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
The Derby High School, Bury, Lancashire
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
The Coopers' Company and Coborn School, Upminster, Essex
Sponsored by I Am Creative
Bond Technology by The Derby High School, Bury, Lancashire
Resources contributor of the year
Daniel Burke, Ringwood School, Hampshire
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