A teacher who tragically lost her life last summer was one of the big winners at the inaugural Telegraph & Argus School Awards last night.
Tracey Askham was posthumously named Secondary Teacher of the Year at the award ceremony, which was held to recognise some of the unsung heroes of the district’s schools system.
Mrs Askham, a teacher at Immanuel College, Thackley, died following an accident in a supermarket car park last August and her eldest daughter, Chantelle Aleksander, collected the award on her behalf.
After the ceremony Chantelle said the award was a true testament to how popular her mum was with her pupils and colleagues, who had flooded the T&A with nominations for the much-loved teacher after the categories were announced.
Held at Aagrah Midpoint, the awards were organised by the T&A in partnership with the University of Bradford and Bradford Council. With school achievement often measured by league tables, the aim of the awards was to delve deeper into the school successes that sometimes go un-noticed in a sea of figures and tables.
Over 300 people, including nominees, sponsors and representatives from the Council and educational institutions were in attendance.
An invitation for nominations was made in the paper late last year, and hundreds of people wrote in to nominate teachers, support staff and pupils who they felt deserved more recognition for their devotion to improve their schools.
As well as awards for teachers and staff, schools were honoured for community involvement, science and technology and improvement.
Judges chose to honour Mrs Askham, who was 47 when she died and had worked at the school for 13 years, not just because of her impact on the pupils at Immanuel, but also for her charity work.
She was heavily involved in fundraising for Immanuel’s sister school Minteh Kundeh Lower Basic School, in The Gambia, and fundraising in her name has continued after her death. A teacher’s quarters currently being built thanks to her enthusiastic fundraising will be called Tracey Askham House.
After her death the school called her “an inspirational teacher and friend” and a “much valued member of staff."
A video about Mrs Askham was shown when nominations for her categories were announced and featured students emotionally talking about how she had influenced their lives.
Jane Tiller, head of Immanuel, said: “What students said in that video really reflected what Tracey was like. Her death has left a huge hole in Immanuel College. This win celebrates her life, she was the heart and soul of the school and has been since it opened.”
Chantelle, 24, said the family was “immensely proud” of the nomination and win. She added: “This really reflects the sentiment ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,’ and not just as a mother. She has been a great teacher and made some great friendships. She was everyone’s friend. It wasn’t just about grand gestures. She knew what people were about and wanted to help them, and that extended to her work in the Gambia.
“It is amazing that the students took the time to put this together and do all the fundraising they have in her memory. She has obviously had a massive impact on their lives.”
Nicole Cooper, a teacher at Wibsey Primary School, won Nursery/Primary Teacher of the Year, and said she was “amazed” to have won against such tough competition. She added: “I can’t wait to get in tomorrow to show the kids.”
Picking up the award for most improved school was Lapage Primary School, Bradford Moor – a school that was on the brink of going into special measures just a few years ago. Located in one of the most deprived wards in the country, the school was recognised for an incredible turnaround. After accepting the award head Wahid Zaman said: “I think everyone at the school will be really proud. It is really nice that we’ve been recognised. Parents, children and staff have all worked very hard, and we’ve come a long way in recent years - it’s been a lovely journey.”
Bingley Grammar School was awarded for its community involvement because of its efforts in keeping an under-threat parent toddler group, Bright Sparks Play Group in Crossflatts, open, involving both school pupils and the wider community in running it as a non profit group. Nicky Williams, head of children’s care, said: “All credit should go to the staff who run it and our students - they are really dedicated.”
And Atlas Primary School in Manningham took home one of the big awards for Achievement. In 2007 the school was told by Ofsted it had to seriously improve, and is now among the top five per cent best performing primary schools in the country. Head Caroline Carr said: “We are absolutely delighted to win. It is a privilege to accept this award and a privilege to work at the school. Everyone there works so hard and that is what has made the difference.”
Speaking at the awards, T&A editor Perry Austin-Clarke said: “Tonight is all about shining a light on the many and varied achievements of the people who work at all levels in our schools.
“It’s about recognising the astonishing effort that goes into improving results while responding to and coping with the never-ending hailstorm of change. It’s about telling tales of creativity, innovation, inventiveness, caring, as well as sheer hard work, passion and determination.
“Above all, it’s about saying ‘thank you’ to those who battle challenging odds every day to deliver the best possible education for our children, often at unacknowledged personal cost.”
The keynote speaker for the evening was Lee Jackson, an internationally-renowned motivational speaker and author who told the crowd that success didn’t just happen overnight, but was the result of many years of hard work - and this was particularly true of the people and groups nominated for the awards.
There were also speeches by Councillor Ralph Berry, the executive member for children’s services at Bradford Council, and Professor Brian Cantor, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bradford.
Coun Berry spoke about how although Bradford district saw improvements in school league tables this past year, these tables reflected the end result rather than the innovative teaching practices, partnership between schools and individual achievements of teachers.
And Professor Cantor talked about how Bradford, and especially the University, welcomed people from all walks of life and said how important it was to show that they can go on to achieve their goals.
Present in the crowd was Kath Tunstall, who today will step down as strategic director of children’s services at Bradford Council – a role she has had for seven years. After all the awards had been handed out she said: “It blows you away. The evening has been overwhelming – it shows all the good work that is going on in our schools. There is so much dedication and commitment, and we don’t always fully praise it or make a big deal of it.
“Our children are so able and so keen to learn. If we put children and young people first then everything else just follows. I’m very sad to be leaving my role, but very proud of our district’s schools and children.”
Nursery/Primary Teacher of the Year:
Nicole Cooper, Wibsey Primary School
Secondary Teacher of the Year:
Tracey Askham, Immanuel College
Newcomer of the Year :
Chris Harrison, Dixons Allerton Academy
Supporting Staff Member of the Year:
Michelle Maltby, Marshfield Primary School
Angela Phillips, St Cuthbert and First Martyr’s Primary School
Voluntary Contribution Award:
Mrs Margaret Tetley, Eldwick Primary School
Community Involvement Award:
Bingley Grammar School
Titus Salt School
Atlas Primary School
School Improvement Award:
Lapage Primary School and Nursery
Science and Technology Award:
Saltaire Primary School
Business In Schools Award: