Belfast Telegraph

Teaching 'Oscar' for Belfast college head Maire, a true hero of classroom

By Allan Preston

A head teacher from Northern Ireland has gone straight to the top of the class after she was honoured with one of the UK's teaching 'Oscars' for her support of gay and pregnant pupils.

Maire Thompson of Malone College in Belfast last night received the gold award for Headteacher of the Year in a Secondary School due to her inspirational work.

Maire was one of just 11 teachers from across the UK to win a 'Gold Plato' at the Pearson Teaching Awards, which was presented by Strictly Come Dancing judge Shirley Ballas during a glittering gala ceremony held at the East Wintergarden in London.

She was nominated for the accolade by pupils, parents and colleagues from her school. Since Maire has taken over the reins at Malone College, she is said to have transformed it into a school with high expectations that encourages ambition and has instilled a renewed sense of optimism and enthusiasm into staff and pupils alike.

She is also described as operating an open-door policy, and pupils throughout the college commented on her remarkable accessibility and knowledge of their lives and of their families.

She brought in the Rainbow Project charity to help provide support for gay pupils, and has also been recognised for helping pregnant teenagers and any other pupil experiencing difficulties beyond the usual challenges of teenage life.

Other award categories presented to teachers on the night included Teaching Assistant of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award, and Outstanding Use of Technology in Education.

The Pearson Teaching Awards are an annual celebration of exceptional teachers and teaching.

Founded in 1998 by Lord Puttnam, they recognise the life-changing impact of an inspirational teacher on the lives of young people.

Michael Morpurgo, Children's Author and new president of the Pearson Teaching Awards, commented: "Teachers are the quiet heroes.

"By telling their stories, by highlighting their skill and dedication, we can do some justice to them and to the whole profession.

"Through the Teaching Awards, we hope to enhance the reputation and value of the teachers in our lives, their importance in our society, and thus help to encourage the most talented and committed young people to become teachers."

Rod Bristow, president of Pearson UK, said: "Great teaching improves the life chances of our children. It's an incredibly tough, pressured and wearing job.

"Teachers deserve all the support we can give them, now more than ever. That's why these Pearson Teaching Awards are important, and that's why I'm delighted once again to lend our support to giving teaching the recognition it deserves."

Hosted by BBC presenter Naga Munchetty, alongside broadcaster Sean Fletcher, the annual ceremony is broadcast on BBC2 on October 29 at 6pm as Britain's Classroom Heroes.

Parents and students alike can recognise and thank the teachers who are making a difference by visiting http://teachingawards.com/thank-a-teacher/ to thank a teacher. Doing so means the educators they thank will be in with a chance of winning at next year's ceremony.

Belfast Telegraph

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