‘Dedication’ and fun lessons bag head prize

Pupils and staff delight as teachers are named in borough’s awards

Friday, 1st July — By Charlotte Chambers

Amaar Jahmel Miss John Ilayda and Alyssa

Primary Teacher of the Year Isha John with Pooles Park primary pupils Amaar, Jahmel, Ilayda and Alyssa

AN outstanding headteacher who has given decades of service at a Finsbury Park primary school and a Year 6 teacher who turned around home learning for her students during lockdown are among those celebrated with Islington Education Awards.

Isha John, who joined Pooles Park Primary School in Lennox Road, Finsbury Park, four years ago, was awarded Primary School Teacher of the Year at a star-studded ceremony at the Barbican last Monday. More than half the students at Pooles Park are entitled to free school meals, a measure introduced by Ofsted in 2011 to support attainment in disadvantaged pupils. The national average is 25 per cent.

Ms John said the most rewarding thing about teaching at Pooles Park was when she “got a laugh from the children” and knowing that they are “safe and happy” in school, as well as “the moments when the children finally understand something they’ve been trying really hard to get”.

Her pupils were overjoyed to hear she had won best teacher prize – as nominated by senior leadership at the school – and lined up to thank her for her “dedication” and making lessons fun.

Jahmel, 11, said: “The work is amazing and how she plans for us. Miss John does everything just to give us good work.”

Senior leadership praised how she led home learning as part of her role as computing lead during lockdown. When nominating her, they said: “She has shown resilient ambition throughout the last year, conquering lockdown learning barriers to ensure high-quality home learning takes place for her class and leading across the school on computing.”

Another prize-winning teacher to be celebrated was Juliet Benis of Ambler Primary School in Blackstock Road, who was given an Outstanding Achievement Award. Leading the school for the last 15 years but having been a teacher there for decades, she is due to leave the Outstanding primary school later this month. A special video made just for her was screened at the ceremony featured words of praise from colleagues and pupils.

Alessandro, in Year 6, said: “She’s been a great part of my life and I will actually never forget her”.

“Words can’t really sum up how I feel about Juliet and the absolute love I have for her,” said one teacher, while another called her “incredibly inspiring” and recalled how Ms Benis made it clear on her arrival that “this is an Arsenal school”.

The “adoration” the children have for her was also highlighted in the film, which Ms Benis said made her cry – “and I never cry”.

Speaking after the ceremony, she said: “It made me love my staff more than I do already, and I’m really grateful. It was the nicest way to end my career, it was just something lovely.”

The parents at the school recently threw a party for the popular departing head, while children are due to host a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party to say their goodbyes.

Former staff and staff from other schools are expected to join Ms Benis at a final pub event before term is out.

“As you can see, I’m not going quietly!” she joked.

And the winners are…

Senior Leadership Team of the Year in association with Arbor: Beacon High

Ambition in Equalities: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School

Product of Islington in association with City, University of London: Alison Rush, head of pastoral, The Courtyard

Teacher of the Year – Primary: Isha John, KS2 Leader and Year 6 class teacher, Pooles Park Primary School

• Outstanding Achievement Award: Juliet Benis, Ambler Primary School and Children’s Centre

Champions for Change: Footprint, City of London Academy Highbury Grove

Administrative Support of the Year: James Kinloch, premises manager, Hanover Primary School

Curriculum Team or Teacher of the Year – Secondary in association with London Metropolitan University: Katerina Jedlickova, class teacher and art coordinator, Richard Cloudesley School

Excellence in Staff Wellbeing: The Edventure Collaborative

Excellence in Early Years: Shelley Flaherty and Anthoula Kalkani, head of nursery and nursery teacher, Minik Kardes @ The Factory Children’s Centre

Innovation in Inclusion: Beacon High

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