As teachers' achievements are recognised on national TV, Chris Bunting reports from the razzmatazz of the Teaching Awards.
MAUREEN Davies, winner of the Lifetime Achievement award at the Teaching Awards, might have continued in obscurity had her headteacher not mislaid his cross-country results.
Mrs Davies became an overnight celebrity when she received the award from Lord Puttnam on Sunday night.
She returned to her school the next day to be greeted by nearly 600 pupils, parents and grandparents bristling with pride that their teacher had bagged the nation's most prestigious teaching prize.
But her head, Dennis Hardiman, admitted: "We are sent so much stuff. In between all the mail from the Government, there is so much junk mail and it was my monthly time for clearing my table. I was chucking paper away left and right.
"I noticed the Teachers' Awards thing because it had a very bold letter head. But I gave it a cursory glance and chucked it because I thought I hadn't got time to send it in."
Fortunately, he realised he had lost his cross-country results and began scouring the bin. "They were beside the Teachers' Awards application, and I saw the lifetime achievement category." The rest, as they say, is history.
Not only did Mrs Davies bag the lifetime achievement award, but her teaching assistant Tackie Hilton and Mr Hardiman himself (nominated by his governors) won regional prizes. Now back at 320- pupil St Sebastian's Roman Catholic primary school, near the centre of Liverpool, Mrs Davies sees her prize as more than a personal honour: "It is to recognise all of the service all teachers have given over the years."
It was also a tribute to her school, she said. "It was fantastic when I came back to St Sebastian's. All the parents and grandparents and pupils were there. I felt I had returned to my family and they were all there for me."
But, then, according to Mr Hardiman, Mrs Davies is no prima donna. Her work encouraging parents to participate in their children's education was cited in her nomination, and in her role as a student-teacher mentor Mr Hardiman said she was "always coming back enthusing about their lessons, saying how inspiring they were".
Mrs Davies explains: "You can hand on to them your experience, your energy and enthusiasm, but they can bring hot-off-the-press ideas. It is very, very important that they get the right soil in which to grow. They are the next generation of teaching."