Highfurlong Academy named 'school of the year' in National School Awards

The school on Blackpool Old Road travelled to Westminster to collect the award

Monday, 20th December 2021, 12:30 pm

Blackpool’s Highfurlong Academy has led the way in remote learning – and its hard work paid off as it collected a national award in London.

The special school, in Blackpool Old Road, beat off finalists from Reading, Kent, and Sheffield to be named School Of The Year at the National Schools Awards last Wednesday.

The ceremony took place at the House Of Lords at the same time as Boris’ national briefing on the emerging Omicron variant of Covid-19.

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School business leader Lisa Tuckman, teaching assistant April Blunt, headteacher Neill Oldham, school governor Susan Strother, teacher Shelby Mercer and assistant headteacher Jasmine Short.

Headteacher Neill Oldham took the train to London with five members of his staff.

He said: “When they announced that we had won, it was such a wave of emotions – from utter disbelief to sheer delight and glowing pride.

“The standard of the other shortlisted schools was so high, we genuinely thought we wouldn’t win. We were just thrilled to have made it into the final.”

Since taking over his role at Highfurlong in 2018, Mr Oldham has seen his register grow from 51 to 112.

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The school has had four top ‘outstanding’ ratings from the education watchdog Ofsted.

Neill credits the achievement with the school’s work with the National Demonstrator School Programme, a Government-funded scheme Highfurlong was selected for at the start of the pandemic.

He said: “We have been working so hard to support other schools locally and nationally to develop their knowledge and expertise around SEND [special educational needs and disability] so that they can meet the needs of their pupils. “We have been leading the way on training for schools on Edtech to enhance learning for pupils.

“We have been able to support and train so many staff in all areas of education and we have built an excellent reputation nationally.”

Highfurlong also picked up honours for Primary School of the Year and the Inspirational Teaching gong at The Gazette Education Awards 2021.