In celebration of excellence
Top teachers and outstanding schools from across Wales picked up a host of prestigious awards this week.
Yesterday, two Welsh schools took home top honours at the second annual TES Schools Awards in London, while on Monday teachers and schools picked up prizes at the Wales Teaching Awards 2010 in Cardiff.
In Wrexham, St Christopher's special school, the largest in Wales, is no stranger to success. Head Maxine Pittaway has won a number of awards and received praise from both Estyn and the Assembly government in recent years.
This week it was named Special Needs School of the Year at the TES Awards for its pioneering work supporting pupils.
The school runs a number of inclusion schemes and is a hotbed of entrepreneurism, with its own pupil-run car wash, cafe and shop.
The competition judges said they could sense the ambition the school has for every one of its pupils.
The award for outstanding leadership went to another north Wales school, Ysgol Glan Gele infants in Abergele.
Three years ago, local authority officials had been concerned standards at Glan Gele were "stagnating". But a new senior leadership team took charge, and it is now regarded as a beacon of best practice in Wales.
Judges described the school as "buzzy", and said: "The atmosphere is one brimming with excitement - it's the kind of place where you would like to work."
Also at the Wales Teaching Awards, former solicitor Sharon Ray was named outstanding new teacher of the year.
Ms Ray, who teaches at Ysgol Gymuned Penisarwaen in Caernarfom, said: "It's so rewarding because you can give something back and make a real difference. I never got that satisfaction from sitting behind a desk as a solicitor."
Dilwyn Owen won an award for next-generation learning in recognition of his work promoting ICT at Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg in Barry. Mr Owen has guided the school's ICT policies over the last decade. And after the tragic death of teaching colleague Fleur Beddwr last year, he began to explore the use of social networking and blogs.
He said: "Fleur was an avid Facebook and Twitter fan, and after there was a huge outpouring of emotion and tributes from pupils on those sites we realised we needed to embrace this technology."
Sue Painter, head of Portfield special school in Haverfordwest, said she was "extremely proud" after her staff were named outstanding school team of the year in Wales.
"They all go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure the needs of every child are met."
Special guest at the ceremony was American actor and author Henry Winkler, who played "the Fonz" in 1970s sitcom Happy Days.
Speaking to TES Cymru, he described some of the teachers he met in Cardiff as "unbelievable" and said: "The most important people after mom and dad are the teachers. You have got to support them in every way possible."