The glitz and glamour of the red carpet themed Educate Awards ceremony made it an A-list evening, but the celebrations didn’t end on the night. Winning schools in Liverpool, Sefton, Wirral, Knowsley, St Helens and Lancashire continued to revel in its success when they returned to the classroom. We reflect on the 2015 incredible awards ceremony by visiting each of the winning schools and finding out what the award means for its whole school community.
This award, sponsored by Vivark, was presented to Gateacre School for its BIG Little Library project at Belle Vale Shopping Centre. To date, the libraries have attracted over 3,500 customers and has given away more than 10,000 books; the project is a perfect example of an excellent idea translated into making a real difference in the whole community. Winning the award for the fourth consecutive year was an amazing achievement for the school, as community co-ordinator Lisa Mitchell says: “I’m really shocked because I didn’t think we’d do it four years on the run. The project we’ve won it for was very worthwhile to us so it means a lot.”
The coveted Teacher of the Year Award, sponsored by Connex Education, was scooped by Peter Fearon of Bebington High Sports College, for his devotion to the Bebington High School Farm. The farm, which was set up to help young people know where food is sourced, how it’s grown and the care needed for animals, is an asset to the school and is motivating children who may otherwise have been disengaged with traditional learning. “This was unexpected to be honest, the kids did it all and I didn’t even know they had nominated me so that’s why I invited them along tonight,” said Peter, co-ordinator of land-based science, having been joined by students on the night. “It’s really hard work running a farm but I know the kids appreciate it because I see them there on a day to day basis.”
Leamington Community Primary School was presented with The Communication Award, sponsored by The Foundry Agency. With a focus on using social media to interact and engage with its community, the school has transformed its communication over the past year. Using feedback from parents, the school has made communication a focused priority for improvement and introduced many measures to much success, such as a new website, monthly newsletters and organising family fun events after school. “We’re just so pleased that we’ve won,” said Leamington’s headteacher, Nicola Truman. “We’ve made a huge effort to try and communicate with the parents and the community and we’re glad that’s been recognised.”
The Science Project of the Year Award, sponsored by MerseySTEM was presented to Bishop David Sheppard Primary for its extensive use of science across the school. Throughout the year, the school continuously provided children with opportunities to excite and extend their scientific knowledge and enquiry skills, through external links with Edge Hill University to school activities such as Science Club. “We are delighted, absolutely delighted” said headteacher Karen Murphy, who was joined by science subject leader Sarah Petrie on the evening. She added: “Sarah leads on our science and has worked incredibly hard to raise the profile of science in our school. It has had a magnificent effect on the children.”
The SEND Provision Award, sponsored by Myerscough College is awarded to a school that demonstrates an increase in the quality of care and education being provided to pupils with special educational needs. The Observatory School in Wirral are certainly worthy winners with its unique and creative approach to learning. The small school has transformed itself into a beacon of outstanding practice with its dynamic projects which include the ‘World’s Wettest Classroom’. We caught up with the school just days before its ambitious journey to Iceland, led by Greg Chiswell of the school. “It’s absolutely fantastic [to win],” said headteacher Elaine Idris. “The team is wonderful; everybody from the pupils, the staff, the governors and everybody associated with the school.”
The District C of E Primary School won the Innovative and Creative Literacy Award, sponsored by MNCO, for its Year of Reading project which immersed pupils in reading, sparked a love of literature and cultivated a reading for pleasure culture at the school. So much so that the idea is now being used by two other St Helens schools who have adopted the Year of Reading and are following in the school’s footsteps. “We’re absolutely overwhelmed; it’s beyond our wildest dreams,” said headteacher Diane Bate, who was joined by project leader Heather Wright and reading champion Lesley McFarlane having collected the award. “We can’t wait to share the award with the children because all of this has been about them, and creating a love of reading for them.”
This award, sponsored by Evoked Workshops, was presented to Netherton Moss Primary School for its dramatic reconstruction of World War 1. The judges noted that the project was ‘outstanding and very moving’ and was an inclusive project which involved every child and several art forms, bringing to life the horrors of the war. “It’s a huge thing [to have won] because the kids value the notion of the awards so much and they kind of expect this to come home,” said Janice Sharp, teacher of music performance and drama. “They’ve put so much energy into it and it’s such a big deal at school. “It’s wonderful to have that recognition because I know how hard people have worked.”
Rainford CE Primary in St Helens won the Spirit of Enterprise Award, sponsored by The City of Liverpool College, for its Dragons’ Den 2015 initiative which has raised money to improve reading in the school and benefit future pupils. Pupils invented a variety of products, including a milkshake bar, sweet kebabs and bath bombs and then went on to pitch the ideas to the school’s 'Dragon's Den' panel. The final rounds involved the pupils creating, advertising and eventually selling the products during 'market days'. “We’re absolutely thrilled to have won,” said headteacher Anya Richardson on receiving the accolade. “We’re so proud of our children who did the work and are always enterprising every day, in lots of little ways. They’re going to be really excited too.”
The 2015 award for Outstanding Arts in a Secondary School, sponsored by Adlib Solutions, was presented to The Belvedere Academy for its production of Oliver. The production involved many of the school’s departments and students across all years; an ‘innovative approach’ which the judges said set them apart. On the evening, talented pupil Darci Shaw performed a solo of ‘Where is Love’ from the show. “We are thrilled and over the moon,” said head of drama, Abi Cox. “It’s down to the dedication of all our pupils and the way the school worked so cohesively as a complete body putting it all together. “It was a massive team effort so we’re just delighted with the outcome.”
Calderstones School was presented with the Career Aspiration Award for its menu of careers opportunities ranging from apprenticeships to Oxbridge. The award, sponsored by GMLPF, recognised the work the careers team contribute to inspiring its pupils and providing them with endless career experience and opportunities. “We do everything we possibly can to give the best careers advice and guidance to our Calderstones pupils, and it’s just lovely to have the acknowledgement because we’ve worked really hard to give them the best opportunities,” said deputy head Sharon Ellis.
The Leadership Team of the Year category brought a second award of the night for Southport primary, Bishop David Sheppard. Sponsored by Progress to Excellence, this category was a new addition for 2015 and acknowledges a leadership team which can demonstrate how the team is on track to achieve its set objectives. Bishop David Sheppard has seen a remarkable transformation across the spectrum under its current leadership, as the school was in danger of closing only a few years ago. “We have worked incredibly hard for this,” said headteacher Karen Murphy, joined by deputy Sue Sullivan and assistant head, Siobhan Bayliff. “I started six and a half years ago when the school was closing and we’re now oversubscribed and a very popular school, and it’s all thanks to the fabulous team.”
Archbishop Temple School in Preston was awarded the Outstanding Teaching of Life Skills award, sponsored by NCS, for its ‘Lad’s Club’ initiative. The project has given young men aged 11-16 a chance to enjoy a wide range of activities while building confidence, friendships and key life skills, all led by positive male role models at the school. Members meet fortnightly and enjoy activities such as camping, climbing, boxing, cinema, outdoor cooking, survival techniques and bowling. “Obviously we didn’t start the initiative to pick up awards, we did it for the lads and we enjoy doing it – that’s the bottom line,” said the school’s assistant headteachers Grant Carruthers and Matthew Baines. “This is just a bonus.”
Magic walls, iPads for all children in years two to six and a weekly radio station were among the initiatives which prompted judges to pick Flakefleet Primary School as the winner in the Innovation in Education category, sponsored by eCadets. The school wanted to create a 21st century environment for its pupils and think of what the future holds for the next generation. Assistant headteacher Carl Sumner picked up the prize alongside former headteacher of nine years, Mike Barnes, who retired this summer. “It’s amazing, we’re blown away,” said Mike.” It’s not just about one project, it’s across the school - the innovation is in every classroom, with every member of staff and every child.”
This category, sponsored by Jamie Carragher Sports & Learning Academy, was presented to Saint Cecilia’s Catholic Junior School. Sport has been revolutionised with the completion of the school’s very own ‘Anfield, Goodison and Olympic Stadium’ and the huge commitment and drive by staff has ensured the school’s sport provision is now outstanding, with many team and individual successes. “Everything we do is for the children in our school and we completely transformed our PE, so now our children can actually do sports when previously there was decking and canopies,” said headteacher Phillippa Agate, who was joined by PE co-ordinator Stephen McCann.
St Margaret’s Church of England Academy took the Outstanding Commitment to Sport title, sponsored by Liverpool John Moores University, for its diverse sports programme, as well as an innovative approach to broadcasting sporting news across social media. Particularly impressive is the Sixth Form’s football team, First XI Football, which has seen an incredible revival over the past 18 months in the hands of its new manager, Greg McLean. Greg has led the team to 31 victories to date, with an incredible 176 goals scored in 44 games. Greg McLean, under-18s football manager and sixth form admin, described receiving the award as a “privilege,” having previously been a former pupil at the school himself. “[The school has] a very dedicated PE department which is interested in every imaginable sport and not just the obvious ones for young people, so it’s a great success,” added marketing director Christine Roberts.
The Most Inspirational Primary School was Halewood CE in Knowsley. The judges noted that the school, which earlier this year celebrated its inclusion in The Times list of top 200 best-performing schools in the country, is much more than a beacon of academic excellence and lives up to its motto of ‘Where children believe, achieve and succeed’. “We’re really delighted to receive this and we really didn’t think we were going to win it but it’s absolutely fantastic,” said headteacher Dave Smith. “The children, the governors and the parents all deserve this, and my chair of governors deserves it as well. We’ve worked so hard and we’re also in the top 200 performing schools this year, which was just announced in The Times. We’re 56th again!”
Sponsored by Carillion, the Eco School Project of the Year was handed to Liverpool Life Science’s UTC’s aquaponics project. The ongoing project with Farm Urban and University of Liverpool has expanded students’ scientific knowledge with ‘unique eco activity’ and provided the opportunity for students to engage with varying methods of sustainability and research. “There was a lot of hard work from ourselves but also from our external partners Urban Farm, who gave us a lot of support for the project,” said vice principle, Ian Parry. “It’s paid off and it’s the start of a whole new adventure we’re developing at the moment so watch this space!”
This award, sponsored by Liverpool Hope University, was presented to Wellfield High School in Leyland. The judges described the school as a ‘phoenix rising from the flames’ and how, by putting pupils and their experiences at the heart of everything they do, the school has been transformed. “I’m delighted for the school, delighted for the staff, delighted for the pupils, and it really is fantastic to have all the hard work recognised,” said headteacher Piers Tolson. “We’ve been through a tough couple of years but really we’ve come out of the other side of it and this is what we feel we should be doing at the moment – receiving the recognition of our hard work, so I’m absolutely made up for everyone.”
Gateacre School finished the night as it started – as winners – having picked up a second prize for its BIG Little Library initiative. The award, sponsored by Paul Crowley & Co, recognises a project which has created that WOW factor in a school and its community. Opened on World Book Day 2015 to encourage more children and adults to read, the BIG Little Library has since received around 20,000 donated books and prompted 10 other ‘Little Libraries’ around the city. “We’re a little bit surprised but it’s a fantastic feeling because there is so much fantastic work that’s gone into this and so much benefit for the people in the community,” said headteacher Gerard Lonergan, who was joined by community co-ordinator Lisa Mitchell. “I think we’re going to need a bigger display cabinet!” added Lisa.