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Saturday, 30 December, 2000, 00:17 GMT
Heads honoured for reviving schools
sharon hollows
Dame Sharon Hollows: Head of a much improved school
Two head teachers who have transformed the performances of their schools are among four dames in the world of education named in the New Year Honours.

Jean Else, 49, took over Whalley Range High School in Manchester six years ago, when the girls' comprehensive had the worst truancy rate in the country.

She has slashed that to below the national average, pupil numbers have almost doubled, and GCSE results are up from 16% to 34% getting the top grades.

School inspectors call it "a very good school with many strengths and few weaknesses ... exceptionally well led and very efficiently managed and administered".

Ms Else said the secret was changing the school's environment and making it a place where girls wanted to come to learn.

"It's a beautiful environment and more like a hotel than a school. We have carpeted corridors and music playing and our own radio station," she said.

"It's been a challenge but I have loved doing it. I really have enjoyed it."

Trips and rewards

Children were now required to wear full school uniform and traditional rules applied. The school had high expectations of the students.

But Ms Else, who is also involved with government education focus groups, said the extra activities on offer encouraged the pupils to learn.

"We are looking at having our own television studio next year. We have breakfast clubs and lots of sports and music activities, trips and rewards."

She said she was "shocked" to be made a dame.

"It's a delight I never expected."

English is a second language for many of Calverton Primary's pupils
Another new dame is the head teacher who transformed learning at a primary school in east London.

When Sharon Hollows, 42, took on her first headship at Calverton Primary School in Newham in 1994, pupils' performance was very poor.

But by the time the 1999 primary school results came out, she had raised the score 11 year olds achieved across the three subjects in the national curriculum tests to 269 - up from just 45 in 1994.

It marked out the school as the most improved in the country. This year the performance went up again, to 287 - way above the national average.

That is in spite of most of the pupils being from African, Asian or Eastern European families, for whom English is not their first language.

Parental involvement

One of the keys to her approach was involving parents, drawing up "home-school agreements" before they became a national requirement.

The leader of Newham education authority, Sir Robin Wales, said: "This is absolutely wonderful news, an honour that's well deserved."

Janet Trotter, who has led the Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Education to become one of the leading higher education colleges, is also made a dame.

Janet Trotter, who began her career as a teacher in 1965, was made an OBE in the honours in 1991, at the end of the year when the college was created in its present form.

She is also chair of the NHS Executive South West but her new honour is for services to higher education.

"It is an honour and a privilege to be recognised in this way for my work in education, which has been such a big part of my life for nearly 40 years."

She paid tribute to all her colleagues who had worked to make the college the "vibrant, successful and supportive community" it now was.

Long list of honours

The other dame is Mary Richardson, former head of a beacon status specialist language school in Brent, the Convent of Jesus and Mary.

This year there are no new knights in schools, but Professor Christopher Frayling, rector and vice provost of the Royal College of Art, is knighted for services to art and design education.

Pam McComiskey
Pam McComiskey: 30 years of school crossing patrols
Nick Tate, until recently the chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in England, is made a CBE.

The Higher Education Minister, Baroness Blackstone - Tessa Blackstone - is made a privy counsellor.

In all, education accounts for 10% of the awards, with more than 70 OBEs and MBEs.

Many go to head teachers, school governors, or those working in further and higher education.

But as ever the honours also single out those in non-teaching roles whose efforts are vital to the functioning of the education system.

They include John Bates, caretaker at High Beeches School in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, Sandra Rutter, cook and catering supervisor at Brierton Comprehensive in Hartlepool, Cleveland, and Pam McComiskey, school crossing patrol officer at Romiley Primary School in Stockport.

Grandmother Mrs McComiskey, 60, has been helping children across the road to school for the last 30 years.

She says she has no intention of retiring.

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