Winners of the Education Business Awards

Ellie Grundrill (L), Sue Blackwell, and Ashley John-Baptiste (R). Image credit: Karl O'Sullivan.

This year's Education Business Awards saw the largest amount of nominations ever, and continued to celebrate the hard work and dedication of the education sector. 

It has been an uncertain time for schools and colleges across the country this year. With funding cuts, staff strikes, increasingly unmanageable workloads, and teacher shortages, there is a lot to navigate.

Through the Education Business Awards, we aim to seek out the unsung heroes and celebrate their incredible achievements in all aspects of school life.

The Awards, which were sponsored by Viking, were held on 12 June at the Royal Leonardo Hotel St Paul's in London. 

Journalist and broadcaster Ashley John-Baptiste presented the awards.

Delegates were given the chance to complete a quiz and were randomly selected to win a bottle of champagne. 

Take a look below to learn more about the awards, and who took home the prize...

School Sports Award

Awarded to the educational establishment in the UK that can demonstrate an outstanding commitment to developing the sporting skills of its students through the provision of first class facilities and coaching programmes.

The winner - Warriner School PE Department - prides itself on promoting a love of physical activity. The school is part of the highly successful North Oxon School Sports Partnership, which links over 1000 Year 1-6 students from eight primary schools.

In 2022- 2023, 14 festivals ranged from tag rugby, girls’ football, pickleball, sports hall athletics, quad kids athletics and multi-skills festivals in netball. All of these are inclusive of SEND and mixed teams throughout. The school is proud to have achieved the Silver School Games mark last year and aims for Gold this year.

School Recruitment Award

This award recognises an educational establishment which has invested in its recruitment methods and processes to ensure a timely intake of teaching and support staff.

For this award, the Laurus Trust took home the trophy. 

The small recruitment team at Laurus created a unique online recruitment brand to increase attraction, promote the Trust as an employer of choice and shout about its culture and benefits. The brand has been a resounding success, with over 1000 registrations to its talent pool and a 140 per cent increase in website traffic. This, along with well-attended events and successful referral initiatives, meant the 2022/23 recruitment cycle saw a 13 per cent increase in applicants. By September 2023, 317 new staff were successfully appointed.

Community Award

This award, sponsored by Holmes & Partners, recognises an educational establishment which has invested in its recruitment methods and processes to ensure a timely intake of teaching and support staff.

Lawley Village Academy in Shropshire sits between an assisted living care home and a nursing care home. Over the past three to four years, children and staff have worked hard to make strong and long- lasting community links with the carers and residents in both homes. 

The ongoing relationships prove to be a weekly highlight in the community, as well as being an opportunity for children to learn from the residents. Care staff have observed and reported exceptional levels of increased positive mental health, who look forward to the children bounding through the doors each week.

For their work in the local community, they took home the award.

ICT Innovation Award

The ICT Innovation Award was awarded to the educational establishment that can demonstrate innovation in its approach to teaching and deploying Information and Communication Technologies that further the learning experience of its students.

Thomas Tallis School in London won this award. 

In its second year of delivering the CyberEPQ qualification, the impact on students at Thomas Tallis School has been dramatic. A number from its first cohort have already secured highly competitive places. 

Last September, students visited the International Cyber Expo at Olympia to kick start their journey. 

This year they will also get access to six refurbished desktops running Kali Linux, which will allow for more experience of real- world tools. Cyber security awareness and skills development is now embedded in lesson planning from year 7 to year 13.

School Security Award

The Holt School scooped the prize for the School Security Award. It has 13 separate buildings across its 63,000 m2 site with four vehicle entrances and one pedestrian-only gate, making it a complex site to keep secure.

New CCTV and access control now supports key areas of the school including reception and the operations office, so that in the event of an incident, eyes can be on it very quickly.

Sponsored by Evolution Doors, this award recognises the UK school that has made outstanding efforts to increase security through a combination of increased awareness and the procurement and installation of additional security measures.

SEN Provision Award

This was presented to the UK Special Educational Needs (SEN) Establishment that can demonstrate an increase in the quality of care and education services provided to students with SEN.

It was sponsored by Crescent Purchasing Consortium. The Cedar School in Southhampton won the award.

It works with The Solent Careers Hub to provide careers education to SEND students, helping to set them on diverse career paths. It has built a portfolio of companies which are not only prepared to adapt to accommodate the inclusive needs of its students, but are also excited to learn about how their companies will be enriched by the input of Cedar pupils.

Best Practice in Inclusive Education Award

This award, sponsored by Nasen, recognises a setting that has demonstrated exceptional commitment to promoting inclusiveness in the classroom and creating a positive and supportive learning environment for all students.

St John’s C of E Middle School Academy in Worcestershire won this brand new award for 2024.

Appropriate adaptations and support are put in place to ensure high numbers of pupils with SEN can take part in St. John’s rich array of carefully planned extra-curricular activities. Established seven years ago, the school’s ‘Launchpad’ provides vital support for students with cognition and learning difficulties, while the school works closely with a range of outside agencies.

Support is available from Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists while Gross and fine motor skill intervention is available for pupils with identified physical difficulties.

Environmental Practice Award

The Cornerstone-sponsored award is given to the school that can demonstrate a sustained benefit to the environment and the environmental education of its pupils through collective and individual projects. 

Stony Dean School in Buckinghamshire won the award.

They have worked hard to implement energy saving initiatives towards reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

The school takes part in the SAMHE Project - Schools’ Air Quality Monitoring for Health and Education, where pupils use Air Monitors and review the data collected as part of the Science Curriculum. The school’s three minibuses are now electric, while a sustainable procurement policy helps ensure low-impact, fair trade or environmentally friendly suppliers are identified.

STEM Award

Awarded to the educational establishment that has excelled in the provision of a first class environment for teaching STEM subjects including Maths, Technology and Sciences.

Community engagement lies at the heart of Neston High School’s STEM initiatives, which is one of the reasons that they took home the prize.

Primary schools and scout groups actively participate in hands-on learning experiences, enriching their understanding of STEM subjects and fostering a sense of environmental responsibility.

Through initiatives like its plastic recycling project, Neston High School has established strong partnerships with the local community, making a tangible impact on sustainability efforts. The school’s Makerspace club serves as a vibrant hub for STEM activities.

School Building Award

The Valley School in Herfordshire won the Reved-sponsored School Building Award.

As part of Hertfordshire Council’s capital investment in SEN school places, The Valley School in Stevenage moved into its brand new £15.8m building in January.

The new building reflects a commitment to sustainable, responsible growth with net zero carbon emissions. It features biodiverse green roofs and solar panels, while pupils have even been able to re-use timber offcuts from the construction to build bird boxes and bug hotels for the school site. It was completed as the council’s third Net Zero in Operation scheme.

School Catering Award

This award is presented to an educational establishment in the UK that can demonstrate a commitment to healthy eating and value for money through the provision of a first class catering service available to all students.

The winner was Fullhurst Community College in Leicestershire. Their in-house catering team is driven by a deep passion for fresh, healthy food and focuses on providing a diverse and enticing menu that caters to the varied tastes and preferences of students.

Working closely with local providers supports the community and provides sustainable, high quality food. This also helps to teach students about the impact their food choices have on the planet. Religious festivals are marked by offering special menus, fostering cultural appreciation and understanding among the school community.

School Procurement Award

Sponsored by T150 Energy, the School Procurement Award was presented to Nexus.

Formed in 2016 and currently responsible for around £11 million per annum in non-pay spend for the procurement of goods, services and works, Nexus Multi Academy Trust is just the second in the country to be nominated for the Chartered Institute

of Procurement & Supply Procurement Excellence Program Award. The trust provides guidance and support to special schools across England on how the sector can support flexible working practices.

This year, an increased commercial focus has achieved considerable savings for the Trust’s fifteen schools.

The award recognises an individual project where a school has worked with an outside agency or local authority to refine its buying practices and increase value to the taxpayer.

School Business Manager Award

This award, sponsored by Viking, was presented to an individual whose business leadership skills and commercial outlook have had a positive impact on the school’s budgeting and strategic decision making.

Sue Blackwell from Wensley Fold CE Academy took home the award.

