A teacher who worked at Wells Blue School for 43 years has been given a lifetime achievement award

By Emma Dance

20th Jun 2022 | Local News

From left,  Rod Williams, CEO of Tes, Hilary Shergold and Professor Sam Twiselton OBE, director of Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University, who presented Hilary with her award.
From left, Rod Williams, CEO of Tes, Hilary Shergold and Professor Sam Twiselton OBE, director of Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University, who presented Hilary with her award.

A teacher who worked at Wells Blue School for 43 years has been given a lifetime achievement award at the Tes Schools Awards, one of the biggest nights in the UK education calendar.

From teaching tens of thousands of children by day, to classes and theatre trips for prisoners by night, Hilary Shergold has been a teacher for 48 years; 47 in the state sector, and now, aged 70 she is in her first year in independent education at Millfield.

She started teaching, aged 23, at Rednock School, Dursley, then Ansford School, Castle Cary. She taught at The Blue School in Wells for 43 years.

Her commitment to going above and beyond the role was clear from the outset when she set up a school bookshop to create a demand for reading. Later, spotting the need for vocational courses, she created a business department, enrolling at university a day a week in order to retrain. By the 1980s, she was teaching English, business and computing, as well as offering A-level English to prisoners at Leyhill Prison.

"Teaching wasn't my first choice but I absolutely loved it, from the minute I got into the classroom, I have always loved the direct contact with kids," Hilary said. "Students suddenly get something and you think, yes, success! But, it's the relationship you create, that's what I've always loved.

"It's instinctively within you to be able to communicate with children so that they trust you. You will always get the odd one or two who are distracted, but it is so satisfying when you get through to them."

"I like the ability to be able to change and adapt to different areas which is why I like business. You can bring in politics, economics, war, everything that effects business."

An only child of a controlling mother meant Hilary's childhood wasn't a happy one; "Coming from a damaged background I empathise with children more. I identify with and recognise their problems. I get a buzz from mixing with kids. I'm 70, but I don't feel 70. I can still connect with children; their differences fascinate me."

Initially an English teacher at The Blue School, she set up a school bookshop to create a demand for reading. Spotting the need for vocational courses she created a Business department, enrolling at UWE in Bristol for a day a week to retrain. By the 1980s Hilary had taught herself to use an Amstrad computer, delivered CLAIT, and was teaching English, Business and Computing.

Establishing NVQs in The Blue School, the only school in the country to do so, Hilary piloted GNVQ qualifications in Business and Leisure & Tourism and helped to initiate a City & Guilds Professional Cookery Course.

Next came Quality Nominator for BTEC managing Business, Leisure and Tourism, expanding into, Health and Social Care, Sport, Construction and Engineering.

Her instinct is always to think divergently, offering young people the right courses for changing times; from leading on establishing NVQs in The Blue School (the only school in the country to do so) and piloting GNVQ qualifications in Business and Leisure and Tourism and helping to initiate a City and Guilds professional cookery course.

Hilary Shergold said: "I'm really surprised and delighted, particularly after everything we've all been through over the last few years. I have loved teaching since I started aged 23."

On being asked which one piece of advice she would give to a teacher starting out, Hilary said: "Don't waste time doing too much paperwork, just get on with the thing you love: teaching."

Steve Jackson, former Head of The Blue School said: "Hilary made an incredible difference to the outcomes for generations of students. The establishment of an exceptionally wide and relevant range of vocational courses together with consistently outstanding results - a Headteacher's dream!"

Judge Samantha Twiselton said: "There is such a mix of different ways she's contributed over a long career, with a massive commitment to different curriculum areas and the school community, as well as the community beyond the school, in a way that is really heartwarming."

Chief judge of the Tes Schools Awards and Editor of Tes magazine Jon Severs said: "The Tes Schools Awards are the Oscars of education, recognising and celebrating everything that's great about our schools and school staff. We had so many entries from teachers and schools across the country; choosing the winners was no easy task. Congratulations to the winning schools and thank you to all school staff who do such vital work every day."

The Tes Schools Awards were held at the Grosvenor Hotel, on London's Park Lane on Friday, June 17. They were held in person for the first time in three years, after two virtual ceremonies.

For the full list of winners of the Tes Schools Awards, visit https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/tes-schools-awards-2022-winners.

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