Mr Summers by Ashley Banjo

Explosive experiments and a prankster teacher ensured science lessons were never dull for the Diversity choreographer, whose studies have influenced his inventive approach to dance
10th October 2014, 1:00am


Mr Summers by Ashley Banjo

Mr Summers didn't just teach me science, he taught me to really love science. He was also the biggest prankster at St John's School in Billericay, Essex, and would often get himself into trouble.

Once, when we were in the corridor waiting to go into his chemistry lesson, he created an explosion with loads of smoke. Then he staggered out wearing a singed lab coat and fell to the floor. The school reacted instantly and called an ambulance and the fire brigade before he could get up and tell them it was a joke.

I loved his style of teaching. He took a subject that was difficult and made us see the fun in it. He wouldn't just use textbooks; he'd use practical demonstrations to instil that knowledge in our minds. He made science cool. At one point I wanted to become a scientist and that was because of him.

I remember when he taught us that certain metals burned with specific colours when they were heated. Rather than just tell us and get us to write it down, he brought in samples and we got out the Bunsen burners and created explosions. After that class, the colours of the metals stuck in my mind. They still do. It was classic Mr Summers.

I was always quite a good student, but I wanted to do especially well in his class. We all respected him, so our homework was never late. But he was incredibly laid-back and a real contrast to the other teachers who were more reserved and less fun.

He was in his late thirties with black curly hair, and he was American so he had a cool accent. He would take the mickey out of us and he introduced me to the world of banter, the back and forth. He was more like a friend than a teacher.

It was thanks to Mr Summers that I decided to take triple science. I did well in my GCSEs and when I left school I went on to study A-levels in chemistry, biology, physics and maths. Even though I wasn't his pupil any more, I still went back to him for tutoring. I'd give him a call and say I was stuck on a subject and he would meet me for an hour and help me to get my head around it.

We lost touch with each other when I went to university to study a combined degree in physics and biology. But I know he's still at the school because he teaches my little sister.

I was at university when Diversity won Britain's Got Talent in 2009 and things instantly went mad. I'd always had one foot in the academic side and one foot in hobbies such as dancing and singing (which were always strictly monitored by my dad). I had to make a choice to go with the dancing or stick with my studies. So I left midway through the third year. But I am determined to go back and finish it.

I employ a lot of science in my dancing. To create something from scratch, I add in a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I have a formula that I work on - it's quite logical. And that's thanks to Mr Summers. He changed my perspective and made me realise that you can look at science as a boring textbook or you can look at it as something fun.

Ashley Banjo was talking to Kate Bohdanowicz. He is judging Sainsbury's Active Kids Superstar Cooks competition, in which schools can win a street dance class with him and pound;10,000 worth of new kitchen equipment. For more information, visit

Big break dance

Ashley Banjo

Born 4 October 1988, Leytonstone, London

Education St John's School, Billericay and Seevic College, Benfleet, both in Essex; Queen Mary University of London

Career Lead performer and choreographer of dance group Diversity; judge on Sky 1 talent show Got To Dance

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters