We hear a lot these days about controversies and arguments in education – it’s a subject everyone has an opinion on and is always one of the most contentious political issues around.
Our schools and colleges seem to be in a state of permanent change. Nothing seems to stay the same for long and it can be hard for the man in the street to keep up. Amid all the brouhaha and turmoil it’s easy to forget that every day in our schools all over Sheffield and around the region, there’s all sorts of great work being carried out by dedicated, usually unsung professionals.
They rarely hit the headlines, often get taken for granted but are the bedrock of our education system.
This is partly what The Star’s Best in Education awards are all about – celebrating all that is excellent in our schools and colleges.
Of course we can’t do it without the help of our readers. Many of this year’s nominations came from parents, carers and sometimes pupils, the people who know our schools the best.
We also had suggestions from the schools themselves, from headteachers, teachers and governors, and from the companies that work in education on a daily basis. The Star awards are special because they cover the whole education spectrum, not just the obvious high flyers – there are 11 categories recognising every aspect of school life.
This year’s awards ceremony was held at the Mercure St Paul’s Hotel in the city centre and featured a host of very special people.
There were two or three top nominees in every category, with the winners presented with their awards by a range of top sponsors keen to do their bit to recognise all sorts of special achievements.
Host for the evening was Pat Munt, headteacher of the 2013 School of the Year, Oughtibridge Primary, while The Star was represented by Deputy Editor Rob Hollingworth.
Those invited included crossing patrol staff who turn out in all weathers to keep our kids safe, and who are some of the true unsung heroes of the education world.
It isn’t so easy as it once was to find volunteers for such demanding part-time work, but those who stick with the job love it and wouldn’t give it up for the world.
The evening also heard about teaching assistants who are doing amazing work above and beyond the call of duty, and headteachers who have gone the extra mile to make their schools the best.
Then there were the dedicated lunch staff who work to make school meals memorable and special teachers who are an inspiration to all who know them.
An award for the greenest school around also examined an area which usually attracts little attention, while many parents had written with their views on which is the area’s best nursery.
And then there were the categories for the pupils themselves, with awards for Most Improved Student, for the Pupil of the Year and for the Best School Sports Team – which this year for once saw the girls grabbing the spotlight.
Perhaps most prestigious of all was the award for the Best School of the Year – but while there was only one winner, there were no shortage of contenders.
In the end the evening proved to be a triumph for one of Sheffield’s smaller schools.
St Thomas of Canterbury RC Primary at Meadowhead has only a little over 200 pupils and is seen by pupils and staff as an extended family to all who learn and work there.
Not only was St Thomas named best school, it also took the awards for best headteacher and best teacher too - as you will read elsewhere in this supplement.
But the evening wasn’t all about the awards – it was a chance to meet and compare notes with fellow professionals, to pick up new ideas and to make new contacts.
Everyone at the event was special in some way, whether they were winners or nominees, and all received due appreciation for their amazing achievements.
The evening was a justified celebration of all that is great about education in Sheffield and South Yorkshire, and proved memorable for everyone who was present.