Tes Schools Awards 2020 Winners

The winners of the Tes Schools Awards 2020, were announced on Friday 13 November 2020 at our virtual awards ceremony. Below are the winners in each category. 

The winners e-book is available here.

Services to education award
Yvonne Conolly

The winner of this special award is Yvonne Conolly, the UK’s first female black headteacher.

Ms Conolly couldn’t be a more worthy recipient of this award and has forged a path – despite many early obstacles – that has empowered generations to follow.

When she started as headteacher of a North London primary in the late 1960s, Ms Conolly received so many racist threats that she needed a bodyguard to accompany her to school. But she had the courage to stand firm. More than 50 years later, she told Tes: “It is an important achievement which has opened doors for more women like me.”

Ms Conolly had undertaken three years of teacher training in Jamaica prior to arriving in Britain in 1963 as part of the Windrush generation. She originally intended to stay for only three years.

As headteacher of Ring Cross Primary in Holloway, London, she showed pupils that “we are all the same but different” by inviting her dentist, who was black, into school to give a talk. “The children all sat there and I could see everybody’s mouth was open. They couldn’t believe that a dentist was black,” she said.

Ms Conolly later became a member of the multi-ethnic inspectorate created by the Inner London Education Authority in 1978, in which, she says, “we had to start from the beginning with the whole business of framing practices and policies for our schools, including looking at racism and anti-racism”.

Among her other roles, she was an Ofsted inspector and was chair of the Caribbean Teachers’ Association.

Classroom support assistant of the year 
Julie Hayes - The Heath School

In a category where, as lead judge Rob Webster said, “above and beyond” and “going the extra mile” are common themes, Julie Hayes’ nomination stood out for its ability to show her impact on the lives of people around her.

She joined The Heath School, Cheshire, to support Emma, a student who sustained serious spinal cord injury on a funfair ride aged 12. Ms Hayes ended up playing “no small part” in Emma’s excellent school- leaving results and, according to Emma’s mother, became a lifelong family friend. She said: “The family as a whole needed support to facilitate [Emma’s return to school] and Julie was amazing with her upbeat approach and compassion during what was a very difficult and emotional time – nothing was too much trouble or unachievable in Julie’s eyes.”

Ms Hayes’ impact school-wide is also impressive. She leads on numerous initiatives, including those promoting peer mentors, anti-bullying and mental health ambassadors. She has established rigorous application processes and training for pupils who wish to take on these challenges and has also enabled peer mentor training for other schools.

She set up a cultural club to support students with English as an additional language and celebrate cultural diversity in the school. Ms Hayes is also a school governor.

One of her students said: “It’s difficult to put into words all the amazing things Ms Hayes does for our school. She not only provides invaluable support to vulnerable students directly but gives other [students] the tools to build a healthy school life and help others.”

Sir Kevan Collins, one of the judges, described Ms Hayes as a “dogged champion for under-served pupils”, and praised her efforts completing her own degree course while working full-time.

School business leader of the year
Louise Barber - Discovery Schools Academy Trust

It’s not difficult to see why the lead judge of the category, school business leader and National Association of Head Teachers mentor Hilary Goldsmith, said that Louise Barber’s nomination ticked all the boxes.

Ms Barber, who leads a team of 13 office managers and five central support staff within the Discovery Schools Academy Trust, was praised by the judges for her presence, expertise, attention to detail and positive attitude. But it is her leadership that really shines through.

Ms Goldsmith said: “Louise has done a lot of work on innovative approaches to flexible working and apprentice mentoring; she deputises for the chief executive – she really ticks all of the hot topic boxes that are hitting the role at the moment.”

Ms Barber mentors women to take on leadership roles, and has developed policies and procedures within the trust to empower them to take on new roles through promoting flexible working and diversity.

She has also focused on her own leadership development by studying for an MBA, lecturing on school business leadership national courses and helping to develop the trust’s apprenticeship strategy.

James Brown, deputy leader of the trust, said: “Louise’s most inspiring trait is her desire to learn. Working with children as we do in our schools means that Louise is an extremely positive role model for girls and the women she works alongside.”

The head of estates and admissions at the trust, Nathan Odom, said that Ms Barber’s leadership goes beyond the areas she directly manages. “Louise is very much the linchpin of the organisation, being that one person who everyone will turn to for advice and guidance,” he said. “There is authentic respect and admiration for Louise as a person and as a leader.”

New teacher of the year
Alysha Allen - Brimsdown Primary School

Sponsored by

Teaching and engaging an entire class of primary pupils is already an achievement for a new teacher.

However, having them all progress to above average performance in maths while profoundly deaf, and using a combination of sign language and lip reading to interact with a class of hearing children, is the mark of an exceptional talent.

It’s not surprising, then, that for Alysha Allen, who teaches maths at Brimsdown Primary School in Enfield, this year’s Tes new teacher of the year award is not the first accolade in her young career.

Earlier this year, she received a special contribution award from Maths Hub, a national organisation that aims to recognise excellence in teaching in the subject.

A BBC News video following Ms Allen in class included compelling viewing of pupils using sign language with her and among themselves.

The school recently celebrated 10 years of being an accredited hearing impairment resource base by Signature, the leading awarding body for deaf communications qualifications in the UK.

Her nomination for the Tes Schools Awards reads: “Alysha has inspired us all with her positivity and resilience. She has had much more to deal with in her life than many of us but every day she comes to school with a positive attitude and that’s reflected in the enthusiasm of her class, who love to learn.”

The lead category judge, Samantha Twiselton, praised Ms Allen’s inspiring work, and said: “As always, judging the new teacher category was inspiring and humbling, with so many truly impressive entries. The winner is a fantastic role model for children and teachers everywhere.”

Headteacher of the year
Evelyn Forde - Copthall School

The Tes Schools Awards judges are not the first to notice this school leader: in May 2018, Ofsted said that Evelyn Forde’s “decisive leadership” had “transformed the school”.

Ms Forde is headteacher of Copthall School, a girls’ secondary in Barnet which, in January 2016, was rated as requiring improvement. Two years later, after Ms Forde took the helm, the school was awarded a “good” rating, and Copthall has been in the top 4 per cent of schools nationally for progress at GCSE for the past three years, and the top 1.5 per cent in the 2018-19 academic year.

Progress at sixth form has been significantly above the national average, too, especially among disadvantaged students. A Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) scholarship programme and an Oxbridge programme have now been made available to students.

Beyond results, Ms Forde has been tireless in promoting her school and being a positive role model, recently climbing Snowdon to raise money for Copthall. She is also a mentor to other black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) teachers struggling for promotion and has brought the issue of BAME under-representation to the national press.

A former student said: “Parents, teachers and students alike will be grateful to have a figure like you in charge at this time...your hard work will always be appreciated and everyone is grateful to have you as an amazing leader.

Lead judge Dame Joan McVittie said this was the strongest cohort of nominations she had seen in seven years, but Ms Forde stood out: “The quality and quantity of entries for the headteacher award were exceptionally high. This made judging very challenging and the final winner is well deserving.”

Creative school of the year
Manchester Secondary Pupil R

Sponsored by

The commitment to putting creativity at the heart of what they do at Manchester Secondary Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) was described by the Tes Schools Awards judges as “impressive” and “extraordinary”.

The PRU ensures that the core of academic subjects it covers is enhanced by a focus on identifying and developing strengths in creativity and art, whether through sport or the arts. Across its 26 sites, pupils are offered a range of experiences, such as outdoor education; working with artists and writers; photography; access to art spaces in the city; competitions; opportunities for music recording, production and playing; and visits to the cinema and theatre.

The school has been awarded the Artsmark Platinum Award, the top creative quality standard for schools, accredited by Arts Council England.

Its entry reads: “We feel it is important to give our pupils access to new experiences and opportunities. We believe that these opportunities enhance their skills and provide vital experience for them to become active citizens of Manchester now and in the future.”

The judges were impressed by the school’s commitment to arts: Ty Goddard branded it “extraordinary”, while Vijita Patel said it was “an example of best practice”.

Lead judge for the category, Sir Kevan Collins, said he was “struck by the extraordinary focus on children facing education disadvantage, and the willingness to spend personal time and energy on activities that, sadly, aren’t recognised in the accountability measures but are often the things that matter most. The corporate and governance commitment to the agenda is impressive and perhaps more than you typically see from those leading alternative provision.”

Maths teacher or team of the year
Penketh High School

In 2015, an Ofsted report painted a bleak picture of the state of maths learning at Penketh High School.

It detailed low GCSE results, high staff turnover, inconsistencies in student progress and assessment, concluding that teaching and learning required improvement.

In September that year, a new head of department entered the picture – and with her, four newly qualified teachers, a new marking and feedback policy, a new homework scheme and a restructured curriculum.

Only two years later, maths had become the best performing English Baccalaureate subject and, most importantly, the team had gained strength, becoming what the assistant principal described in the award nomination as the best teaching team he had ever known or had the pleasure to be a part of.

The marking and feedback policies, as well as the homework scheme, have now been adopted by the whole school and other schools within the multi-academy trust – and the maths department is now referred to as the flagship department for the school.

Lead judge Jemma Sherwood, a head of maths herself, complimented the “huge” improvement made to the department.

English teacher or team of the year 
Forest Gate Community School

Social and economical barriers are “a harsh reality” for pupils at Forest Gate Community School, London, the award nomination reads. Before 2016, it continues, there was a low expectation culture and the fact that many students were studying English as an additional language was blamed as the cause of poor student progress in the subject.

A “requires improvement” rating in an Ofsted inspection in 2014 was largely due to those poor results in English. Fast-forward a mere two years and the school had not only improved but had jumped to becoming a top-rated school.

In 2016, Ofsted ranked the school as “outstanding” and singled out the English team as “high performing” in its report. By the following year, the team had the best results in the country, with children in bottom sets getting grade 9s in their GCSEs.

Commitment, the submission says, is “infectious”: English teachers at the school have volunteered to provide a weekly extra lesson after work for Year 11 students since 2014. The team recalls beating “incredible odds” to achieve and maintain those results. And with the submission, it celebrates the legacy of a leader who also had incredible odds to beat.

The assistant head and English teacher Shamimara Uddin was diagnosed with cancer and given months to live in 2015. But she continued working and passed away two years later, maintaining that it was the love of her job and her students that kept her going for so long.

Lead judge Angela Browne said: “The quality of entries was phenomenal and a real testament to the amazing work taking place in English teams up and down the country. Huge congratulations to Forest Gate Community School!”

Science, technology and engineering teacher or team of the year
Ifield Community College and Ardingly College

The story of a group of secondary students completing a 3000km cross-Australia race on a solar-powered car they built – and beating the University of Cambridge and Stanford University in the process – might sound like the plot of a Disney adventure movie, but it’s real.

The pupils were part of the Ardingly Ifield Solar Team and the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia isn’t their only achievement.

Born as a collaboration between Ifield Community College, Ardingly College, 33 companies and three universities, the team designs, builds and runs solar-powered electric cars, with names like The Roadster and Basking Beasty. The project, which aims to increase awareness of sustainable transport, has put together a team composed in equal numbers of boys and girls from both schools.

Beyond raising awareness of sustainable transport, it is giving students access to experiences and skills that will empower them to ace any career, not just in Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths).

The students have led solar energy events with primary schools and encouraged younger pupils to participate. They have also led presentations to the Gatwick Diamond businesses, the Institute of the Motor Industry and other national and international events. The next project of the students is a flat-pack supplied solar-powered vehicle, which can be used in developing countries and act as an off-grid generator for remote schools and medical centres.

Lead judge Jo Foster said that the project was “absolutely exemplary”. She added: “From success in international racing events to effective outreach to other schools both at home and abroad, this project goes the extra mile.”

Lifetime achievement award
Siddiqa Mubashar

Siddiqa Mubashar didn’t just play a pivotal role in establishing Urdu in the curriculum or champion the study of heritage languages during her long service as a teacher, she was also a strong advocate of the rights of women and migrants, and was fearless in her fight against prejudice.

After studying a master’s in Urdu, at 26, she migrated from Pakistan to the UK, working first in community service supporting vulnerable Asian women, and becoming a member of the Rochdale Community Health Council and an executive member of the Council for Racial Equality.

In 1979, she found her calling in teaching and taught for many years in Newham, London. Former colleague Miriam Scharf recalls that, in the 1980s and 1990s, “those who taught non-European languages had to battle continually to get recognition...there were endless ‘micro-aggressions’ as well as outright discrimination”. But Ms Mubashar always stood up for herself and her students. She worked tirelessly for the black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and students with English as an additional language. She also published three textbooks for Urdu teachers, which filled a gap in educational resources.

Sadly, Ms Mubashar recently passed away but her legacy lives on: seven of her children and grandchildren work in education. Nominating her for the award, her daughter, Bushra, said her mother “was a true hero...the epitome of an educator: she was a diligent teacher, a patient mentor, a fastidious examiner and a successful writer. Her contribution to education, over 40 years, is not simply significant, it is revolutionary.”

The judges praised her courage and determination, and her work to ensure that children had the opportunity to study community languages.

Tes editor Ann Mroz said: “This is an exceptionally deserving winner: she fought against racism and prejudice, and empowered generations of students.”

Best use of technology  
Hospital and Outreach Education AP Academy

The Hospital and Outreach Education AP Academy, in Northamptonshire, thoroughly impressed judges for its use of technology to help children who are too ill to attend school.

Lead judge Ty Goddard, co-founder of The Education Foundation and chair of Edtech UK, said that how the school uses technology is not only heartwarming but is a “true area of promise”.

AV1 is a friendly robot, which sits in class to be the eyes, ears and voice of a child who cannot attend school owing to physical or mental health reasons. It has a one-way webcam and a two-way speaker, and can be controlled using a phone or a tablet.

AV1 doesn’t just help the student to catch up on lessons, it lets the them interact with classmates and the teacher, enabling them to feel part of the school community and allaying the loneliness that can arise from being at home or in hospital for long periods of time. The parent of one child, who was extremely ill with cancer, said that when they were using AV1 to join his class, it was “one hour of pure joy, when he was just a normal boy”.

Another child, who had been taught in hospital in isolation for six months, found that using AV1 meant she was “unphased and undaunted” at the prospect of going back to school after treatment, as she never lost connection with her classmates.

Mr Goddard said: “These are tough times for schools and colleges, teachers, parents and pupils; but these nominations for the Tes awards shine through with optimism.

He said they embodied “the spirit of ‘can-do’ and ‘try again’, celebrating the work of educators and pupils. It’s an honour to be a judge, to read and learn of the fabulous work going on across our country.”

Community and collaboration award
St Colm’s High School Draperstown – Ballinascreen Intergenerational Project

The residents of Ballinascreen Fold, a retirement and care complex in Draperstown, County Londonderry, distinctly remember when the students of St Colm’s High School arrived to work on their garden.

One of the residents said: “The meeting of our generations was timely as it came when our community on the Fold was at a low ebb...things seemed to be going downhill for us.”

He recalled that several beloved members of the community had died in the previous 18 months, residents were feeling low on energy and confidence, and on top of that, the garden was in disarray.

He continued: “But then the ‘Seventh Cavalry’ arrived in the guise of children and our situations were turned around.”

Pupils at St Colm’s High School and members of the Cornstore Youth Club, Draperstown, had noticed that the Fold’s garden was in a poor state, so they organised to team up with the residents to revamp it and developed an eco-friendly garden, complete with birdfeeders and features made from recycled tyres.

The pupils also participated in social activities at the Fold and invited residents to a bingo and karaoke night in the youth club.

“The bridging of the gap between generations benefited both age groups, developing good community relations stretching far beyond the timescale of the project,” the award entry reads.

Lead judge Sir Tim Brighouse said: “I am hugely impressed and reassured that there are so many altruistic staff in schools who continue to walk not just the extra mile but daily marathons almost to unlock the talent of their students.”

Environment champion of the year
Catherine Carr - Hunter’s Bar Infant School

When it became clear that the air around Hunter’s Bar Infant School in Sheffield wasn’t top quality, the school decided to take the matter into its own hands. Monthly averages of nitrogen dioxide had exceeded World Health Organisation guidelines twice in two years when Hunter’s Bar partnered with the University of Sheffield’s department of landscape architecture.

Involving the whole school community and more than 50 organisations and businesses across the city, the school built a living green wall around the perimeter of its playground. This is now being studied in a PhD project funded by the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, looking at school playground air quality before and after the construction of a living green pollution barrier.

For the headteacher, Catherine Carr, this is not the first eco initiative. “[Ms Carr] has placed the green agenda at the heart of school culture and development,” reads the nomination.

The school installed solar panels across a whole roof and has won several awards, including the Green Flag award, Modeshift Stars award and the Sheffield Telegraph top eco school award.

The lead judge for the category, Steve Brace, said the entry for Hunter’s Bar really stood out for him. “It showed me what a school can do in terms of identifying a problem, presenting a solution, working with their wider community to deliver it and then being able to share results.”

He added: “We saw inspiring shortlisted entries from small to large schools, rural to inner-city settings and from across the four nations of the UK. All the finalists and winners presented work which deserves to be celebrated and they all remind us of the essential power and positive impact of our teachers and schools.”

Wellbeing and mental health award
Kensington Primary School

For the headteacher of Kensington Primary School, in Newham, London, wellbeing is not about add-ons – it is central to its culture. And in a school that wishes to be “a place where everyone wants to be”, that culture permeates everything, including the curriculum.

Headteacher Ben Levinson, who sat on a task force for improving the wellbeing of UK educators and has worked with the Department for Education to support headteachers in creating a wellbeing culture, decided to counteract the school’s challenges with a new curriculum. Named Curriculum K, the new programme puts children’s physical and mental health first. For example, the health science curriculum teaches children why it is important to stay healthy and how to be healthy.

“In 2018, Newham had the lowest life expectancy and the highest rate of heart disease of all London boroughs. A December 2019 report showed that one in 12 Newham children is homeless,” the school’s submission for the Tes Schools Awards reads. “With many children living in cramped, often temporary accommodation, opportunities for exercise and nutrition are limited. Curriculum K challenges this.”

The school also has an emotional health curriculum which helps children to learn to recognise and name a spectrum of emotions and how to deal with them when they arise.

And if children are well looked after at the school, so are staff. The Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in School’s assessment of Kensington Primary reads: “The wellbeing of staff is paramount...the school has stripped away all activities for staff that are unnecessary.”

Lead judge for the category, clinical psychologist Dr Tara Porter, praised the school’s wellbeing ethos and the headteacher’s “enormous efforts”, adding: “He’s really looked at how to rethink the whole curriculum to put the wellbeing of the children at the centre of what they do.”

Alternative provision school of the year
Stone Soup Academy

When the staff at Stone Soup Academy, an alternative provision (AP) school for young people excluded from mainstream education, decided on a strategy to improve the life chances of their 80 students, they aimed high. “We wanted to give our students a future so they might care more about the present – they might not get involved in crime and violence if they had something to lose – so we set about creating this future for our students,” the school’s submission reads.

Staff decided the key to the success of creating futures was to involve businesses and the local community, so they set up partnerships with 12 local businesses, which offered job experience and placements. Two students were permanently employed and two were offered apprenticeships as a result.

Julie Oliver, head of human resources at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, one of the partners of Stone Soup Academy, said that students had gained confidence and skills, and sometimes a job.

She said: “Those who have turned 16 over the course of the programme have applied for and been successful in gaining part-time employment. I see this as a real success and an opportunity that they wouldn’t have had without the confidence, support and belief of Stone Soup Academy.”

Statistics also show a bright picture: attendance reached above 80 per cent (it’s at 62 per cent for AP nationwide), 100 per cent of all students achieved qualifications, 82 per cent achieved GCSE English and maths.

Lead judge Vijita Patel, principal at Swiss Cottage School Development and Research Centre, added: “What’s fantastic is that, in some of the responses, the families articulate ‘getting their child back’. So the impact they are having for families is quite profound.”

Early years setting of the year 
Riccarton Early Childhood Centre

The highlights of the recent inspection report of Riccarton Early Childhood Centre naturally impressed the Tes Schools Awards judges. It points to inspirational leadership, an enthusiastic team, confident children and involved parents, a focus on improvement and, finally, a “superb” use of data.

But it was the centre’s approach to trauma-informed practice that stood out for lead judge and early education specialist Laura Henry-Allain, which she said is particularly important for early years settings. “I thought that was super important, especially with what has been going on in the past few years – the variety of training, the home visits they have in place,” she said.

“I like that they are quite effective in their tracking and monitoring of what they do, and they have a strong focus on literacy and numeracy, as well as health and wellbeing. And they continuously provide a stimulating environment: it’s a real focus on the needs of the child in terms of their interests, creativity and curiosity.”

The entry from the school, which built a woodland area for children with fundraising from parents, reads: “Children are given time, freedom and space to develop their ideas. The wide range of experiences ensure children develop the necessary skills for life, work and learning. This includes visits out with the centre and visitors who regularly come in to support the learning.”

Ms Henry-Allain added: “It was an honour to be a judge at this year’s Tes awards. It was inspiring to see such a wide range of nominees from across the UK taking part. All of the winners fully deserve their awards.”

Primary school of the year
Broad Heath Primary School

Sponsored by

There is a very clear mix of qualities that makes an award nomination stand out, according to Dame Alison Peacock, the lead judge for the Tes primary school of the year award.

“What I am always looking for is a combination of really great standards of achievement combined with joy,” she explains.

“That’s what’s lovely about primary schools, when you find that combination.”

And Broad Heath Primary School has both in spades.

The school, serving 675 children, some of whom come from families in the bottom 20 per cent of social deprivation, has fantastic facilities, ranging from a swimming pool to an indoor dance studio. It even has a radio station.

Broad Heath also ensures that every child experiences a minimum of three trips a year, with destinations including Japan and Spain.

And it engages with the local community, offering its facilities to parents and providing a range of services, including English language classes.

But it is the attitude of the school that shines through the award nomination. “At Broad Heath, we rise above statistics and instil optimism and self-belief in everyone,” the submission reads.

Dame Alison added: “This school has a motto that says ‘nothing is a barrier’. I love that.”

Secondary school of the year
Heartlands E-ACT Academy

Sponsored by 

With a progress 8 score of 1.46 in the 2018-19 academic year, Heartlands E-Act Academy has been ranked the number one sponsored academy in the country for progress and is sixth overall in the national league tables.

Clearly this is a school that is at the top of its game, but it’s the story behind the statistics that reveals just how extraordinary an achievement this is for the academy.

More than two-thirds of children in the school’s catchment, the Nechells area of Birmingham, grow up in poverty and 69 per cent of pupils are classed as disadvantaged. In response to this, new headteacher Fuzel Choudhury has made clear that disadvantage would not be tolerated as an excuse for a child’s under- performance.

The school’s award entry explains: “We prioritised working closely with our parents and carers, who often didn’t believe that their child could achieve, coming from the community they did.”

The school also invests time and effort in creating positive student- teacher relationships and embracing the community. And it offers cycling training for every Year 7 pupil, so they can be safe when they cycle to school. Meanwhile, its Year 10 students collect, package and distribute food for those in need.

Christine Gilbert, the lead judge for the category, said: “Heartlands Academy is truly ‘a place to empower dreams’. It emerged as the winner, for me, not only because of its outstanding performance but also because of the attention given to developing its students as active change-makers with impact in their local communities.

“This is a school that succeeds against the odds and is doing a fantastic job for its students and community. All involved in the Heartlands Academy... rightly have huge pride in this remarkable school.”

Overall school of the year
Heartlands E-ACT Academy

Sponsored by

Heartlands E-Act Academy united hearts and minds among the Tes Schools Awards 2020 judges.

They were impressed by the school’s ability to overcome social, cultural and economic barriers to achieve fantastic results and become a great institution for staff and students alike.

Sir Tim Brighouse, a former schools commissioner, singled out Heartlands for doing remarkable work. He said: “It was always a struggling school in a struggling area, and appears to be doing remarkable work.”

Another judge, school business manager Hilary Goldsmith, said: “I think it’s Heartlands’ year – they represent that triumph over adversity.”

The judges were also impressed by the staff testimonials provided with the submission pack, commenting on how “genuine” they felt and how happy, valued and supported staff seemed to be.

This is a factor that was singled out by most judges and highlighted as one that carries particular weight, especially in the current climate.

Judge Christine Gilbert, who is a former HMCI, said: “This is a school that makes a reality of the power of education to transform the lives of its students as well as the life of their community.”