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Puppets pull all the best teachers' strings

If you want to be an award-winning teacher, one accessory seems to be crucial: a cuddly puppet.

When Gemma Barry went on to the stage to collect the award for outstanding new teacher, she was clutching a small kangaroo.

The teacher, who has been working for two years at Woolston community primary in Warrington, said she had promised her class that she would take "Kanga" with her if she won. The kangaroo - a bargain from Ikea, apparently - also proved a handy hiding-place for her speech notes.

Another creature to be credited for its contribution towards school life was the crow puppet who occasionally takes assemblies at Corsham primary in Wiltshire.

The crow is the prop of headteacher Fiona Allen, who won the award for school leadership after transforming the once-failing primary.

Mrs Allen's other successful leadership techniques have included providing perks for her staff such as yoga classes, car valeting and regular visits from a beautician and a masseur.

Secondary school teachers also appear to be making the most of puppet power.

Paul Keogh, winner of best secondary teacher, uses an injured Kermit the frog and Bob the Builder doll to spark conversation about accidents in his French classes.

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