The education world came together last week for one of the biggest evenings in its calendar: the Tes Schools Awards 2018.
Celebrating the extraordinary commitment, quality and innovation shown by teachers and support staff across the UK, the night was more special than ever this year, marking 10 years since the event was first launched.
And with more entries and attendees than ever before, London’s Grosvenor House Hotel was packed to the rafters.
The gala ceremony was kicked off in style by the cast from Disney’s West End hit Aladdin, who delivered a bravura rendition of Friend Like Me – before having to hotfoot it across the capital to avoid missing their Friday night performance.
In her speech introducing the awards, Tes editor Ann Mroz reflected on how the event had been launched in the very depths of the global recession – an economic crisis that she said still “scarred” the teaching profession.
But she added: “Whatever the challenges of the past 10 years, teachers and schools have risen to meet them.”
She went on: “If professionals were paid according to their resilience, tenacity and grace under fire, you would all be millionaires.
“What’s more, whatever the circumstances, however difficult those 10 years have been, teachers have never stopped putting students first. It doesn’t matter how many schools I visit, whether they’re in a city or the countryside, in any of the four countries of the UK, I’m never left in any doubt that children are your first, second and only priorities.”
'Celebrating the profession'
Next the audience heard from education secretary Damian Hinds, who hailed the evening as “a great opportunity to celebrate this profession”, and praised the achievements of teachers across the country.
Al Murray compered the evening and had the audience in gales of laughter – except those attendees unfortunate to be sitting close to the stage and in the comedian’s line of fire. Headteachers, union general secretaries and even the education secretary’s policy adviser all found themselves the butt of Murray’s jokes.
This year, there were awards given in 19 categories. Undoubtedly the most moving moment of the night was when Kensington Aldridge Academy in West London was recognised with a special services to education award for its extraordinary response to the Grenfell Tower Fire.
Accepting the award, principal David Benson dedicated it to his teaching colleagues at KAA. “I am delighted to collect this award this evening after what has obviously been a very difficult year,” he said. “You will know our school because every time you see a picture of Grenfell Tower it’s the building immediately underneath the base of the tower.
“No school should ever have to go through the experience of losing a student… we obviously lost five students in the fire and lost access to our building.
“But we kept going. That the school is responding well to Grenfell is a direct result of the support that we have had from the local authority and from central government, from our lead sponsor Aldridge Education Trust, from our governing body, from our senior management and from our students and our parents and our wider community.
“But most of all the reason that we have been able to move forward is because of our staff. You all know and don’t need me to tell you that a school runs on the loyalty and the commitment and the talent of the teachers and the support staff that we work by, so this award is on behalf of all our staff.”
He added: “We’re looking to the future, we’re optimistic about it and this award is a great way to start.”
The team from KAA later returned to the stage to pick up secondary school of the year. Eldon Primary School in Preston received primary school of the year, and Pen Green Centre for Children and their Families in Corby won early years setting of the year and overall school of the year.
The lifetime achievement award went to Denise Fox from Fulham Cross Girls’ School in London for a career spanning nearly 40 years in education.