Catholic schools from across the north-west were honoured at the prestigious Educate Awards at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral.
Wigan's St John Rigby College, The Academy of St Nicholas, St Sebastian's Catholic Primary School and The Academy of St Francis of Assisi in Liverpool, and Hope Academy in Newton-le-Willows all took plaudits at the sixth edition of the awards, which are the biggest celebration of education in the north-west.
In front of nearly 600 guests, broadcaster Simon 'Rossie' Ross helped hand out 21 awards to schools and staff from the Liverpool area, Lancashire and Cheshire.
Two Catholic schools were among the main winners at the evening ceremony on Friday 17 November. St John Rigby College took the prize for most inspirational 16–18 education provider. The college, in the Orrell district of Wigan, is one of just three sixth-forms recognised as outstanding under Ofsted's new inspection format.
St John Rigby's inspirational work transcends inspections, however, with its innovative elective programme giving students work-experience opportunities and skills for the future. Working in tandem with employers, the college equips students with the skills to go on to employment, apprenticeships or university. Its pupils also provided music at the glamorous awards event.
The college's principal Peter McGhee said: 'It is a privilege to collect the award on behalf of our students. They inspire us to be the best we can be every day, and we have a remarkable group of staff at the college and for their work to be recognised through this award is a joy. To be able to celebrate all that has gone on in the college over a number of years is wonderful – it is a very, very special college.
'I have never had the privilege of working anywhere where the whole staff have pulled together so much to do everything they can to improve the life choices of our young people.'
Meanwhile, Ruth Partington, director of maths at The Academy of St Nicholas in south Liverpool, was named teacher of the year following numerous nominations from staff members. Ruth had been described by colleagues as 'one of the most dedicated teachers and leaders you will meet', with assistant head of school Andrea St John adding: 'Gems like Ruth are rare and should be polished.'
The winner herself paid tribute to her school, saying: 'The Academy of St Nicholas is very much a family unit. We are all here to help the students and to support each other. This is the type of school where you can really mould and develop students into being the best they can be; to encourage them to be the first one in their family to go to university or to go on to further education and apprenticeships.'
In total, 14 Catholic schools were recognised for their excellence in education and were either shortlisted or named as a runner-up across a variety of categories. Among these were St Sebastian's in Fairfield, Liverpool, which finished second in the field of outstanding arts in primary school; The Academy of St Francis of Assisi in Kensington, Liverpool, which placed second in the career aspiration award; and Michelle Goodwin from Newton-le-Willows' Hope Academy who came runner-up for school support star of the year.
Kim O'Brien, founder of the Educate Awards, said: 'The awards are an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the teaching profession and say thank you to the remarkable individuals who improve the life chances of our children. We are proud to host this event which champions the creativity, diversity and dedication of teachers, school support stars, schools and colleges in the Liverpool city region, Cheshire and Lancashire. Congratulations to all the winners, runners-up and shortlisted schools.'
Hundreds of entries had been sent in across the 21 categories of the awards, which are organised in partnership with Copyrite Systems and Ricoh. The difficult task of shortlisting fell upon an esteemed judging panel which featured Michelle Dow, managing director of All About STEM; James Tartt, Merseyside track athlete and architect; Radio City breakfast host Leanne Campbell; councillor Gary Millar, assistant mayor and mayoral lead for business and international trade; Chris Walker, regional managing editor of Trinity Mirror North West and North Wales; Lesley Martin-Wright, chief executive of Knowsley Chamber; Fiona Barnet, director of The Foundry Agency; Andrew Pimbley of Wirral's Claremont Farm; Sue Cronin, head of teacher education at Liverpool Hope University; and the education team at the respected Everyman and Playhouse Theatres.