Teachers were praised for caring for pupils and broadening their horizons, as well as helping them to achieve excellent academic results, at this year’s TES Schools Awards.
Winners recognised at a glittering central London ceremony included a nursery that provides virtually all its education outdoors, a primary that runs trips to the Royal Opera House for pupils from deprived backgrounds and a secondary that prides itself on giving students a rounded education.
The prestigious awards, now in their eighth year, were hosted by comedian Dara Ó Briain, who entertained teachers by joking that the school-based Eat Happy Project from sponsors Tesco was a strange twist on the tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The overall school of the year, Boldon Outdoor Nursery in South Tyneside, which was also named early years setting of the year, was praised by judges for giving children “time and space for deep learning in the natural world”.
“We’re outside whatever the weather, all day every day,” said headteacher Sue Stokoe. “Being outside is where children automatically want to be, and we know children learn when their needs are being met.”
Welfare and wellbeing
In an age of high-pressure testing and high-stakes accountability, many of the winners were praised for their caring, nurturing approach and for giving pupils access to a wide range of experiences.
The secondary school of the year, Stanley Park High in Surrey, impressed judges with its creative and ambitious culture. “At a time of huge pressure on schools, the submission from Stanley Park High made it obvious that the welfare and wellbeing of the children comes above anything else,” they said.
Headteacher David Taylor said he was “surprised and very pleased” to be presented with the award. Stanley Park is a non-selective school in a selective area. Mr Taylor said: “Schools like mine don’t say academic achievement is not valuable, but achievement can be in various guises – it doesn’t just have to be about passing an exam.”
The primary school of the year, Vauxhall Primary in South London, balances rigorous phonics and maths programmes with extracurricular activities such as trips to the Royal Opera House and staging Shakespeare plays at the Peacock Theatre.
The school, which serves one of the most deprived areas of the country, caught the eye of the judges with its “relentless drive to innovate and improve, despite already being at the top of its game”.
“We believe there’s no conflict between creativity and knowledge,” said head of school Edison David. The awards night was “electric”, he added. “We refer to ourselves as the Vauxhall family, and it was wonderful to receive the award on behalf of that family.”
The alternative provision school of the year, the Limes College in Sutton, was praised for “doing everything possible to help its students”, including developing an anti-violence toolkit and a dedicated pastoral support team.
This year’s lifetime achievement award went to Beth Harris, the head of humanities at Archbishop Temple School in Preston, Lancashire. Ms Harris was recognised for her work in making history relevant to generations of young people, with inclusive, cross-curricular projects that involved the entire school community, such as mock political elections.
Speaking from the stage as she collected her award, Ms Harris dedicated it to her fellow teachers. “When you are surrounded by amazing colleagues, it’s easy to do an amazing job,” she said.
The winners were chosen by a judging panel including Natasha Devon, the former government mental health champion for schools; Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union; and Lee Elliot Major, chief executive of social mobility charity the Sutton Trust.
“The standard of entries this year was incredibly high,” Dr Bousted said. “These schools were innovating with the resources they had. They were holding on to their principles, not just [having] a knee-jerk reaction to the latest government announcements.
“We don’t celebrate teachers and teaching often enough, and it was great to have a whole evening where the work of teachers, school leaders and all education professionals was being recognised and celebrated.”
The awards took place last Friday, on the same day as the prime minister resigned in the wake of Britain’s historic vote to leave the EU. As teachers, along with the rest of the country, grappled with shock and confusion about the implications of Brexit, TES editor Ann Mroz spoke of the role they had to play.
“Now, more than ever, our country needs its teachers to reassure and to inspire,” she said in her speech to the event’s 1,000 guests. “So let’s raise a glass to all of you who make teaching such a resilient, creative, caring and, yes, patriotic, profession. Because at the moment, you’re the best hope for the future that our country has.”
The winners in full
Overall school of the year Boldon Outdoor Nursery School, South Tyneside
Primary school of the year Vauxhall Primary School, London
Secondary school of the year Stanley Park High, Surrey
Alternative provision school of the year The Limes College, Sutton
Headteacher of the year Karen Hutchings, New Park Primary School, Liverpool
Early years setting of the year Boldon Outdoor Nursery School, South Tyneside
Creative school of the year Middleton Park School, Aberdeen
Healthy school of the year Bright Stars Nursery, Sunderland
Community and collaboration award Broadford Primary School, Romford
Maths teacher or team of the year Alcester Academy, Warwickshire
Arts and drama teacher or team of the year Victoria Education Centre, Dorset
Science, technology and engineering teacher or team of the year Bordesley Green Girls’ School and Sixth Form, Birmingham
English teacher or team of the year Tameside English Team, Greater Manchester
International (including MFL) award Abraham Moss Community School, Manchester
Teacher blogger of the year Natalie Scott
Bev Evans resource author of the year Paul Urry
Lifetime achievement Beth Harris, Archbishop Temple School, Preston