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Simply the best deputy

Headteacher Stephen Matthews doesn't mince his words when it comes to deputy head Eithne Hughes. "Mrs Hughes is simply the best deputy I've ever met," he declares in his office at Bryn Elian secondary school, Old Colwyn.

Now she has become the school's second winner in this summer's teaching awards when she received the Plato for leadership within a school in Wales. Bryn Elian will also benefit from pound;9,000 which is being spent on purchasing interactive whiteboards.

Mrs Hughes, 45, a teacher for 22 years, joined the Bryn Elian staff 10 years ago and has been described as influential in raising standards. The school motto is "Llwyddiant I bawb - achievement for all."

She comes from a long line of teachers. Her grandfather was a head at a primary school in Ireland and her father was a teacher in a further education college at Coleraine.

"You could say teaching is in my blood and bones," says Mrs Hughes. "My main responsibility is curriculum development. I'm given the freedom to explore innovative curriculum projects."

Mrs Hughes has been instrumental in encouraging departments to share good practice and embed new approaches to teaching, something that particularly impressed the awards judges. She meets once a week with heads of departments, with school improvement top of the agenda. The school is to pilot the Welsh baccalaureate from September. Another initiative is seeking to improve pupils' attainment using "precision teaching", an accelerated learning method, in conjunction with psychologists at the University of Wales Bangor.

The results of a four-week pilot project in maths were described as fantastic. Mrs Hughes said: "Precision teaching is being used extensively in maths classes and has been extended to Welsh, special needs and science departments. The children's numeracy and fluency of reading has improved dramatically."

She has also been a member of a working party involved with the Welsh Assembly in drawing up proposals for restructuring the 14 to 19-year-old curriculum.

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