Still more Montego than stretch limo;Teaching awards

16th July 1999 at 01:00
The silver Montego estate parked directly outside the grand entrance gave it away.

All was ready beneath the magnificent dome of the Alexandra Palace for what host Gaby Roslin called the "most prestigious awards ceremony in Britain".

The security guards wielding walkie-talkies looked the part. The PR assistants in their blue T-shirts certainly had the showbiz touch ("Be with you in a min, hon").

But, as the late-comers swept up to face the cameras, that Montego kept catching your eye. Where were the stretch limos? These were the Platos - the "Teachers' Oscars" - but, as the organisers piled on the glitter, those darned teachers just kept brushing it off.

One of the "stars", a regional winner from the North-west - dressed more Mamp;S than Versace - scurried off as the media hordes closed in: "I'm just meeting my friend, I must go and find her..."

Next up the steps, Sonia Crisp, headteacher of Welford and Wickham primary in the Berkshire Downs, looked more promising: draped in a sweeping, original 1930s black lace number. But the thinking was quite different. "Oh, I'm not here to upstage anyone, I wanted to fit in with the building," she said, gesturing at the Alexandra Palace's venerable curves.

And everybody, but everybody, kept talking about "the people who made this possible". It is de rigueur at these events to say such things, but these teachers kept repeating it: before the ceremony, during it, afterwards. And goddam, they seemed to mean it!

Inside, BBC floor manager Siobhan said this was showbiz, and began clapping like a demented seal.

But it was not until Gaby and co-host Stephen Fry were well into their scripts that the "country's most outstanding teachers" got the hang of it all. Perhaps it was Fry's reference to their profession as "humanity's highest calling" or the children of the London Music Centre Choir's beautiful reminder of the reason they had become teachers in the first place "I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky".

Maybe it was prize-winner Paddy Beels's burst into nursery song mid-speech, but, eventually you couldn't hear Siobhan's priming clap before each round of applause.

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