“The Pearson National Teaching Awards gives us a unique opportunity to champion exceptional teaching professionals across the UK. The judges work on a voluntary basis and judging is an independent and peer-led process. The majority of the panel members are practising teachers and many are Teaching Award winners. The panel also includes representation from organisations across the educational spectrum. We are grateful to these dedicated professionals who give their time to ensure a smooth and credible process for those involved and to help celebrate the amazing people who work in our schools.”


Chair of the Panel, Sharon Hague

Sharon is Senior Vice President at Pearson where she has worked for over 21 years. She is responsible for the development and delivery of qualifications and assessments together with providing primary and secondary with high quality teaching and learning resources.  She has extensive experience of working closely with governments, schools and other partners to provide services that help children and young people make progress in their lives.  Sharon is an advocate for inclusivity both in the workplace and within education.

Sharon graduated from Oxford and trained as a qualified teacher and taught in schools in Essex and Hertfordshire for 8 years.  She is a speaker for the charity, Speaker for Schools, and is a governor at a secondary and primary school.



Adrian Kneeshaw

Adrian has been a senior leader for 15 years, working within the Calderdale and Bradford local authorities. In his eight years as Headteacher, he has taken three schools out of Special Measures, taking two to ‘Good’ ratings and one to ‘Outstanding. He has also recently taken a ‘stuck school’ to its first ever ‘Good’ rating. He is best known for his work at Carlton Bolling, an ‘Outstanding’ rated secondary school in inner-city Bradford, which gained ‘World Class School’ accreditation in 2018 and became winner of The Award for Making a Differnece – Secondary School of the Year in the 2019 Pearson National Teaching Awards. He is now CEO of the Carlton Academy Trust.

Alan Steer

Sir Alan was head teacher of Seven Kings High School, Ilford, from 1985-2008.

He was Secondary Education Advisor for the Department for Children, Schools and Families from 2005-10, and chaired a review of Behaviour in Schools and Associated Issues.

Sir Alan is former pro-director of the Institute of Education, University of London.

He is a Council member of the New Visions for Education Group, as well as director and national judge of the Teaching Awards.

Ava Sturridge-Packer CBE

Ava has served as a Head Teacher for 20 years and her teaching career also included serving as a Teacher Governor and a Parent Governor. For this reason, Ava has a wealth of experience and knowledge to share with existing and future governors as she firmly believes that irrespective of who you are or whatever your background, you do have something to give in support of a school.

Becky Newman

“I have worked in Education for just over 10 years. I started out as a mid-day assistant and then as a teaching assistant. In 2010 I won a teaching award for Teaching Assistant of the Year. Since then I have become a maths teacher and teach GCSE maths at a Secondary School in Suffolk. I feel very honoured to judge for the teaching awards, I have met some very inspirational people and seen some outstanding work, but most importantly I have seen the impact this has on the Children they work with.”

Ben Levinson

Ben has joined the panel this year to judge the Lockdown Hero Award for Learner and Community Support.

As Head Teacher, Ben Levinson has led Kensington Primary School to its current status of a flagship school in various areas from inclusion to wellbeing & winning 3 prestigious awards in 2020 including a Gold Teaching Award for Primary School of the year.

Under Ben’s guidance KPS has launched an innovative new curriculum at the school, specifically developed to provide the best outcomes for their pupils.  Ben is a member of several advisory groups and boards aimed at improving the well-being, safeguarding or social care of children.


Bob Twells

Bob has been in teaching for 30 years and recently retired after 20 years of headship. He says: I  thoroughly enjoyed my time and now stay in contact with schools through my new role of consultant. Before ‘ED’ I was in the RAF finishing my career on 50 Squadron-Vulcan bombers
I am married to Gill, have three children, two dogs and live in the lovely village of Claygate, Surrey. I love walking, travel, cycling and swimming and cannot resist visits to art galleries (I even ran one for a short period). I also enjoy cooking and even catered for two different weddings.

Catherine Power

Catherine won the Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School in 2013. She has been the head of St Philip Evans in Llanederyn, Cardiff, for 15 years. Her passion for her work and care for the staff and pupils of the school ensure that the school community always works towards continuous improvement, enabling future generations to have the best start possible in education.

Dale McMorran

Dave McPartlin

Dave has joined the panel this year to judge the Lockdown Hero Award for Learner and Community Support.

He is proud to be involved in these special accolades which recognise the extra mile that schools have gone during the Covid Pandemic. Headteacher of 2019 silver winning school, Flakefleet Primary School, Dave has a passion for raising aspirations and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing. In 2019, his school reached the finals of Britain’s Got Talent as part of their Dreams List challenge and in 2018 were awarded Britain’s Happiest Primary School.

Jashu Vekaria MBE

“Can you imagine, my passion is my job and I was being rewarded for a job I love?  It was one of my proudest moments!”

Jashu Vekaria
Winner, the Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School, 2016
Currently Deputy Headteacher Uxendon Manor Primary School


It was wonderful receiving the award as it felt I was the voice for all teachers.  As you can imagine winning such a prestigious award makes you feel both humble and elated. My career began in the London Borough of Harrow in 2002, 16 years later I won the teaching awards while working in the London Borough of Brent.  My passion for teaching remains strong and the award was a wonderful affirmation on rewarding me for a job that I simply love to do.

Following on from the award I was given many opportunities to be on TV, radio, newspapers and even written my own articles. Achievements and experiences beyond my wildest dreams and personal precious moments; these privileges would never have had happened without this award.  My career has taken an upward turn as I have reflected even more as a practitioner and have now completed my National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH).

Teaching for learning is in my blood and the experience does make you question the impact you are having on every single learner.  Striving for excellence for all pupils has always been my aim.  Every child does matter and the many roles as a teacher, carer, nurse, counsellor, negotiator and investigator highlights what a diverse and rewarding career I have the honour to be part of.

Furthermore, this year I was shortlisted for the Asian Woman of Achievement awards for teaching.  During the awards ceremony I received a high commendation.  This was truly a wow moment too as it showed how far teaching has come.  It felt like a corporate event in a very corporate world so to represent the teaching profession was fantastic.


Teaching is my vocation.  It is the very essence of me and I have always wanted to be a teacher from a very young age.  However, it was my first head teacher who noticed my potential when I was a newly qualified teacher.  She really encouraged me and focused her energy on the quiet, shy person I was back then.  Her praise and care, allowed me to blossom and my self-confidence as a teacher grew.  Shortly afterwards, I became an Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) and my role within the school developed, as did my role in the borough – this is when I started in-reach and out-reach work.

My teaching style has adapted to the numerous changes the government throws our way.  I have always had a friendly, relaxed approach with my pupils.  Learning should be fun yet at the same time, progress needs to occur in every single lesson.  This has always been my motivation.

Pastoral care is as old as time in teaching.  This is the heart of teaching.  Of course learners need to learn the academics, however, if a child has come to school without breakfast – we feed them.  He or she has a dirty jumper – we clothe them.  If a child is thirsty or hurt physically or emotionally we take care of them. If these things are not in place – how can a learner learn? It is part of the job, however it is more than a job – it is my life.

Everybody has an opinion on teaching – whether it is positive or negative.  Social media just feeds their ideas – both positive and negative. Linking back to the teaching awards, this was extremely beneficial because it connected me to the world at large.  The sense of achievement felt profound because I felt inspired by all the comments from around the world.  Being Asian, my community (and the wider world) really supported and encouraged me.  Also, being a woman, I feel I have now inspired others.  In life you have to give and take and I believe I education reflects this.


My most memorable experience in teaching is taking a child with special educational needs to a 5 day residential.  This child (because of his needs) needed to bring his parents.  So that his parents could be part of this amazing, once in a life time experience, I needed to vacate my teacher room and be placed in a hut in the back of the woods (no electricity or running water but extra spiders for special measure)!  However, the look of pure joy both on this child’s face and the parents will be eternally etched in my memory.

My most memorable moment in teaching has to be dancing with Strictly Come Dancing dancer  –  Brendan Cole!  As a ‘treat’ for winning the Teaching Award, the news was broken to me with a surprise guest.  My heart was pounding like an African drum.  Strictly is the best show ever!  However, underpinning this was the emotion I felt as my career flashed before my very eyes… Can you imagine, my passion is my job and I was being rewarded for a job I love?  It was one of my proudest moments!

