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TES Schools Awards: 'It was incredible to realise that all of our hard work was being recognised at a national level'

One teacher at Seaham School of Technology, a winner at last year's TES Schools Awards, explains how the prize has been a massive boost to students, staff and parents

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Winning the 2015 Creative School of the Year Award was one of the greatest achievements in Seaham School’s history. Public perception has been transformed, intake is up dramatically, we’ve had higher than usual in-year transfers, applicant numbers are up for vacancies and confidence among students, staff and parents is high; which is all quite simply priceless. The event itself was fantastic; we took 10 key staff who will remember the occasion as one of the best nights of their lives.

In 2011, when in special measures, we decided to revisit our vision and resolved to be creative. We selected a core purpose to "engage minds and broaden horizons”, and to develop “learning experiences that are diverse, flexible, rich, experiential and active". Creativity became integral to curriculum development. 

Stimulating learning

Our first project was to refurbish derelict or unused areas to provide a stimulating environment for learning. The staffroom was redesigned as a cross curricular project called Room X. Its incarnations have included a murder scene for forensic study in science, a Banksy art gallery for art and English, a coal mine for science, geography and history, and it is currently set as a desert island for photography, art, English and geography.

Our second project was to use every available space, including doors and walls, to enhance learning using prompts and visual aids. We redesigned a derelict area into a First World War trench to commemorate the centenary, and promoted participation with a visit to the battlefields, remembrance ceremonies and an international project to commemorate the Christmas Truce as part of the “Football Remembers” campaign. In conjunction with Sunderland Football Club, Beamish and Durham local authority, we hosted 15 students from Alpen in Germany for a week. 

We have also introduced an activities week to enrich the curriculum and have entered students in competitions to redesign local historical buildings. Our students developed skills in stone masonry, making stained glass windows and carpentry, and Seaham teams were secondary school winners in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The impact on achievement has been dramatic. In two of the last three years Seaham has been in the 1st percentile for value added and outcomes have risen significantly. It was an incredible feeling to realise that all of our hard work was being recognised at a national level.  

Entries are now being taken for TES Schools Awards 2016. For a full list of categories and to enter, visit the awards website. Entries close at midnight on Sunday 6 March 2016.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Grosvenor House hotel in London on Friday 24 June 2016.

Geoff Lumsdon is deputy headteacher and a history teacher at Seaham School of Technology in County Durham

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