime achievement); Carol Field, Ysgol Gwaenynog (infants), Denbigh (lifetime achievement).

www.teachingawards.com

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