Many pupils come back and visit me and say I made their educational experience exciting and that they remember me.  I am always so touched and honoured when this happens.


Be positive! Seek advice! Have fun!  It can be a lonely once you start your career as everybody seems to know what they are doing!  However, there are such wonderful teachers out there who want to coach and mentor as well as take these young teachers under their wings so that eventually they can fly.  This is what happened to me at my school in Harrow and I will be forever grateful for this.


Teaching has been recycled over the years – it is like fashion.  If it’s topical to state children cannot read, then there is a big push on reading.  If writing is not good enough, then there is a big push on grammar.  If we are being compared to China and Singapore, then it’s our maths which needs to change.  We can either embrace the change or we can be negative and despondent with our attitude.  Personally, I will always embrace change as we are all evolving.  Nothing is stagnant – not just in teaching but in life too.

I love teaching! It keeps you young and the children are the heart of it all. The feel good factor of getting up daily for a job you love – nothing can beat it! Realising that you are living your dream is an indescribable feeling.  Knowing that you are teaching the future generation will always give you a natural high.

Ultimately, you need to love this job and you have to want to be here. It can be hard when a child is hurting emotionally.  It can affect family life when you are in school for 14 hours a day.  So to encourage others to stay is a tricky question to answer.  Why would you encourage somebody if they do not want to stay?  I can advise them, coach them, mentor them but at the end of the day it will be their decision.

Jodie Lopez

Jodie worked as a teacher, ICT coordinator, Assessment Lead and Enrichment coordinator in primary schools in East and South East London. She won a number of awards, particularly for her use of technology across the curriculum and to support school staff and parents. Since leaving full time teaching to start a family, Jodie has been working in education technology and primary assessment. Jodie is delighted to continue to be a judge for the Teaching Awards as it never fails to inspire her and remind her of the amazing professionals we are lucky to have, in the UK, teaching and caring for our children.

Justin McNamara

Currently Senior Curriculum Manager at New City College’s Shoreditch campus for Hospitality & Catering / Performing Arts. Justin has been in education for the past twelve years, primarily as a lecturer but has also had roles in quality improvement and curriculum design. As part of the Catering & Hospitality Department, “Rouge Catering”, Justin won the Award for FE Team or Lecturer of the Year 2017.

Kathy Harwood

I am a HLTA Team Leader and I provide education and support for sick youngsters aged 4-19 years who are resident in hospital with a wide variety of medical conditions, ranging from broken bones and unexplained pain through to cancers, brain injuries and brain tumours. I have worked in the Hospital School for over 20 years and I still absolutely love my job, I feel very privileged to work with sick children and make an impact on their lives when they are at their most vulnerable. My mantra is ‘everything is education’-every child and young person has the potential to learn, our job is to ensure that we tailor learning to meet their needs. Besides my husband and two boys, my most favourite indulgences are shoes, shopping, reading and smiling- life is always better when you smile!

Keith Berry

Keith had extensive experience as a Senior Leader in a number of Special School settings nationally before being appointed as Headteacher at Park Community Academy in Blackpool in 1998.  Over a period of 24 years, he has led the school through a major period of change that has seen the age phase and designation of need change significantly and the pupil population double in size.

The school has moved from ‘satisfactory’ in 1997 to four successive Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ ratings.  Keith is a great advocate for distributed leadership and a ‘grow your own’ policy for staff.    He has been an NLE since 2013 and Park Community Academy has National Support School status.  He also has experience as an IEB member and as an Accounting Officer within an Academy Trust.

High on his list of personal interests is sport and he is a ‘self-confessed football fanatic’ in his spare time!

Keith was awarded the Gold Pearson National Teaching Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2019.

Kevin Harcombe

2007 UK winner HT of Year. Currently in third headship, Chair of Hampshire’s Primary Standing Committee, and part-time advisor for Hants and IoW. I have spoken on leadership and school improvement at The TES Show (Olympia), The Education Show (NEC) and co-presented a talk on children and reading with Sue Palmer (author of Toxic Childhood) at The Sunday Times Festival of Education (Wellington College). I am the author of two books, Brilliant Primary Teacher (Pearson) and How To Survive and Succeed as a Headteacher (Findel). I have written for The Guardian, Independent and TES and today write a monthly column for Teach Primary Magazine.

