Celebrating the 'unsung heroes' of education

12th July 2013 at 01:00
The best of the best are honoured at the 2013 TES Schools Awards

Seven years ago, George Eliot Junior School in northwest London was "unloved", with an "inadequate" rating from Ofsted and no permanent headteacher.

But now, after a remarkable transformation and a merger, George Eliot Primary School is celebrating being named overall outstanding school of the year at the 2013 TES Schools Awards.

When Beatrix Simpson took over as headteacher of George Eliot Junior School in 2006, she knew that she had a challenge on her hands. "Standards were extremely low. It was a very unloved school and it was very challenging for governors to appoint a headteacher," she said.

But, in 2009, it was rated "outstanding" by Ofsted. Meanwhile, neighbouring George Eliot Infant School had been placed in special measures. The two schools merged in 2010 and now George Eliot Primary School is rated outstanding in everything it does.

This incredible journey was recognised at last week's TES Schools Awards ceremony, hosted by comedian and television presenter Dara O'Briain.

"We didn't expect to win overall school of the year at all," Ms Simpson said. "It was a major shock and so wonderful to hear. It is a fantastic award and makes us so proud."

At George Eliot, almost 30 languages are spoken by children; 92 per cent of students speak English as an additional language and 50 per cent are entitled to free school meals. The school has been praised by Ofsted for its outstanding literacy work.

"We were quietly thinking that we might win primary school of the year, because we have been through so many changes over the past few years, but it was such a great achievement just to be shortlisted," Ms Simpson said.

"As teachers, you don't have that many celebrations, and we thought the awards ceremony was a wonderful opportunity to go and celebrate, especially because everyone at the school has worked so hard. I'm really happy for the whole team, children and parents."

Meanwhile, Peter Sheppard, of Royal Wootton Bassett Academy in Wiltshire, won the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mr Sheppard has taught for 50 years, 47 of which have been devoted to Royal Wootton Bassett, which he has seen transformed from a small secondary modern into a large comprehensive. He has worked as head of house, head of English, head of sixth form, deputy headteacher and, briefly, acting headteacher.

Despite officially retiring 10 years ago, Mr Sheppard, 71, still works part-time at the school, teaching critical thinking.

"This feels absolutely wonderful, marvellous," he said. "This is more than I hoped for or dreamed about. The fact that my colleagues nominated me for this after 50 years is absolutely wonderful."

Mr Sheppard, who had no idea that he was to receive the award, said that he has always tried to make people "feel valued" and to help students achieve their potential.

Gerard Kelly, editor of TES, congratulated all the winners and shortlisted entrants. "There are so many unsung heroes working in our schools, and so many schools doing fantastic work with little public recognition," he said. "We are delighted to reward some of those schools and to offer our thanks for all that they do."

TES SCHOOLS AWARD WINNERS

Overall outstanding school of the year

Sponsored by the British Council

George Eliot Primary School, St John's Wood, London

Primary school of the year

Sponsored by Browne Jacobson

George Eliot Primary School

Secondary school of the year

Sponsored by OCR

Westminster Academy, London

Special needs school of the year

Sponsored by Capita Education Resourcing

Adelaide School, Crewe, Cheshire

Headteacher of the year

Sponsored by Syscap

Patricia Walters, Holte Visual and Performing Arts College, Birmingham

Inspirational teacher of the year

Sponsored by One Education

Laura Stone, Burlington Danes Academy, Hammersmith, London

Support staff of the year

Sponsored by TES Support

Learning mentor team, Plashet School, East Ham, London

Numeracy and maths

Sponsored by Renaissance Learning

St John Plessington Catholic College, Wirral, Merseyside

Literacy and English

Sponsored by The Reading Agency with Pearson

Eastbury Comprehensive School, Barking, Essex

Science

The Derby High School, Bury, Lancashire

ICT

Sponsored by HP

Langley Grammar School, Langley, Berkshire

Sport and healthy eating

St Joseph's Specialist School and College, Cranleigh, Surrey

Enterprise and community

Sponsored by Barclays LifeSkills

St Mary's Church of England Primary School, Moss Side, Manchester

Humanities

The Coopers' Company and Coborn School, Upminster, Essex

Creative

Sponsored by I Am Creative

Bond Technology by The Derby High School, Bury, Lancashire

Resources contributor of the year

Daniel Burke, Ringwood School, Hampshire

Lifetime achievement

Sponsored by Teachers Assurance

Peter Sheppard, Royal Wootton Bassett Academy, Wiltshire

Services to education

Fred Jarvis, former general secretary of the NUT.

Photo credit: Hannah Maule-Ffinch

Original headline: A day to celebrate the `unsung heroes' of education

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