Port Ellen Primary School named Primary School of the Year


An Isle of Islay primary school has this evening (24 November), has been named as one of the nation’s most inspirational educators on The One Show on BBC. Selected from thousands of nominations, Port Ellen Primary School has won a coveted Gold Award in the Pearson National Teaching Awards for Primary School of the Year.

The award came as part of a week-long celebration of teaching which will culminate on Saturday, 26 November, at a prestigious ceremony celebrating the 90 Silver Winners of the Pearson National Teaching Awards. At the ceremony Port Ellen Primary School will be honoured alongside their fellow gold winners across 16 categories as the best of the UK’s educators. 

Port Ellen Primary is a small school with big ambitions, central to the heart of the community.  Located on the Isle of Islay, a two-hour ferry journey from the Scottish mainland, the curriculum is designed around island life and has won a number of awards around STEM and entrepreneurialism. 

Staff have built links with other island schools around the world to build a global community for pupils. Pupils also value their Gaelic heritage as they learn the language, play Gaelic instruments, and perform Gaelic songs nationally. 

Children build award winning wave powered devices, work with local partners to make Gaelic art and poetry, carry out archaeological surveys of local heritage sites, make and deliver ‘thank you’ food gifts for Covid-19 heroes, campaign against dog poo and build social enterprises in a phone box. Despite the challenges of its rural location, the resourceful team makes best use of the local environment and technology to creatively tackle the challenges presented by its geographical isolation.

The award was presented by television presenter Joe Crowley, after the school had set up an orienteering challenge across the island. At the end of the challenge, the whole community congregated to discover Port Ellen Primary School had won the Gold Award.

These Pearson National Teaching Award winners are shining examples of the people who make our schools and colleges so special. Our schools are the beating heart of our communities, and these awards are a wonderful opportunity to recognise the unseen work that schools and colleges do on a daily basis, from going the extra mile to provide reassurance during uncertain times through to offering wider support to families who need it most.

The Gold Award winners have been honoured for their incredible work supporting learners across the country. Each award winner has repeatedly gone above and beyond their role to change the lives of their students, supporting them and their families, and helping them move towards a brighter future.  

The Pearson National Teaching Awards is an annual celebration of excellence in education, founded in 1998 by Lord Puttnam to recognise the life-changing impact an inspirational teacher can have on the lives of the young people they work with. This year marks its 24th year of celebrating our school teaching staff across the UK. 

Maureen Macdonald, Head Teacher, said: “”For us at Port Ellen Primary School, Winning the Primary School of the Year Gold Award is an amazing achievement. It has been a great privilege to have been shortlisted for such an accolade among some inspirational schools across the UK, but to have gained the top prize is quite overwhelming and humbling. The sense of pride and joy within the entire school community is palpable. Despite being a small island school we believe, speak and think ‘possible’ which means often stepping beyond our comfort zone and challenging the status quo. We continue to grow and to keep improving but for now, we will collectively enjoy this moment!”

Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, Argyll and Bute Council’s Policy Lead for Education, said: “Maureen and her colleagues play a pivotal role in helping to shape the future of the school’s children and young people. They are the backbone of the school community, going above and beyond every day to provide pupils with the guidance and confidence required to succeed. Other than parents, teachers have arguably the biggest influence on a child’s life, and the staff at Port Ellen should be very proud that their efforts have led to them beating off stiff competition from across the country to win this prestigious award. They are a credit to Islay, a credit to Argyll and Bute, and indeed a credit to Scotland. Well done.”

Sir Michael Morpurgo, celebrated author and former Children’s laureate, and President of the Teaching Awards Trust, said: “People of all ages will always remember that amazing teacher who made such a difference in their lives, whether that’s igniting a fire for their favourite subject or the support they’re received outside the classroom. Teachers and school staff will never know how many lives they have changed, or the impact they have made on so many children and their families, but our hope is that these awards help show them our gratitude, how much we owe them, how much we value their dedication.”

Sharon Hague, Managing Director, Pearson School Qualifications, said: “More than ever we are seeing the tireless work that our teachers, lecturers, and school staff do day in, day out, to support not only our children but their families too. Congratulations to all our Gold Award winners, who are shining examples of the incredible work going on in our nurseries, schools and colleges every day. This week we have heard so many inspirational stories about our school staff that highlight the exceptional dedication they have to their students, their colleagues, and their communities.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “Many congratulations to Port Ellen Primary School. Their fantastic work and dedication to their students is truly an inspiration, and these awards provide well earnt recognition of the work of incredible teachers and school staff up and down the country. 

“We have some of the best teachers in the world and I want to thank every single person working so hard to support children and young people for their expertise and commitment.”

Rachel Johnson, CEO at PiXL, sponsor of The Award for Making a Difference – Primary School of the Year, said: 

“Port Ellen Primary School is a hugely deserving winner of this award. Everyone at Port Ellen Primary School has clearly worked so hard to provide the very best for their young people. It is wonderful that we can take this opportunity to celebrate their dedication and commitment to education. Everyone at PiXL is amazed by their incredible achievements, and we are delighted that they have been recognised as a winning school.”

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Phil Copple on 07958 368649 / phil.copple@denford-associates.com


Notes to Editors: 

About the Awards

The 2022 Pearson National Teaching Awards are open to every school across the UK. The awards were established by Lord Puttnam CBE in 1998 and are managed by the Teaching Awards Trust, an independent charity. The charity’s mission is to raise the profile of the teaching profession, highlight the positive impact teachers and school leaders have in our society, and show teachers how much they are valued. It does this through its public-facing ‘Thank A Teacher’ campaign www.thankateacher.co.uk, and through the Pearson National Teaching Awards www.teachingawards.com.

Port Ellen Head Teacher Maureen Macdonald and her Deputy Head Mrs Clark