Lorna Bradford

Lorna Bradford won the Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary school in 2015 whilst Head of Geography at a West Yorkshire high school. Lorna now works as Vice Principal in charge of Personal Development, Behaviour and Attitudes in a large academy in Leeds. Since winning the Gold Award, Lorna has been involved in judging in the category of Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School and more recently the Lockdown Hero for Learner and Community Support Category. She is deeply passionate about innovative methods of teaching and learning for the benefit of student progress, and believes that positive relationships are the key to success in the classroom. In her most recent role, Lorna is committed to providing the best quality student experience to all young people, but especially those from a disadvantaged background.


Maire Thompson

Maire Thompson is in her 6th year as Principal. Maire is Principal at Hazelwood Integrated College after 5 years at Malone College. In her previous role as Principal of Malone College, the school won the Derrytrasna Award for Outstanding Pastoral Care in 2015 and in 2017 Maire received the Pearson UK Head teacher of the Year Award. She has worked as an Associate Assessor for the Education & Training Inspectorate (ETI) since 2014, is the Chairperson of the Department of Education Newcomers Reference Group and was appointed to the Northern Ireland 14-19 Innovation Labs this year.

Mark Lambert

Mark has an engrained passion and focus for developing highly effective and unique teaching and learning services for those with special educational needs across the North East of England. His career working with those who have learning difficulties and disabilities has spanned across 15 years in teaching, practitioner and leadership positions with the sole focus and drive to better prepare his students for adulthood. He is the Head of Accessibility and Inclusion at Northumbria University and is the judge for the Excellence in Special Educational Needs category.

Michael Goves

Most importantly I am a science teacher, and have had the pleasure of teaching in both Independent and State sectors for 13 years. Seven of those have been judging at national level in the Pearson Teaching Awards. My experience spans outstanding, to requiring improvement education, to senior leadership level. In 2014 I was fortunate enough to be nominated the Top Overseas Teacher by the Ministry of Education, Singapore, and judge in the DfE’s Character Awards. My passion for pedagogy, professional development and grass root teacher education, led me to currently work as senior professional tutor with Ark’s Teacher Training program.

Michael Grant

Teaching is a passion of mine, as since the start of my career I have seen clearly the impact that it can make on the lives of young people. The ability to make a positive change to someone’s life cannot be underestimated. Whether this is through a conversation in the corridor, the persistent belief in their own abilities or a resource that allows them to access something that they have always struggled with, teachers have the power to enhance and empower young people in today’s society.

Nina Panayis

“My whole working life has been spent teaching in the East End of London. After being appointed Headteacher in one school, I was asked to take over a neighboring school that had been placed in ‘Special Measures’; becoming the first Headteacher in Newham to lead two schools. I was honoured to be presented with the UK award for ‘Teacher of the Year in a Primary School’ in 2003. Although officially retired, I still work in schools on a consultancy basis; including teaching on a regular basis.”

Pam Roberts

Raza Siddique

Raza is an experienced lecturer in sport who provides an outstanding learner experience inside and outside the classroom. Raza is the Head of Sport and Performing Arts at New College Bradford. Raza uses technology and student-centred learning as an engagement tool in all lessons. Working outside of college, he provides the next generation of footballers and Rugby League players with opportunities at the elite level.

Romayne Charles

Romayne has been a teacher for 11 years and is subject leader of a Social Sciences and Modern Ethics faculty. She currently teaches three subjects and enjoys the variety and excitement working as a teacher brings. Romayne is passionate about developing whole-school teaching and learning as well as improving the wellbeing of staff as this has a direct impact on students. As a result of this, she has been a union representative and is currently a school governor. Romayne truly believes that teaching is the most rewarding career and feels privileged to get to work with young people.

