Stars of education celebrate on a night to remember
The achievements of teachers of pupils with special educational needs and disability (SEND) took centre stage at this year's prestigious TES Schools Awards.
A school in which pupils with learning difficulties run high-street shops, a teacher who has spent decades working with children with physical disabilities and a teacher-blogger who writes about raising a son with Down's syndrome were among those recognised at a glittering ceremony in London on Friday.
The awards, in their seventh year, were hosted by comedian Greg Davies, best known as Mr Gilbert, the sardonic head of sixth form in Channel 4 comedy The Inbetweeners.
Mr Davies drew on his experiences as a former real-life drama teacher for his address, recounting his top 10 moments of teaching shame. These included laughing at a colleague who found himself stuck in shrubbery after pupils pushed him from a ground-floor window.
But the true stars of the night were the significantly more laudable teachers who had been shortlisted for the awards. In particular, it was an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of teachers involved in SEND.
The award for lifetime achievement went to Pamela Kavanagh, who has dedicated almost 40 years to pupils with profound learning difficulties at Delamere School in Manchester.
"I'm a classroom teacher," she said, after receiving the award. "That's what I like doing. Being a teacher is about interacting with the pupils. I've never gone for promotion - I don't really want to do any of the office work. It's just wonderful to go into the classroom every day."
One of the next winners to collect an award from the stage at the Grosvenor House Hotel, on London's Park Lane, was blogger Nancy Gedge. In her blog, The Diary of a Not So Ordinary Boy, Ms Gedge charts her life as a teacher and the mother of a teenage son with Down's syndrome.
Despite strict instructions that winners should not make speeches, Ms Gedge seized the microphone for an impromptu tribute to all those working in special needs. "Basically, I couldn't resist," she said, after the event. "The story of SEND is so little told in the rhetoric of the big voices in education."
By contrast, Jackie Smith was not expecting to have to make a speech. But when the executive headteacher of Uplands School in Swindon received the award for best alternative provision and also for overall school of the year, Mr Davies suggested that she might like to take the microphone.
"I was beside myself, as were all my staff," Ms Smith said. "I was really just hoping for a runner's-up certificate to go on the wall. I did pull myself together, but not for very long."
She insisted that it was vital for special schools to be judged in the same way as hers was: alongside mainstream schools. "It's a level playing field, absolutely," she said.
"Some of our young people develop the right characteristics and employability skills sooner than mainstream young people. They're reliable. They're enthusiastic. They will contribute to their communities. Our young people have huge potential."
Uplands has a number of shops on its local high street, all staffed by pupils.
"Some of them are in wheelchairs, with very little movement, and they're our best sales assistants," Ms Smith said. "They smile and draw you in, and you will buy something from them."
The award for primary school of the year went to West Rise Junior School near Eastbourne, where pupils keep bees and tend water buffalo. And St Patrick's High School in Keady, Northern Ireland, was named secondary of the year. It coupled an impressive academic turnaround with a community-support programme involving regular visits to the elderly.
Scoring a hat-trick
Meanwhile, Shrubland Street Community Primary in Warwickshire received three awards, recognising individual as well as whole-school success.
"It's recognition that sometimes teachers don't feel they get," said Shrubland Street headteacher David Farrar. "It's just made the whole staff more dynamic than it already is."
The winners were chosen by a judging panel including Tom Bennett, TES contributor and new government behaviour tsar; broadcaster and writer Baroness Floella Benjamin; author Anthony Horowitz; and TES columnist Steve Eddison.
"My bottom line in everything was: would I enjoy teaching at this school?" Mr Eddison said of the judging process. "Would I want my children to go to this school? How much do children enjoy their time at school? That, to me, is the ultimate thing."
TES editor Ann Mroz said: "So many teachers put in an incredible effort on behalf of their pupils, every single day. They do it with no expectation of public praise or celebration - which makes it all the more satisfying to be able to give them the credit that is their due."
The evening also included a fundraising drive for the Ann Maguire Arts Education Fund, set up in memory of a teacher murdered in her classroom in April last year. The fund provides music, drama, language and dance bursaries for school pupils.
In total, pound;8,250 was raised on the night. TES Global, the parent company of TES, has pledged to bring this up to pound;10,000.
TES Schools Awards 2015 winners
Lifetime achievement award Pamela Kavanagh, Delamere School, Manchester
Overall school of the year Uplands School, Swindon
Primary school of the year West Rise Junior School, Eastbourne
Secondary school of the year St Patrick's High School, Northern Ireland
Alternative provision school of the year Uplands School, Swindon
Teacher blogger of the year Nancy Gedge
Headteacher of the year Paul Harris, Curwen Primary School, East London
Maths teacher or team of the year Kings Norton Girls' School, Birmingham
Community and collaboration award Abraham Moss Community School, Manchester
Science, technology and engineering teacher or team of the year Shrubland Street Community Primary School, Warwickshire
English teacher or team of the year Eastbury Comprehensive School, Essex
Healthy school of the year Shrubland Street Community Primary School, Warwickshire
Early years setting of the year Young Explorers, at Hillside Community Primary, West Lancashire
International award Newlands Primary School, Hampshire
Creative school of the year Seaham School of Technology, County Durham
Arts and humanities award Shrubland Street Community Primary School, Warwickshire
Resource contributor of the year Gianfranco Conti
To see more pictures from this event, visit www.tesawards.co.uktessa2015 or take a look at our flickr page at bit.lyTESflickr