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Scots shine at the TES School Awards

This week's highlight has to be the TES School Awards at the Hilton Hotel, Park Lane last Friday. Teachers from all over the UK were among 600 guests who travelled to the heart of London to find out who had won this year's top accolades. The Scots did themselves proud, lifting two of the 16 awards (pages 16-19).

Portree Primary may be a wee school off the west coast of Scotland, but it more than punched its weight when it came to the trophy for Outstanding Sporting Initiative or Partnership. Not for them the tongue-lashing of political commentator Brian Monteith (page 32), who says: "If we want to see the number of hours that children exert themselves in sports increase, we need to rediscover the power of extra-curricular activity". No, this school offers shinty, football, basketball, badminton, swimming, running, orienteering and fitness programmes, not to mention dancing, gardening and cheerleading - and the whole community is involved.

Just as remarkable, in a different way, is Lewis Phillips, 16, of Inverkeithing High in Fife. The judges created a Special Award for Contribution to Technology in Education for him. Lewis built the school's media network within months of arriving in first year and has been running it with the school librarian ever since.

What young people are achieving with ICT is quite astonishing. While Lewis has transformed communications in his secondary, nine-year-old Martha Payne, who hit the headlines with her lunch blog, NeverSeconds, is transforming school meals at home and abroad (News Focus, pages 10-13). Celebrity chef Nick Nairn has joined forces with her and is advocating Active Food coordinators, along the lines of Active Schools coordinators.

Lewis and Martha are unlikely to have trouble finding work in later life. But there are many who are less fortunate and struggle to get a foothold in the market. Even Saturday jobs are drying up, leaving fewer opportunities for work experience, as the UK Commission for Employment and Skills reports (page 6). Work experience changes lives. Take the computing students at the University of Glasgow placed in schools to show pupils what real-world computing is like. Several end up loving teaching (page 7).

How sad it is, then, that the Skills Development Scotland courses intended to improve the prospects of youngsters are hitting problems (page 8). Praised for their innovative combination of college-based training with industry placements, these are proving costly to administer.

What has proved a winner, though, is the new University of Stirling course that has replaced the BEd (page 7). The BA in professional education (primary) has equipped its first students to teach modern languages or environmental education, giving them that extra edge in the jobs market. As comedian and TES Awards host Rob Brydon would say: "Well done! Impressive" (page 38).

gillian.macdonald@tess.co.uk.

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