Independent School Awards 2015 :: Winners
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2015 Winners

The winners of the 2015 TES Independent School Awards, were announced on Friday 27 November 2015 at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London.

We have uploaded all the photos from the evening to our TES Independent Schools Awards 2015 Flickr album - high resolution photos that you can download.

You can also download the 2015 winner's book, showing the full details of the winning projects.

Strategic education initiative of the year
Ashford School
Judges' comments:

Despite strong academic performance, research and the school’s own evidence indicated that some students were limited by the expectations of the adults around them, both at home and school. The school has 300 employees, and every interaction between an adult and a student is viewed by the school as an opportunity to model behaviour and attitudes.

The school now offers one year’s free tuition to all employees in a musical instrument of their choice, including voice. The tuition is provided by existing music teachers during the normal working day. Employees and students mix as learners, and students can see and empathise with staff who are struggling to learn. For each of the past three years, 20-30 employees have participated and all were positive about their experience.

The head’s PA said: “Learning to play the flute has given me renewed determination…I have gained enormous respect for our students.”

The judges said the scheme was “an innovative way of showing vulnerability in staff to promote empathy in the pupils”.




Independent School of the Year 2015
St Joseph’s College, Reading
Judges' comments:

St Joseph’s College implemented a courageous strategic and financial plan that appeared counter-intuitive. Yet the decision to reduce fees and increase investment was a successful one that not only paid dividends for the school but set an example to the rest of the sector.

Pupil numbers have risen and the school is now a role model for other schools that may be facing a deficit and a falling school roll. Indeed, it will make many other schools reconsider their approach to increasing fees.

The judging panel said the college demonstrated “outstanding initiative that shows there is always hope if you have a strong vision and stakeholder support”.

“There are signs that other schools in the sector are beginning to follow suit in cutting their fees: a trailblazing approach.”



Financial/commercial initiative of the year
St Joseph's College Reading
Judges' comments:

In 2009, St Joseph’s College was faced with the imminent threat of closure. The pupil roll had decreased by an alarming 40 per cent over the previous five years. Bursaries and scholarships had risen to an unrealistic level and investment had ceased. From 2006 to 2012, net losses totalled more than £1 million. As well as introducing a financial initiative to provide more affordable independent education and increase pupil numbers, the school invested in a major programme of capital expenditure for the first time in more than 10 years.

The bold commercial decision to cut fees, along with improving facilities, has led to a significant rise in pupil numbers. A new direct-debit payment scheme was introduced to help regulate cash flow and provide advance funding for capital projects. Fee cuts did not compromise staffing levels, training or departmental budgets, all of which were increased.

The judges described it as “a focused and ambitious programme that has deservedly reaped rewards”.


Fundraising initiative of the year
Uppingham School
Judges' comments:

In 2007, Uppingham School recognised that a major part of its campus was no longer fit for purpose. Unlike the Victorian heart of the school, with buildings that had stood the test of time, some of the 1950s and 1960s facilities were in urgent need of replacement. An architectural masterplan was required and would need major capital expenditure. With the economy in great shape at that time, the school decided to embark on the Western Quad project. Soon after, however, the global economy crashed.

Many advised the school to postpone its plans, but the headmaster and trustees showed tenacity and commitment to finish what had been started. The wholehearted backing of staff, parents and alumni underpinned the most successful appeal in the school’s history, raising £19 million. In August 2014, the project was completed with the creation of a collection of award-winning buildings that have transformed the school.

The judges noted that the project was “a hugely impressive feat during straitened times”.


Community initiative of the year
St John's School, Leatherhead
Judges' comments:

St John’s School’s community holiday is a fun-packed residential week for 20 children aged between 10 and 16, with special needs ranging from mild to severe. It gives them a chance to experience an independent holiday in a safe and caring environment while parents and their usual carers have a week of respite.

The first holiday took place in August 2014. Pupils were overseen by carers with more than 30 years’ experience of running similar holidays. The week included several day trips and a full in-house programme of daily swimming, games, music, drama and creative play.

Children boarded in one of the school’s nine houses, alongside volunteers from the sixth form. The intention is that the pupil volunteers will carry on the legacy by volunteering in years to come, creating a fully trained team to run future holidays.

The judges said it was a “fantastic outreach scheme that also benefits the school’s pupils”.


Best independent-maintained school collaboration
King Edward's School
Judges' comments:

King Edward’s School (KES), Birmingham, the oldest school in the city, set out to fulfil its historic purpose by setting itself the goal of being a hub of aspiration and challenge for the whole of Birmingham.

A programme to improve teaching and learning for pupils in local state junior schools has doubled in size in each of the past three years. KES is now in contact with more than 11,000 state-educated children and more than 450 teachers from 130 schools. Initiatives include a city-wide maths competition for Years 4 and 6, entered by teams from 110 state primaries, and a summer school for 100 pupil premium children.

The educational experience and accessibility has been enhanced for all pupils. Junior school teachers have been given the chance to develop their own teaching while the gap between the school and its community has been closed.

The judging panel said KES has made “an ongoing and sustainable commitment to supporting other schools”.


Boarding initiative of the year
Wellington College
Judges' comments:

While Wellington College had no trouble getting large audiences for events that had an academic theme, it struggled to ignite the imagination of parents when it came to attending pastorally themed talks. The school sought a way to improve parental engagement in the pastoral understanding and development of their children, educate them in the key issues affecting adolescents and highlight what it was doing to support them.

