Initiated by Mr McConnell when he was Education Minister, the Scottish Education Awards have brought on board the Daily Record, BT Scotland and the CBI which all helped to stage the ceremony with the help of a host of showbiz and sporting stars.
The Record's involvement, however, meant that its rivals gave no coverage. Mr McConnell brushed aside early objections to what were known as "teaching Oscars" when they were introduced south of the border. Critics felt they were divisive, singling out individual effort from a team performance.
The Scottish version, which attracted around 320 entries for 10 categories, has sought to distance itself from that objection. The Scottish Executive has made the awards school-based while two which are for individual teachers are nominated by pupils.
The move seems to have worked as the ceremony was endorsed by the presence of the president and general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland and the leader of the Scottish National Party.
Mr McConnell said: "This is not just about people who achieve in exams. It is about acknowledging the part which so many different people play in raising standards in our schools. Everyone has a part to play in this."
Cathy Jamieson, Education Minister, said: "Too often we focus on things that have gone wrong and too seldom on success."
The judges were chaired by Cathy McDonald, the broadcaster, and included John Elvidge, outgoing head of the Scottish Executive Education Department, Tom Hunter, the entrepreneur, Iain McMillan, director of CBI Scotland, Helen Law, education spokesperson for the local authorities, and Joan Burnie, Agony Aunt of the Record.
REACHING FOR THE STARS
* School in the community - Kyle Academy in Ayr for a major reorganisation of its PTA which branched out into the community to involve wine tasting, a fashion show, a Burns supper and a Festival of Running - raising pound;5,000 for school funds.
* New ideas in learning - Harlaw Academy in Aberdeen for its arts-based behavioural support scheme, the brainchild of guidance teacher Tina Stockman.
* Education for ambition - St Timothy's primary in Coatbridge whose pupils set up a "Brilliant Badges" company, which grew out of a project to award badges to those who had met personal targets in writing.
* Raising basic standards - St Ninian's High in Kirkintilloch which boosted its attainment ranking into the top 10 per cent by monitoring pupils'
behaviour in a scheme called "Reach for the Stars".
* Schools for all - Ellon Academy in Aberdeenshire which provides for all abilities through departments of special educational needs, sensory impairment, learning support and behaviour support.
* Making the links - Hillhead High in Glasgow for its varied ways of celebrating the faiths and cultures of the 35 different nationalities in the school.
* Closing the gap - an award for local authorities which went to North Lanarkshire for its comprehensive approach to literacy from P1 to S2, including "literacy coaches" in every school.
* Drugs education project - Longniddry primary in East Lothian where 30 pupils planned and developed a project and then invited experts into the school to talk to them.