A drive to succeed as an athlete has helped former top long- distance runner Ray Boyd turn around results at West Beechboro Primary School.
Named primary school leader of the year at the WA education awards for public schools yesterday, Mr Boyd is no stranger to the winner's dais.
He won Perth's City to Surf race 11 times and qualified twice for the Olympics marathon, in 1996 and 2000, narrowly missing selection.
Mr Boyd, who still coaches runners, said he had put 110 per cent into his athletic career, but once he pulled back from that he put all his energy into the school.
"I think most sportspeople are driven," the principal said.
In the nine years he has been at West Beechboro, students' results have gone from underachieving to above average.
It now gets regular visits from interstate school officials keen to discover the secrets of its success.
Mr Boyd said he changed the school culture by focusing on behaviour and curriculum.
He introduced programs used in the Eastern States and the US, including an emphasis on explicit instruction, which breaks skills and knowledge into small, incremental steps.
"We went from kids who still were not reading at the end of pre-primary to kids now in pre-primary reading at Year 3 level," Mr Boyd said.
The school's methods have been criticised by some educators who believe they give children less time for play, but Mr Boyd said parents sent their kids to school to learn, not to play.
"We can say none of our kids are below national benchmarks in Year 7 and Year 5," he said.
"Our Year 3s are outperforming Year 5s in similar schools. Our role is about giving every kid an opportunity to succeed, and if you can't read and write you've got no hope of succeeding."
Balga Senior High School produced two award winners, top secondary teacher Kathryn Maughan and education assistant of the year Robert Farrell.
Ms Maughan, who teaches drama, was praised for organising homework classes, helping set up a centre for school-age mothers to bring their babies and mentoring students after they graduated.
Known to Balga students as "Mr Bob", Mr Farrell gives up his own time to help them with visa applications or driving them to school events.