2016 winners blogs

Overall School of the Year 2016 and Early Years Setting of the Year 2016

Boldon Outdoor Nursery School, Boldon Colliery, South Tyneside

‘The impact of entering and winning the awards has been huge’

If you’re thinking of submitting an entry for 2017, then please do, do, do.

It’s been the most amazing six months for Boldon Outdoor Nursery School, and it’s not over yet. The emotions, feelings and camaraderie the evening creates get you through the toughest of days and the longest of terms.

Both trophies take pride of place in our welcome area, standing tall in a new lighted cabinet, drawing attention from all who enter. I love recalling every moment for visitors, from submitting the entry, the backing of our parents, our journey to London, to the announcement that we’d won the awards. I know that I glow and my face lights up whenever I recall the event.

We’re a small nursery school, in a small ex-mining community in the North-East of England, which submitted an entry about its pedagogy for a major award. Sometimes we feel we are so different, so off-the-scale, that people find it hard to understand how we do what we do and why we do what we do. I remember being so excited when finding out that we had been shortlisted for the early years setting award, thinking that perhaps someone had finally understood what we are about.

There are two words that drive the pedagogy at Boldon: childhood and nature. Through this pedagogy, children grow to be confident, independent, resilient, motivated learners, developing life skills and achieving great things. We use nature, its seasons and elements to drive the curriculum, to consolidate the learning, and to conjure up the awe and wonder.

When we found out that we had been shortlisted, sharing the news was very special, made even more so when as a team we decided to make a weekend of it all and also celebrate two staff 50th birthdays. 

On the morning of the event there was a party atmosphere for all children attending from 8.30am until 11am (no mud or water allowed) and then one mad rush for the 12pm train to London!

During the ceremony, I remember seeing the short film clips of the shortlisted settings and thinking that even if we didn’t win, we knew that we couldn’t work any other way. On hearing our names being announced as winners, shrieks, laughter, gasps and cheers rang out. We were so proud.

Then the shock hit us: winning Early Years Setting of the Year and then winning the Overall School of the Year Award caused a huge wave of emotion. Time stood still, all the people around us were on their feet and we just sat there, forgetting to breathe and not moving. 

The impact of entering and winning the awards has been huge. Staff confidence, self-esteem and inspiration are now at an all-time high. We get visitors from near and afar, all wanting to know more about us and what we do. But more than that, it has given us the “permission” to continue our own love of learning with and in nature and to promote this amazing way of learning. After all, 18 judges can’t have got it wrong.

Sue Stokoe, headteacher


Maths Team of the Year 2016

Alcester Academy, Warwickshire

‘I was quite simply blown away’

To be shortlisted felt like a massive pat on the back for the tremendous hard work the team have put into creating what we have at Alcester Academy. Then to win the award confirmed what I already knew: I have one of the best maths teams ever. Guiding a department on the journey we have been on and increasing the life chances of more and more children is what I came into teaching for. 

We all know that sometimes teaching is a thankless job (the rewards generally come on results day), but Alcester Academy’s recognition at the TES Awards simply made it the best year of my career. 

Since winning, we have been inundated with requests for guidance and support, which we are only too happy to accommodate. This award has helped to publicise the support we love to offer and our ideas are now being replicated up and down the country. 

The night itself was a pleasure to be part of – hundreds of teachers all being recognised for the hard work they put into developing youngsters. It’s easy to think that what we do as a profession is “just a job”, but being at the Grosvenor House hotel in London and hearing all the nominees’ stories was tremendous and demonstrated that it is anything but.

The personal and team battles that improved results, developed relationships or boosted life chances were humbling. 

I had never attended an awards ceremony such as this before, and I was quite simply blown away.

Christian Seager, maths subject lead


Creative School of the Year 2016

Middleton Park School, Aberdeen

‘When we heard the name of our school being read out as the winner, it was a magical moment’

We are a small school in the north-east of Scotland with 200 pupils in the primary school and 40 children in the nursery. Creativity and community are at the heart of everything we do and we work closely with our families and numerous partners to provide rich learning experiences for our pupils.

We take every opportunity to share our learning with our families and a growing global audience through our Live Learning video channel. Every Friday, our pupils upload a new film that they have created to share their learning. This has empowered our pupils, raising aspirations and attainment and building an inspirational community of learners. 

Our school community was thrilled when we were shortlisted for the Creative School of the Year award, and we were honoured to be part of the prestigious awards dinner at the Grosvenor House hotel. We didn’t expect to win, so when we heard the name of our school being read out as the winner it was a magical moment. As we walked to the stage there was such a lovely feeling of warmth and goodwill from the other guests. We were cheered and given numerous “high fives” on our way and felt so proud to be accepting the trophy on behalf of our school community. 

The award has pride of place in our school and has been truly empowering. It has given us the confidence to be even bolder in our approach to learning. We have embraced the power of staff, pupils, parents and partners working together and made further changes to how we deliver our curriculum.  

As a school we understand the need to ensure that literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing programmes have to be effective and embedded across all stages. But to bring learning alive there has to be a “sprinkling of magic” to engage and inspire pupils. Since winning the award, we have placed even more importance on ensuring that the learning experiences we offer are innovative and raise aspirations.

It has been an amazing year for our school.

Jenny Watson, headteacher


Lifetime Achievement 2016

Beth Harris, head of humanities, Archbishop Temple School, Preston

‘An event rewarding teachers is refreshing, gratifying and very welcome’

I have spent 32 years in the teaching profession, having started straight out of teacher training at Loughborough. Would I swap this for anything else? Certainly not.

I have made many friends whom I will keep for life, including the teacher who was at an interview at my first school on the same day as me.

I do feel as if I have achieved something in my career as a teacher of history and made a difference. Thousands of children have filed in and out of my various classrooms. I like to think that I have engaged the youngsters with the past, both in and out of the classroom – whole-school memorial services, theatre trips, visits to battlefields and museums, as well as mock elections and referendums.

One indication of success is the large number of pupils who have gone on to study history at A level and at university.

In a career spent chasing targets and achievement, instances of congratulations for teachers are unfortunately few and far between. As a profession, teachers are brilliant at praising pupils, but reluctant to praise themselves. The very nature of our work, and the ever-changing demands of our audiences, mean that we will always be self-deprecating. So an event rewarding teachers is therefore refreshing, gratifying and very welcome, as demonstrated by the delight of the award recipients at the ceremony; a delight that became increasingly more evident as the evening progressed.

I am leaving a profession in which I have had a ball. At times exciting, emotional and stressful; how else would we have swum in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, taken pupils to Wimbledon to watch the men’s singles final, or sweet-talked our way into the Party in the Park?

I feel that this award gives recognition for my endeavours, as well as demonstrating the respect that I hope I have gained throughout my career. As a teacher, the inevitable question is, how do I know this? The response of my pupils has made it all seem worthwhile, year after year. This has been endorsed by TES, in presenting me with this prestigious award.

Is my career over? Maybe not: persuading the history department to include Berlin as part of its enrichment is now a priority, as well as booking my place on the next battlefields visit.