Prize-giving party with a difference

3rd November 2000 at 00:00
The Teaching Awards produced a night of recognition and celebration. Jill Craven reports.

IT was the best of times; it was the worst of times. A Sunday night in east London at the end of half-term - not the most auspicious start.

Hundreds of windswept guests heading for Greenwich for a pre-recorded TV show at the Millennium Dome - not the most intimate of venues. And it was a tad late starting. "I can see my canapes slipping further and further away," said a nearby teacher.

But we made it and were glad we came. The Teaching Awards final was a celebration of teaching. Even the cynical began to melt as the warm-up man produced the right level of enthusiasm and Big Brother presenter Davina McCall, in raspberry pink sequins, seduced the assembled with her puppyish antics. We started to give her more marks out of 10.

The stage set of giant pencils and books perplexed one teacher: "Not very ICT-friendly...." But she'd joined in the party spirit with silver shoes and pearly hair jewellery.

Fourteen awards were presented by luvvies such as Nigel Havers, Jeremy Speake, John Peel and Twiggy. Four finalists knew they'd won beforehand when celebrities crept into their classes clutching the winner's snub-nosed gold Platos. Each tok away pound;23,500 for their schools.

Education Secretary David Blunkett presented Lyn Reynolds with her award for (take a deep breath) working with parents and the community in a primary school. She said she needed a drink - "water will do. And if I'm teacher of the year, then my pupils are students of the year."

Classroom assistant of the year, Denise Murray, thanked the awards for raising the profile of assistants.

Mary Campbell of Northern Ireland (special needs teaching in a primary) has had to use a wheelchair for the past two years. "I decided 'have wheels, will travel'. But it took the Teaching Awards to bring me to the moon and back."

The two hours were nearly up with a presentation to Anthony Cooper, of Nottingham, for leadership in a secondary. "It's a wonderful privilege to receive something for the job you love," he said. That was the message: teachers enjoying work and pupils enjoying learning. Example after example of good practice.

Davina redid a couple of her links and said a big thank you to her maths teacher Miss White. And that was that. "Brilliant. Just brilliant," said a nearby teacher.

The Teaching Awards final will be broadcast on BBC1 at 4.20pm on Sunday

Friday magazine, 14

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