The whirlwind of winning still brings a tear to the eye

27th January 2012 at 00:00
For TES's outstanding school of 2011, things have never been better

Headteacher Liam Nolan started crying when he and his colleagues won the Outstanding School of the Year prize at 2011's TES Schools Awards - and he has not stopped since.

The emotional scenes as Mr Nolan and his team collected the award have been repeated regularly during a year in which Perry Beeches School in Birmingham has continued to go from strength to strength.

"I can't help it - it's such an amazing achievement to be chosen out of thousands of potential winners in the country and to know that we are the number one school in the UK," said Mr Nolan. "I cried when I was interviewed on television about the win and I can't help but cry whenever I think about it.

"It was the culmination of five years of hard work. To know that had been recognised, and to know I was the person who was blessed to go up and collect the award on behalf of our outstanding practitioners, was amazing."

Perry Beeches won two awards at the 2011 show, being recognised as both the secondary school of the year and the overall outstanding school of the year.

Mr Nolan arrived at Perry Beeches in April 2007, shortly before it was given a notice to improve. Just a year later, inspectors said the school was "rapidly improving" and - to use a phrase more often associated with X-Factor contestants - was on a "remarkable journey".

The inspectors said that the "inspirational and charismatic leadership" of Mr Nolan had revitalised the school and its community, known as "Team PB", and they also praised the "harmonious and inclusive" atmosphere.

The proportion of children at Perry Beeches gaining five A*-C GCSEs including English and maths has jumped from 20 per cent in 2006 to 75 per cent in 2011.

Mr Nolan said that staff and pupils at the school have "glowed with pride" since the win. "There's a real sense of confidence about Perry Beeches among children, teachers and the school community, and a belief that they are doing a brilliant job. It's been remarkable," he said. "It's shifted the world of our young people. They have even more belief in what we are doing as a school, what they are studying and their life choices. It's like we've all been lifted and rocketed. This is all due to the TES Schools Awards."

This increased confidence has led to continuing exam success for pupils at Perry Beeches. Already, 87 per cent of Year 11 pupils have passed their GCSE in English, with more A and B grades than ever before.

Staff have been inundated with requests for meetings from other teachers and politicians, who want to know the secret of their success. They are also asked to give talks - or "gigs", as they have become known - at other schools.

Education secretary Michael Gove has spoken about the school's success. During his speech at the National College's 2011 annual conference, he hailed Perry Beeches as an example of why "deprivation need not be destiny". Mr Nolan has also met shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg and shadow chancellor Ed Balls since the win.

But what pleases teachers at Perry Beeches most of all is that the awards were judged by their peers: other teachers and members of the educational community.

The two awards sit on the school reception desk, strategically placed so that every visitor can see them. The TES Schools Awards logo is also printed "on every bit of paper that goes out of the school", Mr Nolan said.

"The best thing about it is that it's not just us being boastful; this is professionals saying that we are doing something worth sharing," he added.


The deadline for entries to this year's TES Schools Awards is 25 March. The categories are:

- Outstanding leadership team

- Outstanding businessfinancial team or initiative

- Outstanding sporting initiative or partnership

- Outstanding sustainable school or community partnership scheme

- Outstanding literacy or numeracy initiative

- Healthy eating

- Outstanding ICT partnership

- ICT visionary in education

- Headteacher of the year

- Teacher of the year

- Lifetime achievement

- Primary school of the year

- Secondary school of the year

- Special school of the year

- Overall 2012 outstanding school of the year

- Outstanding resource contributor

To enter, visit

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