After joining Wensley Fold Primary in Blackburn as an administration assistant in 1999, and later taking on the School Business manager role, Sue Blackwell has witnessed major change over the last quarter of a century. 

She has been instrumental in helping the school adapt to the pressures of becoming a two-form school and its transition to become an Academy in 2013, which brought with it major renovations to the site and a doubling of the pupil intake. She retires with the school in an outstanding condition.

Educational Resource Award (Primary)

Educational resource iRock School of Music won the award for creating a new and innovative educational product or service which supports teaching and increases pupil engagement in the primary schools sector.

It stands out by creating fun and inspiring music education experiences that go beyond the traditional, empowering students to express themselves through learning music together in rock and pop bands. This has a direct impact on children’s wellbeing, increasing their confidence and improving their performance and overall experience in school.

Educational Resource Award (Secondary)

The Institution of Engineering and Technology won the award.

This was for their wealth of educational resources for secondary schools use case studies to showcase some of the most innovative engineering and technology from around the world. STEM resource collections include the Faraday Challenge, where students are tasked with designing and engineering a new attraction for Thorpe Park Resort’s range of visitors.

Outstanding Progress Award (Independent)

Gordonstoun in Moray, Scotland took home the award for Outstanding Progress at an Independent School.

Birthplace of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, students at Gordonstoun live in a close knit community that is one third Scottish, one third from the rest of the UK. Located in a 200 acre woodland campus in the heart of the Moray countryside, the positive impact its students make on the local community is remarkable - every student helps out in one of nine community and rescue services, which include supporting the elderly and disabled. Specialist instructors deliver activities to local groups which enable them to discover the joy of outdoor learning.

This prize, sponsored by Viking, was presented to the UK Independent School that has made outstanding progress in the management of its facilities, finances and human resources and can demonstrate an increase in the educational performance of the school.

Outstanding Progress Award (Primary)

Our Lady and Saint Benedict Catholic Academy, Staffordshire took home the prize sponsored by Action Mats.

It was presented to the UK primary school that has made outstanding progress in the management of its facilities, finances and human resources and can demonstrate an increase in the educational performance of the school.

Strong relationships between pupils, their families and staff have helped Our Lady and St Benedict Catholic Academy, part of The Newman Catholic Collegiate, to move from Requires Improvement in 2019 to Outstanding in its latest Ofsted inspection last November.

Led by headteacher Sarah Clowes, the rapid progress has been attributed in part to prioritising reading, with pupils able to use vocabulary with precision and great confidence. Opportunities to benefit from outdoor learning are provided to all pupils, including those with SEND.

Outstanding Progress Award (Secondary)

This award, sponsored by EcoGrit, was given to Wright Robinson College in Manchester.

Despite a challenging socio-economic background in a deprived area of Manchester, Wright Robinson College was one of the first in the country to be graded Outstanding in 2021 under Ofsted’s new framework.

Eight years building the ‘Team Wright Robinson’ culture has generated improvements in behaviour and attendance, whilst cultivating a true sense of belonging. Allowing staff to focus on developing their own pedagogy has led to excellent outcomes for students. It sits as one of the top performing state-funded secondary schools in the country.

EB Leadership Award (Primary)

The award was sponsored by iRock, and recognises inspirational school leaders whose role has led to significant and positive improvements in primary education by inspiring and facilitating the wider school team.

Headteacher at St Alfege with St Peter’s CofE Primary School, Amanda’s inspirational journey encompasses over 25 years’ in education and leadership.

She has a track record for supporting teachers in securing leadership roles, and after being appointed to her first heads position in 2019, she has since gone on to publish a book aimed at encouraging the next generation of Black school leaders.

EB Leaderhip Award (Secondary)

The final award, sponsored by Viking, recognises inspirational school leaders whose role has led to significant and positive improvements in secondary education by inspiring and facilitating the wider school team.

The award went to Rod Sims. 

During his six year stint as head of York High School, Rod has overseen dramatic improvements.

After an inadequate rating in 2017, strong relationships have been forged between between parents, staff and pupils, while an extensive range of extra-curricular activities, encompassing sport, cookery, languages and current affairs, have helped to see the school now rated as Good.