We speak to Awards Manager, Kate Micallef, about managing entries for the Pearson National Teaching Awards and her twenty years of Teaching Awards Trust memories…

What is your job role and how long have you worked at the Teaching Awards?

I have worked at the Teaching Awards on and off for almost 20 years, with childcare breaks in-between! I’ve had many roles – full time, freelance and now part-time. Currently I am the Awards and Operations Manager. My main priority is to ensure the current Awards programme runs smoothly, to manage our panel of fantastic judges, and to work with schools and Headteachers to ensure all those who participate in the Awards have an excellent experience. There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes on to ensure that happens! I am looking forward to developing the Awards, and reaching more and more schools to enable them to use us a platform to share their successes with the wider education world. Alongside this, I look after the admin side of the organisation to ensure everything runs smoothly, and help run the winner events we hold each year.

What is your favourite part of the job?

There are two parts I love the most. One is speaking to school leaders and sharing the news of a win with them. They are always so humble, delighted and enthusiastic. It gives me a real buzz, and reminds me what it’s all about! The other part is linked to this – and that is seeing the fruits of our labour come to fruition at the UK ceremony. Seeing all our guests arrive for a weekend of celebration of excellence in education – seeing our nominees meeting other nominees, and many going on to make lasting friendships and working collaboratively. It feels great giving people that opportunity that they might not otherwise have had.

How have entries been this year?

We had another substantial increase in entries again this year, and I hear from judges that it has been harder than ever to choose winners. I don’t envy them their job!

We introduced the Lockdown Hero award for this year only – every entry was an emotional read! There have been some truly amazing stories – throughout all the categories and I can’t wait to meet the nominees in person!

How do you sort through the hundreds of entries?

Thankfully, I don’t have to do the choosing.  Every single entry is read, and the great majority are shared with judges. There is an internal QA process to ensure complete and eligible entries are sent to judges. We have 14 category teams, each made up of 2-3 judges. Each entry is shared to the relevant category team. Judges read each entry shared with them, and we use a scoring system against the category criteria. Selection for a judging visit is based on the top scoring nominees on paper, based on evidence provided against the criteria. Once the judge has established their ‘visit shortlist’ they go in to schools (in a normal year. This year and last visits were virtual video calls) and see their nominee in action and have the opportunity to speak to several members of the school community.  In-school visits are 3 hours long to give the judges a really good feel for the school, the nominee, what colleagues and students have to say about the impact they have had on them, and to observe the nominee in action.

Once all shortlisting is completed and all visits are finished, judges assign a status to each of their nominees: Nominee Certificate, Certificate of Excellence, Highly commended, Bronze Winner (new this year), Silver Winner and the ultimate Gold winner for each category. There is no cap on the number of nominees per status, apart from the one final Gold winner which is announced in the Autumn at our UK ceremony.

Do you have a standout memory from your time at The Teaching Awards Trust?

Yes, having worked here for so long, I have a few! A couple are based around people I have been privileged enough to know over the years – Professor Ted Wragg who chaired our ‘National (judging) Panel’ as it was then called. Ted was an inspirational speaker, ambassador for the Awards, a fighter for all things education. He always spoke from the heart, and was the ultimate teachers’ and children’s champion.  Ted loved us all – he would host a tea for us all at his home, with his lovely wife Judith, as a break from our very busy regional tour schedule whenever we were in Exeter. He gave me a copy of his book, ‘Education, Education, Education’ which I will treasure forever.

The second person is Lord David Puttnam, who founded the Awards. Passionate about education, and celebrating the positive rather than focussing on the negative led to him launching the Awards back in 1998. I was privileged to work closely with Lord Puttnam, in his role as Chairman of the Trustee Board, and am grateful for him setting up the Awards.

I have worked with many different people over the years, and have made some good friends. Each year, with each new cohort of winners, and new judges, I have new memories to make. I’m inspired by our winners and judges all the time!

Did you have a teacher that inspired you?

Yes, Mrs Goodfellow was the teacher who believed in me, when my previous Maths teachers didn’t! I always struggled with the subject and Mrs Goodfellow was the only teacher that made me believe in myself. I did have some great teachers at school, but I think teaching was different in my day. I wish I was at school now! My daughters have some fantastic teachers, and school life is much more about celebrating achievements than berating children for under achieving these days which is absolutely the way it should be!