And the winner is... someone you know, quite probably

18th November 2005 at 00:00
Glittering prizes tend to be associated with star actresses who gush that their success is thanks to their mothers, their agents and their cats.

But such accolades are not limited to film stars. Teachers are increasingly finding that their classroom performances can win a range of awards. The Oscar among these is the honours list. Heads who transform schools are rewarded in the Queen's new year or birthday honours.

Most react with more humility than the average film star. When Mary MacDonald, head of Riverside primary, in North Shields, was made a dame this year, she said: "I thought it was a wind-up."

But, as with any high-profile award, there can be problems. Jean Else was made a dame in 2001, after turning round Whalley Range high school in Manchester. But last month, she was accused by the Audit Commission of nepotism and financial mismanagement.

And just as potential Oscar winners are often predicted in less prestigious awards ceremonies, classroom potential is highlighted in the annual Teaching Awards.

Launched in 1999, these awards are a televised celebration of innovation by heads, teachers and classroom assistants.

Recognition can transform a career. In 2004, Philip Beadle was named secondary teacher of the year for his work at Eastlea comprehensive, in east London. He now writes a regular newspaper column, and appeared as teacher-in-residence on the Channel 4 series The Unteachables.

And then there are awards such as the Baftas - slightly meaningless but everyone accepts them nonetheless.

Each year, heads of renowned or high-achieving schools are recognised in the pages of Who's Who and Debrett's People of Today. Robert Dowling, head of George Dixon international school, in Birmingham, first appeared in Who's Who in 2004 but was underwhelmed by his inclusion. "It's a bubble in the stream of life," he said. Most people I know will never read it. A knighthood is an accolade for achievement in your professional life. This is just an upmarket Yellow Pages."

It is not merely leading players in school life who are being recognised, but increasingly the supporting actors.

Each year, a number of caretakers, dinner-ladies, administrators and lollipop men and women are awarded MBEs for their dedicated service.

Reflecting on his award in 2004 for 20 years at John of Gaunt comprehensive, in Wiltshire, handyman Charlie Cruse said: "All schools should have a Charlie."

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