Enterprising staff win teacher 'Oscars'

12th June 2009 at 01:00
`Wheeler-dealer' head and another who used to be seen as a `bit crazy' recognised this week

Among the winners of this year's Welsh Teaching Awards are staff who have helped disabled children become musicians, transformed classrooms into hair salons, and got pupils to speak in 10 languages.

This week some of Wales's most outstanding heads, teachers, governors and support staff were rewarded for their dedication with a teaching "Oscar". Twelve prestigious Platos were awarded at a ceremony hosted by BBC Wales news presenter Sian Lloyd at Cardiff City Hall.

Among the winners was Philip Jones, head of Heolddu Comprehensive in Bargoed, who turned his secondary around, in his own words, by "going back to basics".

"We are traditional in our values, but with a lot of modern thinking as well," he told TES Cymru.

Since he became head three years ago, attendance and results at the school have improved. This year, only one pupil is set to leave without a recognised qualification.

Guests at the awards ceremony were treated to an "eco-rap" by five and six-year-old pupils from Glan Gele Infant School in Abergele, which won the sustainability award.

Glan Gele's pupils grow vegetables and herbs for use in school meals and look after a forest area in their school grounds.

Julia Buckley Jones, the head, said: "Green issues are given a high priority. We are trying to make pupils into citizens of the 21st century."

Debbie Davies, of St Mark's School in Haverfordwest, was named primary head of the year.

Dubbed "the best wheeler-dealer around" by her chair of governors for securing much-needed funding, Ms Davies has transformed St Mark's into a genuine "community" school with a family feel.

Maxine Pittaway, head of St Christopher's School in Wrexham, said people thought she was a "bit crazy" when she first started teaching, because of her "quirky" ideas.

They have paid off now though, winning her the enterprise award for transforming her special needs school with enterprising community projects such as a hair and beauty salon, car valeting service and a fair trade cafe.

"Whenever I have one of my ideas, my staff always back me," she said. "They give children opportunities for the future."

Gareth Lucas, a teacher at Ysgol Y Lawnt, a Welsh-medium school in Rhymney, was named primary teacher of the year for instilling his pupils with a love of languages.

They recently impressed visiting inspectors by reciting a goodwill message in 10 different languages. "My love for the language, heritage and culture of my country is at the forefront of my teaching," he said.

Kath Davies, a part-time teacher at Ysgol Penmaes in Brecon, was named special needs teacher of the year for setting up music groups that helped pupils with severe physical and emotional difficulties.

Robert Williams picked up the lifetime achievement award after a 30 year career as a head, the past 11 of which have been spent at Ysgol Cynfran Llysfaen, Colwyn Bay.

Set to retire next month, Mr Williams said he could now "sit back and say, `I made a difference'".

The winners will go on to the UK Teaching Awards on October 25.

Award winners

  • Outstanding new teacher: Cathy Young, Pembroke School
  • Primary head of the year: Debbie Davies, St Mark's School, Haverfordwest
  • Secondary head of the year: Philip Jones, Heolddu Comprehensive, Bargoed
  • Special needs teacher award: Kath Davies, Ysgol Penmaes, Brecon
  • Enterprise award: Maxine Pittaway, St Christopher's School, Wrexham
  • Teaching assistant of the year: Jennifer Phillips, The Hollies School, Cardiff
  • Primary teacher of the year: Gareth Lucas, Ysgol Y Lawnt, Rhymney
  • Secondary teacher of the year: Gaynor Deacon, Porth County Community School
  • Governor of the year: Dan Roberts, Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr, Cardiff
  • Sustainable school award: Glan Gele Infant School, Abergele
  • Lifetime achievement award: Robert Williams, Ysgol Cynfran Llysfaen, Colwyn Bay
  • Promotion of the Welsh language award: Bethan Guilfoyle, Treorchy Comprehensive.

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