Article by James Graves
An ‘inspirational’ headteacher has received the UK’s top education award.
Keith Berry was selected from thousands of nominations to win the crowning award.
Mr Berry, from Blackpool’s Park Community Academy was presented with the Gold award at the Pearson National Teaching Awards.
The honour only goes to a teacher deemed to be the best in the UK.
Mr Berry has led Park Community Academy, a special school on Whitegate Drive, through four successive Outstanding Ofsted inspections over 22 years. Judges described him as “a dedicated, passionate, and skilled headteacher who has devoted much of his life to ensuring the young people in his care achieve the best possible outcomes”.
Despite the challenges faced the students at the school, under Mr Berry’s leadership the school has reached a position of consistent excellence.
He said: “I feel so humbled and privileged to have won this award.
“I was always in awe of my PE teachers at school. From a very early age I decided I wanted to work with young people.
“I enjoyed supporting after school clubs and coaching sessions. That was the inspiration that drove me into the teaching profession.
“I think to reap the rewards that you get from the teaching profession, you have to make sacrifices but it’s such a unique job and has a wow factor.
“You could go into school and perhaps feel down on yourself but when the children come into school you get such a lift from the buzz that they give you really.
“I’ve been a headteacher for 43 years so it’s a long time and I look back and there are so many highs so it’s a great job.
“Even now I would say to anyone going into the profession it’s still the best job in the world.”
Staff development is hugely important for Keith, with his ability to ‘talent spot’ and develop his colleagues essential to the school’s success.
Mr Berry was presented with his trophy at the ceremony at the Roundhouse in London’s Camden to celebrate his outstanding achievement.
The ceremony will be broadcast on BBC2 on Saturday with hosts Sean Fletcher, a regular sports presenter on Good Morning Britain and Countryfile presenter, and Tina Daheley, well known as a newsreader on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show and a regular presenter on Newsbeat.
Trevor Nelson and Cressida Cowell will also present awards, as well as Max Whitlock, Charlotte Ritchie and Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson.
The ceremony comes as new research, published by the Teaching Awards Trust, shows the impact that teachers can have in promoting teaching as a career to the next generation.
The research finds that 53 per cent of teachers in the North West coming into the profession were inspired to do so by a teacher.
The Pearson National Teaching Awards is an annual celebration of exceptional teachers, founded in 1998 by Lord Puttnam to recognise the life-changing impact an inspirational teacher can have on the lives of the young people they teach – many of whom, as we now know, go on to train as teachers themselves thanks to the significant impact their teachers have had on them.
Michael Morpurgo, celebrated author of Warhorse and former Children’s Laureate, and President of the Teaching Awards Trust, said: “It is so wonderful to understand more about how teachers themselves are inspired to enter the profession. This marvellous way of passing it on is one of the many reasons why teachers are so incredible.
“They change the lives of the young people they teach and set them on a path, perhaps without ever realising that they themselves have become the role model, the people that are revered by their own students.
“So many are too self-deprecating to realise this, and that’s why it is so important to celebrate them.
“At a time when everyone is focused on raising the status of the teaching profession and encouraging more young people to come into teaching, we hope this research will shine a light on what teachers do everyday, and encourage them to speak up a bit more about their incredible legacy.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “To win one of these awards, against such strong competition from thousands of talented teachers across the UK, is an outstanding achievement and testament to the passion, skill and dedication of Blackpool’s very own winner.
“Since starting this role, I have been struck by how much brilliant work is going on in our classrooms.
“And I want to ensure it remains an attractive career, which is why we are boosting spending on schools and high needs by a total of £14 billion over three years, raising teachers’ starting salaries to £30,000 in the biggest reform to pay in a generation and working alongside Ofsted and the profession to ensure teacher workload continue to decrease.”
Rod Bristow, President of Pearson UK, said: “Congratulations to all of our award winners on their success.
“We are proud to sponsor these awards each year and to be triumphant among the thousands of nominations is an incredible achievement and demonstrates the extraordinary dedication that each and every one of our winners puts in on a daily basis.
“I am also encouraged to see through the new research that teachers are playing a central role in inspiring the next generation of teachers.”
‘This is a wonderful school’
In 2015 Ofsted inspectors handed the school the highest possible rating for its work with children with moderate, severe and complex learning difficulties.
The report notes how pupils “make great strides” and “exude confidence” thanks to the “outstanding quality of teaching”.
Mr Berry said: “A wonderful sense of achievement has swept the whole school community this week following the announcement that the overall effectiveness of PCA has again been judged as outstanding.
“I am delighted that pupils, parents, staff and governors have all gained well-deserved recognition for their hard work, achievement, commitment, ambition and support for the academy.”
PCA converted to academy status in September 2013, as one of three founder members of the Blackpool Multi Academy Trust with Anchorsholme and Devonshire primaries, having previously been judged as outstanding as a school.
Chairman of governors Susan Fielder said: “This really is a fantastic achievement for everyone and will provide the perfect springboard for the academy’s next steps.
“These are exciting times.”
The school had also received top marks at its previous inspection in 2009.