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TES Schools Awards - Wanted: winners worthy of top marks for effort, innovation and achievement

In the second part of our series on the new TES Schools Awards, members of the judging panel describe the qualities they will be looking for in five of the 16 categories. Assessments take place this term, so be sure to submit your entry without delay

The new TES Schools Awards seek to foster, recognise and reward teamwork and collaboration in schools across 16 categories. They will celebrate the professionalism and flair of teams that have made an outstanding contribution to primary and secondary schools in the maintained and independent sectors. Winners will be announced on 9 June.

Derek Bell, head of education at the Wellcome Trust and chief executive of the Association for Science Education, is full of praise for the awards: "They endeavour to support and recognise the importance of teamwork and collaboration that is so vital for creating an environment conducive to effective teaching and learning," he said.

"The awards should encourage teachers, support staff and young people in schools and colleges across the country to demonstrate and promote the high-quality practice that goes on every day."

Outstanding Special Needs Initiative

Judges will be looking for understanding of children's needs and evidence of ideas that schools have implemented to meet them.

Jeanne Keay, dean of the school of education at Roehampton University in south-west London, commented: "I want to see how the school works to include any child that has particular special needs."

This does not necessarily need to relate to one pupil, but various children who need different types of attention.

Malcolm Trobe, a former headteacher and a past president of the Association of School and College Leaders, is seeking signs of original thinking. "I will be looking for schools that are doing something that hasn't been thought of before and has had an impact on the lives of young people within the school."

Dr Bell believes this award is particularly important: "We owe it to all young people to help them realise their potential and encourage them to develop the talents they have," he said.

"Understanding better how to meet the needs of children with special needs is important in its own right, but it can also inform approaches to teaching and learning more widely."

Outstanding Community Involvement

This award is for schools that demonstrate a hub of learning that branches out in the community, that have teamed up with others and can demonstrate the benefits - to both parties. It will recognise partnerships with a local university, further education college, independent school, business, or another group or organisation.

The judges will be keen to see testimonials from relevant partners.

Dr Keay explained: "We would like to see evidence that the idea of working with the community has been initiated, how it has been taken forward, how it was considered, and how it became appropriate for both the school and the community."

Sir Tim Brighouse, former commissioner for London schools, believes that community involvement is what lifelong learning is all about. "Schools need to celebrate a wider school community and the community itself," he said.

Sustainable School of the Year

Many schools have made marked improvements in sustainability by carrying out improvements to the fabric of the building or fitting new energy systems.

But Michael Spinney, head of The Beacon School for boys, near Amersham, Buckinghamshire, believes a sustainable school is about more than the building itself. "I'd like to see an ethos where everybody recognises they can make a small difference and that together this can make a real difference. I'd like to see this done with real passion," he said.

Dr Bell added: "Without being over-dramatic, all our futures depend in developing ways in which we humans use resources in a more sustainable fashion. Sustainability should permeate everything we do so where better to start than in schools?"

Robin Nicholson, a senior partner at award-winning Edward Cullinan Architects and chair of the Zero Carbon Trust, says he will judge this category quantitatively. "I am looking for actual figures of energy performance to determine how sustainable the school is. The big factor is a low-energy school."

Personalised Learning Initiative of the Year

Personalised learning is hard to achieve with mixed-ability classes; The TES wants to reward outstanding initiatives that assist all pupils.

Sir Cyril Taylor, former government adviser on specialist schools, defines an outstanding initiative in this field as "setting individual learning targets for each student in every year group, use of data to monitor progress, and the achievement of good examination results".

Dr Keay explained that she will be looking for evidence of outcomes.

"Many schools have great ideas, but quite often they don't work. I want evidence that schools have created an initiative and it really works," she said.

For example, teachers may have adapted their teaching styles or the curriculum, undertaken special projects to ensure that particular individuals or groups do not fall behind, or created systems for monitoring pupil progress that their colleagues find genuinely useful.

Mr Trobe, former ASCL president and retired headteacher, stresses that personalised learning does not mean individualised teaching.

"Personalised learning is when students get the appropriate information and guidance, where teachers identify with the needs of the pupils without finding the need to work with them individually," he said.

Outstanding Staff TrainingDevelopment Initiative

The TES will examine schools' overall strategy in developing and training staff, including the annual budget, professional development, mentoring and general culture.

If your school rewards staff performance in an unusual way, the panel would like to hear more.

This award should not be about just the school and its staff, Dr Keay believes.

"What is most important for me is whether the staff training and development initiative has had an effect on the pupils, and if so what affect it has had.

"People go on staff training and development programmes and (to) conferences and I find they focus too much on themselves as teachers, rather than the impact on the pupils' learning.

"It's a very circular approach: who has decided on the initiative, how they developed it and what results they have seen?"

This award will be judged on the positive effect the initiative has had on pupils' learning.


Primary School of the Year

Secondary School of the Year

Outstanding Leadership Team

Outstanding Literacy Initiative

Outstanding Numeracy Initiative

Outstanding Sporting Initiative

Best e-Learning Initiative

Outstanding Special Needs Initiative

Outstanding Community Involvement

Sustainable School of the Year

Personalised Learning Initiative of the Year

Outstanding Staff TrainingDevelopment Initiative

Outstanding New or Refurbished Primary School

Outstanding New or Refurbished Secondary School

Best School Dinners

Outstanding Recruitment Advertisements Campaign


For more information, E:, T: 020 3194 3097 or


Top row, left to right: Sir Tim Brighouse, former London schools commissioner; Sir Cyril Taylor, former government adviser on specialist schools and academies; Derek Bell, chief executive, Association for Science Education; Jeanne Keay, dean, school of education, Roehampton University.

Bottom row, left to right: Prue Leith, healthy food champion; chair. School Food Trust; Annette Montague, schools director, Youth Sports Trust; Joan Olivier, retired head, Lady Margaret Secondary, Parson's Green, London; Michael Spinney, Head of The Beacon School, Amersham, Buckinghamshire.

Also on the panel: Malcolm Trobe, former ASCL president and retired head; Keri Facer, professor of education, Manchester Metropolitan University; former research director of Futurelab.

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