Although only in the second year, the TES Schools Awards - or Tessas - attracted a staggeringly high quality of nominations for the 15 categories. In each category we were not looking simply for schools or initiatives rated outstanding by inspectors. What we wanted was that extra spark - creativity, originality and passion.
Many attributes united the schools. It was heartening to see so many fundraising for Haiti. Several individuals shone out, ranging from caretakers to headteachers, one of whom will win the Lifetime Achievement Award.
However, what separates the Tessas from other educational accolades is that they recognise it takes a team to transform a school and give pupils the best education possible.
On these pages, some schools are named in the category introductions - but do not read anything into this. The final judging has yet to take place. Winners will be announced at a lunch at the Grosvenor Hotel, London, on June 17. We hope to see many of you there.
Michael Shaw, Comment Editor
PRIMARY SCHOOL OF THE YEAR
- Lent Rise Primary, Slough
- Latchmere Primary, Kingston on Thames, Surrey
- Maltby Crags Infant School, Rotherham
- Old Palace Primary, Tower Hamlets, London
- St Mirin's Primary, Glasgow
- St Thomas of Canterbury RC Primary, Salford, Manchester
Several of these shortlisted primary schools have shown extraordinary improvements in their results - often with some of the UK's most challenging pupils.
St Thomas of Canterbury knocked down walls to double the size of its classrooms, Lent Rise got every class to run its own business, while Latchmere has introduced a "feelings register" to keep track of its pupils' well-being.
A sense that the staff at these schools worked as teams also came across strongly. At St Mirin's, for example, all the support staff share their personal talents with the children in special "golden time" sessions.
SECONDARY SCHOOL OF THE YEAR
- Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, Altrincham, Cheshire
- De La Salle Humanities College, Croxteth, Liverpool
- St John Plessington Catholic College, Wirral
- Chafford Hundred, Essex
- Bishop Challoner Collegiate School, Tower Hamlets, London
- St Ninian's High, Glasgow
One of the finalists is an all-boys comprehensive in Croxteth, Liverpool, an area infamous for gang culture and drug-related shootings. Another is a girls' grammar school in a leafy suburb.
These two schools - De La Salle Humanities College and Altrincham Grammar for Girls - might seem to have almost nothing in common, and their pupils could hardly be more different. Yet they appear on this list next to each other because they have both brought about incredible changes - as have all the schools on this shortlist.
These schools also all demonstrated bucket-loads of innovation - and many went on beyond their gates to help others. St John Plessington College was not the only one on the shortlist to step in to help another, less successful school, while improving its own work.
SPECIAL NEEDS SCHOOL OF THE YEAR
- Wennington Hall, Lancaster
- Kersland School, Paisley, Renfrewshire
- St Christopher's School, Wrexham, north Wales
- Fosse Way School, Radstock, Bath amp; North East Somerset
- Mary Hare School, Newbury, Berkshire
- Voyager PRU, Totnes, Devon
The standard of entries for this category was particularly high, which made choosing the final six extremely difficult. These are all schools which not just cater for the often difficult-to-meet needs of their pupils, but have also developed original, often ground-breaking ways to do it.
Wennington Hall - where pupils can only gain a place if they request it personally - was described by Ofsted as "life affirming". It is a phrase we think could describe all of the schools and units on this shortlist.
OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
- Ardleigh Green Junior School, Hornchurch, Essex
- Bishop Challoner Collegiate, Tower Hamlets, London
- Roundhay School, Leeds
- St Mary's RC Primary, Preston
- St Michael's Primary amp; Glenmanor Primary, Glasgow
- Thornleigh Salesian, Bolton
We received many inspirational entries for this category, but these six stood out.
Among them was Bishop Challoner Collegiate, a Catholic comprehensive in one of the most deprived areas of Western Europe, which now manages youth work in a predominantly Bengali and Muslim part of London.
OUTSTANDING LITERACY OR NUMERACY INITIATIVE
- Chenderit School, Banbury, Oxfordshire
- Christ the Redeemer Primary, Belfast
- Hawksmoor Primary, Thamesmead, London
- Poole Grammar School, Dorset
- Stockport local authority (Fit 4 Reading and Fit 4 Figures)
- Falconbrook Primary, Battersea, London
How do you get boys excited about reading? How do you fix your approach to maths teaching if you realise it has been muddling the pupils? All these questions and more were addressed by these shortlisted initiatives.
This category saw a rare nomination for a local authority: Stockport, which developed its Fit 4 Reading and Fit 4 Figures scheme in which Year 10 pupils coach Year 7 children in sport before breakfast and then help to mentor them in literacy and numeracy sessions.
GOVERNORS OF THE YEAR
- Fairfields Special School, Northampton
- Whitley Park Infant and Nursery, Reading
- Woodside High, Wood Green, London
- Eastbrook Comprehensive, Dagenham
"There have been many times when I have been tempted to throw in the towel and walk away to an easier school," one head wrote on the nomination form for this category. "Every time, one of the governors has picked me up and put me back into the fray with the support I've needed to continue."
Another shortlisted school, Eastbrook in Dagenham, singled out the work done by Joe Fryer, a former pupil. The phrase used to describe him - "critical friend" - may have become an educational cliche, but it remains one of the best ways to describe these governing bodies.
SUPPORT TEAM OF THE YEAR
- Birchensale Middle School, Worcestershire
- Essa Academy, Bolton
- Greensward Academy, Essex
- Imberhorne School, East Grinstead
- Kingsdown School, Swindon
- Radclyffe School, Oldham
Support staff often miss out on the appreciation they deserve. Not at these schools. Whether it's the caretakers at the Essa Academy, the ICT team at Kingsdown or the inclusion team at Birchensale (who have helped set up a club for Eastern European pupils), it is clear that their work is valued by their colleagues.
OUTSTANDING STAFF TRAININGDEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE
- Conyers School, Stockton
- New Heys Community School, Liverpool
- Northfield Academy, Aberdeen
- Park Community Primary, Boston, Lincolnshire
- REAL Trust amp; Wallis Partnership
- St John Bosco Arts College, Liverpool
These schools succeeded in providing continuous professional development that inspired their staff (rather than causing them to doze off on an Inset day). Often they achieved this on a shrinking budget - or, in one case, no budget at all.
OUTSTANDING SPORTING INITIATIVE
- Birchwood Community High, Warrington
- Portchester School, Dorset
- St Ninian's High, Glasgow
- STS Gravesham, Kent
- Coopers' Company and Coborn, Essex
- Hayesbrook School, Kent
One of these schools is creating the next generation of championship footballers through an innovative training scheme that may outshine those offered by Barcelona and AC Milan. All the initiatives demonstrate intense ambition, and many have been used to bolster academic subjects.
OUTSTANDING ICT LEARNING INITIATIVE OF THE YEAR
- Little Harrowden Primary School, Northamptonshire
- Tideway School, Newhaven
- Saltash.net Community School, Cornwall
- Corseford School, Renfrewshire
- Yester Primary School, East Lothian
- Greensward Academy, Essex
When snow closed schools across Britain, pupils at many of these institutions still had plenty of opportunities to continue learning online.
These schools have not been frightened by the power of web 2.0, but instead embraced it to develop new ways to engage pupils and parents.
For Yester Primary School, this included taking part in a Eurovision Song Contest-style project with 600 other pupils across Europe.
OUTSTANDING SCHOOL DINNER AWARD
- Abbey Manor College (a PRU), London
- ACS International Schools, Surrey, Middlesex