Sam Coy

Sam Coy is the Executive Headteacher at Benjamin Adlard Primary School Gainsborough and Mount Street Academy Lincoln.  As Head of School and then as Headteacher of Benjamin Adlard, the school moved from Special Measures to Good in 12 Months and in 2018 was awarded the Pearson UK Primary School of the Year for ‘Making a Difference’. Since this Sam has judged the 2019 Primary school of the year award, spoke at educational conferences and is an LLE supporting schools in his area.  Sam’s team focuses on ‘Making a Difference’ in one of the most deprived wards in England trying to overcome excessive social mobility and high crime rates. His personal mantra is ‘It’s not magic, it’s about caring.’

Samantha Hunt MBE

Sam Hunt has been a teacher for 30  years. Previously an Advanced Skills Teacher, she is now the Deputy Headteacher at Sandhurst School in Bracknell Forest. Her work in anti-racism and genocide education has led her to win the Secondary School Teacher of the Year Award for the South of England and the Anne Frank Award for Inspirational Educator of the Year. She has also been recognised as a “Pride of Bracknell” and as a Sue Ryder Woman of Achievement. Holocaust and genocide education is her passion. She volunteers for the Holocaust Educational Trust as a “Lessons from Auschwitz” educator and is regularly invited to speak at conferences and teacher training establishments on Holocaust and genocide education. Her school holds Beacon Status in Holocaust education and she spearheads this programme. In addition Sam is a member of Remembering Srebrenica’s Academic Board and chairs the NGO Survivors Fund (SURF), which supports survivors of the Rwandan genocide. Sam has built a village for genocide survivors in Rwanda and is currently building a small school for the children of the village.

Sam was awarded an MBE for services to Holocaust and Genocide Education on the Queen’s 2020 Birthday Honours list.

Sara Broadbent MBE

“In 2002 I won the National Teaching Award for Primary Teacher of the Year. I was invited to join the judging panel in 2003 and I proudly received an MBE for Services to Education in 2004. My teaching career has been focussed mainly in the Early Years and I have enjoyed the challenges of Senior Management and Local Authority Advisory work. I have a passion for Foundation Stage and Key Stage one practice; the excitement of working with enthusiastic little people has never faded. I have two young children who are both at Primary School. I am enjoying experiencing school life from a parent’s view!”

Sarah Dignasse

Sarah has 28 years experience in teaching with 13 of these as a secondary headteacher of a large comprehensive school.
She is currently working as a School Improvement Advisor within two local authority areas. She is a Professional Officer for a consortium of 8 Essex secondary schools working together to bring about school improvement, a 14-19 co-ordinator for a NW Essex consortium of schools focussing on Alternative Education and IAG, and also works as an External Advisor for Headteacher Performance Management and for Headteacher appointments. Additionally Sarah is a member of an Interim Executive Board and is Director of a Multi-Academy Trust. She is Chair of Trustees of two Essex based charities: The David Randall Foundation and Families InFocus (Essex).

Sheila Ralph

Sheree Rymer Curriculum Manager for Creative Arts Sunderland College

“I am a Curriculum Manager for Creative Arts at Education Partnership North East, Sunderland College. My specialism is drama/acting, where after graduating I started teaching Performing Arts in 2001; I have been working in FE as a teacher, then manager, for 19 years.   In 2018 I nominated my, newly qualified, drama lecturer for FE teacher of the year; he was successful at silver and then was awarded Gold at the Award Ceremony in London.  I then thought I would try again and in 2019 I nominated by music team for FE team of the year, and they were silver winners.  I am blessed to be working with such amazing practitioners within FE.


Within my role at Sunderland College I have been a lecturer, Teaching and Learning Coach, Advanced Practitioner and now Curriculum Manager.  Outside of my college role, I was fortunate enough to have worked for over 2 years as a Trustee for the Sunderland Empire Theatre Trust.  Education and teaching are my passion and I strive to shine a light on the best practice and open as many learning opportunities for young people as possible.”

Steve Baker OBE

Steven Baker is the Executive Headteacher of two outstanding schools in Merseyside that cater for children aged 5-16 with Social, Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties (SEMH).  His schools use non-confrontational approaches to behaviour management and the secondary SEMH school is a sanction free zone.  They have won a range of national awards for their compassionate, collaborative approach and in 2018 the Department for Education cited the primary school as an example of best practice in mental health due to their focus on supporting pupil, and staff, well-being; his book, which is based on this approach, is due out in 2020.

