Impress our experts with whole-school initiatives and glowing testimonials

30th January 2009 at 00:00
To conclude our series on the new TES Schools Awards, we focus on the qualities the judges will be looking for in the remaining six of the 16 categories, which range from sporting prowess to culinary excellence. The closing date for entries is February 20

To conclude our series on the new TES Schools Awards, we focus on the qualities the judges will be looking for in the remaining six of the 16 categories, which range from sporting prowess to culinary excellence. The closing date for entries is February 20.The tes' new awards scheme will reward teamwork and achievement in schools. But what qualities will the judges be looking for and what will set the winning entries apart from the rest?

Outstanding Sporting Initiative

The judges will be keen to see exactly what you have done to improve participation in sport among your pupils and, most importantly, they will want clear, quantifiable evidence of the success of the initiative.

Dr Jeanne Keay (right), of Roehampton University, would also like to find an initiative that has gone beyond engagement with sport.

"A school that has embedded PE into the whole school will really win my vote," she said. "This means everything that comes out of PE, so it tackles not only the lessons, but obesity, leisure activities, school meals and so on."

Annette Montague, schools director for the Youth Sport Trust, believes that to excel in this category a school must understand that sport serves as a domain for young people who may not achieve in other contexts.

"I'm looking for three areas: initiatives that have results for young people previously not engaged in sport, or not participating regularly, to get involved; initiatives involving an innovative use of young people as leaders or volunteers; and initiatives that particularly support talented young people," she said.

The judges will be looking in particular for partnerships that contribute to an outstanding sports initiative, and for demonstrable evidence of sustainability and either breadth or depth of impact.

Ms Montague believes that sport can play a crucial role in developing a wide and far-reaching range of skills in young people.

"Everyone immediately thinks of the physical skills that are inherent in sport, and the health and wellbeing benefits," she said.

"But others - such as teamwork, discipline, leadership and coaching - are equally important and these are developed strongly in a well-organised sporting activity."

Best e-learning Initiative

This award is for schools that have developed innovative and successful schemes for teaching which use computers in or outside school; the focus is on content rather than technology.

Sir Cyril Taylor (left), former government adviser, believes that a good e-learning initiative is an important attribute in the making of any successful school.

"Extensive use of ICT - including wireless-linked laptops for every child and interactive whiteboards - makes a good school," he said.

But the judges will be looking at other aspects, too. This could be a project where teachers have posted material on the school's website or learning platform, or where teachers have created an educational game or simulation.

Michael Spinney (below), head of The Beacon School in Buckinghamshire, explained: "For this award, I will be looking at the level of competence that allows pupils to apply skills in any area that interests them; a level of competence that allows independent use."

He emphasises the need to give pupils a high level of IT skills, which they can carry through once they have left school.

Sir Tim Brighouse (above right), former London schools commissioner, offers the following advice to entrants: "I would be persuaded by those using e-learning to marry various purposes of ICT - whether it be as a tool, as a form of communication, a replacement of the library, or to demonstrate computer-assisted teaching and learning."

To achieve this, schools should ensure their staff have had appropriate training, he said.

Keri Facer (above), professor or education, Manchester Metropolitan University, and former director of Futurelab, said the initiative must be carefully crafted, so it can "contribute to the long-standing problems faced" by a school.

"I'd like to see something really transformative, not something that is simply a form of modernisation or created because it looks good," she said.

Best School Dinners Award

Renowned chef and food writer Prue Leith (right), chair of the School Food Trust, believes that when delivering school dinners there are two fundamentals to consider. "First, the food needs to look delicious, taste delicious and be nutritious. Second, it must be attractive in order to attract the kids."

This does not mean that the winning school will have the longest list and widest choice of menus; the judges will be on the look-out for colourful variety.

So what makes a menu distinctive, attractive to children, and healthy? Ms Leith believes that school dinners are about "minimum choice and maximum quality". The idea is that pupils have less to choose from and will therefore eat more of a variety of foods.

The former teacher will also be looking for a whole-school approach.

"I know some schools where the students work in the kitchens," she said. "This not only gets them involved in the cooking and eating process, but it improves the image of school dinners altogether."

She believes other schools should do the same: "We need heads to take advantage of new government initiatives on school dinners, such as sending cooks away to special training schools where they learn new ways of presenting school dinners.

"I'd love to see a school where the children not only work in the kitchens, but serve each other and serve themselves."

The judges will consider other factors such as the percentage of children currently opting for school dinners, compared with recent years.

The panel would also love to hear testimonials from children, parent groups or other bodies that support a school's claims about the quality of the dinners it serves.

Outstanding New or Refurbished Secondary School

The judges will be looking at both the quality of the new facilities and any especially innovative features of a new or refurbished secondary that was opened in 2008.

Award-winning architect Robin Nicholson explained: "I will be looking at the siting of the building in relation to two things: one, the local community; two, the orientation of the building environmentally.

He added: "Another aspect to consider is low-energy schools, the quality of the spaces inside and the amount of natural light in not just the classrooms but the building itself."

Judges will also be impressed by any positive user feedback. Make sure you include images of the building (before and after), and some simple plans that explain what work has been undertaken, and - if possible - a testimonial from the headteacher.

Outstanding New or Refurbished Primary School

As with the secondary award, the judges will be looking at both the quality of the new facilities and any especially innovative features.

Again, they will be impressed by positive user feedback and will welcome before and after shots of the building, some simple plans that explain the process, and a testimonial from the head.

Outstanding Recruitment Advertisements Campaign

This category is open to any school (or recruitment agency operating on their behalf) in England and Wales that can provide evidence - through a series of two or more original advertisements in any media (press, online etc) - of a successful recruitment campaign run in 2008.

Entrants should endeavour to prove the success of their campaign by providing information about the concept, target audience and results.

Electronic copies should be supplied to support entries.


Sir Tim Brighouse, former London schools commissioner; Sir Cyril Taylor, former government adviser on specialist schools and academies; Derek Bell, chief executive, Association for Science Education; head of education, Wellcome Trust; Jeanne Keay, dean, school of education, Roehampton University. Prue Leith, healthy food champion; chair. School Food Trust; Annette Montague, schools director, Youth Sports Trust; Joan Olivier, retired head, Lady Margaret Secondary, Parson's Green, London; Michael Spinney, head of The Beacon School, Amersham, Buckinghamshire. Malcolm Trobe, former ASCL president and retired head; Keri Facer, professor of education, Manchester Metropolitan University; former research director of Futurelab; Dame Kelly Holmes, double Olympic champion; John May, chief executive, Career Academies UK.

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