Research was carried out to establish the best weekly time for a meeting while parents’ advice was sought on the topics they felt that they needed more information on. As a result, parental “masterclasses” on late Saturday morning (with lunch included) have been attended by 76 per cent of parents over the course of the year.

The panel said it was “a simple yet effective way to engage parents in a key area of the school’s responsibilities”.


Marketing/communications campaign of the year
Bredon School
Judges' comments:

Bredon School benefits from some unusual on-site facilities on its 84-acre Gloucestershire campus, including a working farm, a forest school and a canoe launch on the River Severn.

While well-used and loved by its 240 pupils, the school is not particularly well-known in the local area and it was felt that its splendid rural isolation could be working against it. Therefore it decided to host a large-scale, not-for-profit community event to act as a kind of public open day.

Building on long associations with the agricultural world, and success in shooting sports, it created the May Day Country Fair and Festival of Shooting. The 2014 event attracted in excess of 2,500 people. Over 90 per cent of exhibitors booked to return in 2015 and more than £5,000 was raised. Attendee feedback was, without exception, positive and the fair is frequently quoted as a source of introduction to the school by prospective families.

Judges were impressed by the impact of “a huge event that supports and benefits a fairly small school”.


Special needs initiative of the year
The Moat School
Judges' comments:

As a dyslexia specialist school, many of The Moat School’s pupils inevitably have trouble reading. It has been well documented in the media that fewer children are reading for pleasure. While confident with teaching the fundamental skills, the challenge was to create a culture of reading where pupils picked up a book because they wanted to, not because they had been told to.

The whole-school paired-reading initiative was a simple change that has had a significant impact. Once a week, every pupil, teacher, learning assistant and even the headmistress sit and read with a partner. In every available space – classrooms, offices, corridors – there will be a pair of readers immersed in their books. One child who joined the school at 14 with a reading age of eight has increased it by more than three years in the past 12 months.

The judges said the initiative was “a very heart-warming example of best practice in a core area of education”.



Senior leadership team of the year
Kent College, Canterbury
Judges' comments:

The market in Canterbury is challenging. There are three major independent schools and well-regarded grammar schools in the city. As a result, pupil numbers at the college had been in decline and there was an over-reliance on East Asia for boarders.

The senior leadership team’s (SLT) energy and enthusiasm for continual improvement has driven the college forwards while keeping at its heart the development of every pupil and colleague. The SLT has broadened the college’s appeal by improving academic rigour and accountability, diversifying its international profile and gaining recognition for its innovative approach.

As well as every aspect being found excellent by the Independent Schools Inspectorate at its most recent inspection, academic results have improved, and pupil numbers have risen from 430 to more than 500, drawn from 46 different countries. The school regularly reports a surplus, and there are plans to open Kent College, Dubai in 2016.

The judging panel highlighted “consistent brave leadership from an impressive school”.


Governing body of the year
Leicester Grammar School
Judges' comments:

In 2004, inspirational leadership and a commitment to improvement led trustees to make a momentous decision. They proposed to move the senior school from the heart of the city, and the junior school from a site seven miles away, to build a new school in rural Leicestershire. This posed significant questions. Would there be a major shift in catchment area? How would current pupils get to school? Would it be built on budget and open on time? All were dealt with and the move was made in 2008.

The 2011 inspection found the school to be excellent in every respect. It has grown by 25 per cent, to 1,240 pupils, and examination results have improved. Trustees continue to provide effective direction with no sense of complacency. A new £4 million extension is being constructed and discussions to establish an overseas branch in India are at an advanced stage.

The judges said the school’s governing body showed “determined commitment to long-term planning at its very best”.


British international school of the year
The British School Jakarta
Judges' comments:

Jakarta is home to many internally displaced families working in recycling/scavenging and living in shanty dwellings. Displacement from their home village inevitably has an effect on children’s schooling and healthcare. British School Jakarta (BSJ) decided to implement sustainable solutions that offered access to education. It established an environmentally friendly micro-school, now in its fifth year, which has allowed unschooled children to re-enter formal schooling at secondary level.

The micro-school offers healthcare and vaccination, and ensures that all enrolled children’s births are formally registered.

BSJ has also launched the “school in a box”: a shippable, bolt-together, lightweight steel structure designed for remote, rural areas where existing school provision is inadequate, or for emergency use after a natural disaster.

The initiatives demonstrate how a British school can respond in a visionary, highly practical manner in support of local education and, as importantly, put its students at the heart of both projects.

The judges said Jakarta showed “a wonderful and compassionate commitment to extending education to others”.


Lifetime achievement
Sally Hobbs, Orchard House School
Judges' comments:

In September 1993, Sally Hobbs opened Orchard House School with 66 children. She has been the only headteacher that the school has ever known and she retired in 2015 after 22 busy years.

Ms Hobbs unfailingly put the children at the heart of everything she did. She led by example, was kind and compassionate, firm yet always fair. Her standards for pupils and staff were exceptionally high. She promoted courtesy and respect, and was a stickler for detail.

She has had an impact on education generally but, in particular, in fostering and nurturing the next generation of headteachers and teachers. Always interested in ways that the school could improve, she has grown the school from small beginnings through to the thriving, happy place that it is today.

The school now has 289 children on its roll and is oversubscribed by five places to one.

The judges said Ms Hobbs had shown “impressive dedication to education over a sustained period”.


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