Education Word Of Mouth: Finally - a genuine reward for teachers

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The Independent Online
Oscars for teachers

WHILE THE Government twitters on about rewarding teachers on the basis of their results (remember the outcry when the Tories suggested something similar?), a more realistic and non-divisive reward system has been launched. It has all-party support and even has the backing of every teaching union. What has brought about such a miracle? Maybe it's because the country's best teachers in primary, secondary and special schools will be nominated for the recently launched 1999 Teaching Awards by those chairing school governing bodies, after the views of head teachers, teachers, parents and, yes, even pupils have been taken on board. What is more, these awards are not related to any form of "inspection" or test. They are run by an independent charity and funded by private sponsorship.

There will be 600 regional finalists, 60 in each of 10 regions, and 150 regional winners. Will the winners profit? Yes, but not for themselves. Their schools will get the cash prizes. Of the 32 national finalists, eight will become national winners, receiving up to pounds 20,000 each for their schools.

The architect and chairman of this bright idea is the film producer Lord Puttnam who is no stranger to winning Oscars (remember The Killing Fields, Chariots of Fire and Bugsy Malone?). "The Teaching Awards aim to make a genuine contribution to the identification and celebration of the achievements of teachers," he said at the weekend. "Awards won't change the world for teachers, but they will go some way towards recognising how teachers can change the world for others."

So many schools have already submitted names that the deadline for nominations has been extended until 31 January 1999.

For further information, contact: Teaching Awards Trust, PO Box 23150, London SE1 7WA.

Tel: 0171-388 1911.

e-mail: info@ teachingawards. demon.co.uk; website: www. teachingawards.demon.co.uk

In league with closures

DID YOU take a peek at those school and college performance tables last week? Bet most of you did, if only to see how your own old school was doing. Mine, in north Manchester, did appallingly - with just 17 per cent of pupils achieving five GCSE passes. Ah, 'twas different when my mates and I were there. The entire sixth form won university places. What has gone wrong with state education? Can it be too much dabbling in the affairs of schools by clapped-out politicians of all parties?

I could name one school, closed by the powers that be, with double the marks of others still alive and kicking. It just doesn't make sense.

Kisses for Ben

I HAVE seen many an honorary degree conferred on a variety of men and women in my time. But last week's awards ceremony at the Barbican was extraordinary. The University of North London awarded the oral poet, Benjamin Zephaniah, an honorary doctorate, and the graduates waiting for their own degrees went wild. Numerous female graduates - and one or two males - went up to Zephaniah to shake his hand and embrace him on stage once they had their own hands pumped by the vice-chancellor, Brian Roper. Warmest embrace came from the children's poet, Michael Rosen, collecting his own doctorate (real, not honorary). "I finished with education at the age of 13 and went on to a series of approved schools," said Zephaniah. "This honorary degree shows the kids out there what is possible."

Twinned excellence

THERE WAS another notable degree ceremony last week when twin sisters Sarmine and Jasmine Ali (pictured), both Whitechapel residents, climbed on stage to collect their degrees. Both studied Pharmacology at the University of East London and each achieved an upper second-class honours degree. Not only that, but throughout their three-year course, each girl clocked up exactly the same marks for essays and course projects. Have they got the same jobs now they have graduated? Ah, that's where the similarity ends.

One of them is working with the customer care service at NatWest, and the other has joined a pharmaceutical company's sales department. Which is which? Don't ask me.

And finally...

THERE IS a "simple question" that Professor Anthony King of Essex University's Department of Government intends to ask when he delivers the Hamlyn Lecture (the legal equivalent of the BBC's Reith Lecture) in 2000AD. According to Wyvern, the university's newsletter, Professor King will point to the Blair Government's radical constitutional reforms and ask: "Does Britain still have a constitution?"

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