Steven has held a range of leadership roles, is a former Ofsted inspector and regularly delivers national keynotes on topics including well-being, managing challenging behaviour and leading strategic change.  He develops school leaders for Ambition Institute, quality assures the work of their facilitators and has co-written an online behaviour management course which was hosted on the FutureLearn platform; the course had almost 10,000 subscribers from 165 countries.  Steven is a member of the Ambition Institute and Learnus advisory boards (Learnus is a think tank that aims to bridge the gap between neuroscience research and education); he was recently made a Founding Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching for his ‘significant and sustained’ impact on teaching.  Steven is on the SecEd and Headteacher Update editorial board and works with the Ministry of Justice in youth and adult establishments nationwide as they focus their efforts on developing a culture of rehabilitation.

A former war crimes investigator, Steven regularly speaks in schools and prisons about the consequences of hatred; in addition to receiving the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, he has been presented with an award by Lord Bourne for his ‘outstanding contributions to tackling hatred and building a better society.’

Steven was awarded an OBE for services to Education on the Queen’s 2020 Birthday Honours list.

Steven Sadler

Stephen is an avant-garde, outside-the-box practitioner who has brought industry standard practice to his pupils, from Robotic Engineering, Additive Manufacturing to Drones and an F1 in Schools STEM program. Through his leadership of Robotics, Engineering along with Design and Technology, students have been able to design, manufacture, code and compete with their own robots at both national and international level. The skills they have learned have proved invaluable for university, with several students receiving unconditional offers, some being exempt from first-year modules and also winning national and international STEM related competitions and multiple awards.

Stephen has also been extremely influential in other state, selective and private secondary and primary schools, developing STEM learning in a wider sphere of influence.

Stephen has made an outstanding contribution to Design and Technology and Engineering at East Barnet School and has since gone on to setup and share his best practice through Primary School STEM Initiatives and demonstrations to educators across the UK and abroad.

Stephen is fully committed to ensuring a gender balance, having developed an impressive group of female students who are now committed to degrees and careers in STEM. His pupils have led workshops at the international BETT Show, Autodesk University, Chelsea football club and many more as well as inspiring others with keynotes at national and international conferences in front of thousands of delegates.

Stephen has demonstrated the highest level of commitment, passion, achievement, and impact on D&T and STEM education, aiding the development of the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians.

Stephen has also received numerous awards including Pearson Digital Innovator of the Year, London STEM Teacher of the Year, Digital Design and Technology Teacher of the Year, VEX Robotics Teacher of the Year and he is VEX World Mentor of the Year and recognised in the STEM

REC Hall of Fame for Robotic Education, sponsored by Google, Tesla, NASA, Autodesk and the Northrup Grumman Foundation.

Toby Salt

Professor Toby Salt is an experienced CEO and non- executive director.   His present clients include the Ed Tech company Zen Educate and he is senior advisory director for AQA.  He also provides coaching and mentoring for a number of CEOs in the schools sector. Until recently he was the group CEO of AQA the largest exam board in the UK. AQA also has a number of commercial subsidiary companies and an international joint venture.  He was previously Chief Executive of Ormiston Academies Trust, which sponsors 37 academies across England, with responsibility for 26,000 students and 3,500 staff. Prior to that, Toby was Deputy Chief Executive at the National College for School Leadership, an executive agency providing leadership development and policy advice for schools and ministers. Toby’s teams led on programmes such as teaching schools and national leaders of education. He has worked in a variety of education leadership roles, including as Executive Head of a federation of three schools, and has led schools (across the phases) to achieve ‘outstanding’ gradings under Ofsted. In 2000, he was appointed by the Prime Minister as Director of the Department for Education’s Innovation Unit to lead innovation in school practices and structures.  He has also held a number of voluntary and non-executive director roles including appointment to the Cabinet Office Innovators’ Council and as a board member of UCAS.  He is a visiting professor of education leadership at the University of Wolverhampton; a member of All Souls Group, Oxford; and a member of the Windsor Leadership Trust Chief Executives’ working group. He is a governor emeritus of Chichester FE College and trustee of Southern Pro Musica.