Annual education awards celebrate our schools

By Simon Hart

‘It is a celebration of many of the different facets of Catholic education that take place in our schools on a daily basis, but often the light is not shone on them.’ So says Chris Williams, Deputy Director of Education of the Archdiocese of Liverpool, when summing up the significance of the annual Archdiocesan School Awards.

With a broad range of 12 categories covered, the awards shine a light not only on teaching excellence but activities such as contributions to the local community, sporting feats and even entrepreneurship.

This year’s winners were announced in November, later than usual owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, and they included a School of the Year award for Carmel College, St Helens. Tim Alderman of St Julie’s Catholic High School in Liverpool earned the prize for Secondary Headteacher of the Year, while the Primary Headteacher award went to Dominic Vernon of St Vincent’s Catholic Primary School, Warrington.

The full lists of winners, along with the other nominees on the three-strong shortlist per category, is as follows:

Carmel College, St Helens
Faith Primary School, Liverpool
Saints Peter and Paul Primary School, St Helens
Contribution to the Community:
Holy Family Primary School, Halewood, Knowsley
Blessed Sacrament Primary School, Liverpool
Our Lady Queen of Peace Engineering College, Lancashire
Creative Team Project:
Andy Longden, Subject Leader of Performing Arts – Our Lady Queen of Peace Engineering College, Lancashire 
Andrew Byers – St Mary’s College, Crosby, Sefton
Kevin Kelly – Hope Academy, St Helens
First XV Rugby squad – St Mary's College, Crosby, Sefton
Scarlett McMahon – Our Lady Queen of Peace Engineering College, Lancashire
Connall Pilling, Adam Swift and Joseph Winstanley – St Wilfrid's Primary School, Wigan

Young Entrepreneur:
Eco Committee Students – De La Salle High School, St Helens
Olivia Eren – Saints Peter and Paul High School, Widnes
Isla Graham – Saints Peter and Paul Primary School, St Helens

St Peter's Primary School, Warrington
St Gabriel’s Primary School, Wigan
The Academy of St Francis of Assisi, Liverpool
Inspirational School Support:
Diane Moss, Primary Transition Co-ordinator for Sport – Holy Cross High School, Lancashire 
Laura Fee, Family Support Worker – Sacred Heart Primary School, Chorley, Lancashire
Martin Malone, College Chaplain – St John Rigby College, Wigan
Inspirational Teacher:
Lee Peachey, Deputy Headteacher – St Mary's High School, Wigan
Deb Harris – St Bede’s High School, Lancashire
Hannah Austin – St Francis of Assisi Primary School, Skelmersdale, Lancashire

Governing Body:
St Cuthbert's and St Sebastian's Primary Schools, Liverpool
St Francis of Assisi Primary School, Skelmersdale, Lancashire
St Teresa's Catholic Primary School, Upholland, Lancashire
Primary Headteacher:
Dominic Vernon – St Vincent's Primary School, Warrington
Phil Bates – St Anne’s Primary School, Ormskirk
Sarah-Jane Carroll – St Laurence’s Primary School, Knowsley
Secondary Headteacher:
Tim Alderman – St Julie's High School, Liverpool
Andrew Dawson – St Mary’s High School, Wigan
Matt Symes – Holy Family High School, Sefton
School of the Year:
Carmel College, St Helens
Blessed Sacrament Primary School, Liverpool
Faith Primary School, Liverpool
The public health restrictions meant there was no opportunity for the annual awards dinner, usually staged each May, but as Mr Vernon, the Primary Headteacher of the Year from St Vincent’s in Warrington, stressed, the recognition earned was no less gratefully received by him and his ‘passionate and committed’ team.

‘I see this very much as recognition of what we have achieved as a school, so it is received on behalf of my whole school – staff and governors, with huge thanks to them for all that they do for the children and community of St Vincent’s,’ he said.

The task of choosing the winners fell on judging panels comprising representatives from schools, different departments of the Archdiocese, partner organisations and also past winners. According to Chris Williams, the year-on-year rise in the number of nominations made it harder than ever to select the winners in what was the fourth edition of the awards.

He explains: ‘We struggled at first to get schools to nominate themselves such is the modesty we had out there but we encourage them to stand back and reflect on everything they do.

‘We get a greater breadth now and it’s very difficult to identify a short list of three in each of the 12 categories and equally to identify the winning entry in each category. I always say to head teachers when we receive the submissions that it’s both a challenge and an honour in equal measure. For those of us tasked with leading the decision panels, we get to learn and to read so much that we didn’t know about what happens in our schools. That is the joyful thing.

‘It’s a reminder to us all that the work that goes on in our schools is far beyond simply “being there for Ofsted”, and I know that’s a bit of a cliché but it’s a reminder of the distinctive and broad provision in our schools that reflect the Christian values of working for the common good, working collegiately, and working across schools, parishes and communities.’