Four UK teachers shortlisted for $1m Global Teacher Prize

Four UK teachers have been included in the top 50 shortlist for the Global Teacher Prize, which will see the winner scooping $1m.

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The shortlisted teachers are a business and enterprise tutor from Essex, a headteacher from Leeds. a drama teacher from Belfast, and a computer science teacher from Corby. 

The Global Teacher Prize, which is provided by the Varkey Foundation and now in its third year, is designed to recognise “one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession”. 

The 50 strong shortlist has been selected from over 20,000 entries across 179 countries, with the winner to be announced in March at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.

The UK has more teachers on the shortlist than any country apart from the USA, which has five teachers shortlisted.   

Sunny Varkey, founder for the Varkey Foundation, said the number of entries for the prize received this year was “testimony to the achievements of teachers and the enormous impact they have on all of our lives”. 

Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, said: “I count my teachers as among the most influential people in my life. 

“Teachers are entrusted with nurturing the potential of the young and helping them blossom as productive and responsible members of society. It is hard to underestimate their value.”

“I applaud the launch of the Global Teacher Prize, which recognises their worth,” he added. 

The four UK teachers are:

Adnan Mahmood, a business and enterprise tutor at Barking and Dagenham College, Essex.

Mr Mahmood’s teaching approach emphasises the importance of building skills needed for success in life and business, and integrating them with the academic requirements of the curriculum. He has helped students compete in national competitions such as the Edge Challenge, where one of his teams won £5,000 towards their business idea. Since starting his role in 2012 he has seen big improvements in his students’ results, and he has been awarded the VQ Teacher of the Year and the Pearson Silver Award. He has also worked with the Pants to Poverty campaign to raise over £4,000 through students selling fair-trade pants – winning the national competition and travelling to India as winners.

Nathan Atkinson, headteacher at Richmond Hill Primary School, Leeds.

Mr Atkinson has introduced the “Thrive Approach” at his school, which says that in order to learn properly and thrive, children need their basic needs met: they have to feel safe and be well-fed with nutritious food. To achieve this Richmond Hill offers a free breakfast for all children (delaying the beginning of lessons to make room), and continues to provide food for the community outside term time. He has organised a free ‘waste breakfast’ for pupils across the region, providing food to 10,000 schoolchildren that would have been thrown away but was safe to eat. This event developed into the Fuel for School project, which provides a twice-weekly delivery of food for 30 schools in Leeds. Mr Atkinson has worked with Jamie Oliver and was nominated for the 2016 Pride of Britain award. 

Peter Ferris, a drama teacher from Mercy College, Belfast.

Mr Ferris grew up in Belfast during the Troubles and went on to study at the Italia Conti Academy of Performing Arts in London. After graduating he became a teacher there and over the years taught many stars from stage and screen, including Strictly Come Dancing finalist Louise Redknapp, Daniel Mays, Claire Sweeney, Martin McCutcheon and Russell Brand. He had tried to give something back to Northern Island using drama and the performing arts to bring both sides of the divided community together. He has used filmmaking as a way to inspire students, with films subsequently shown at Cannes.

Raymond Chambers, a computer science teacher from Brooke Weston Academy in Corby, Northamptonshire

Mr Chambers entered teaching by accident because of a last minute computer science degree placement, but discovered he loved it. At this time ICT teaching was fairly traditional and undeveloped, so he started developing new software for learning using Microsoft Kinect. This developed into a blog, then a project with other teachers which led to him being invited to Portugal to present it on a global scale. Mr Chambers’ computer science YouTube education channel has had 250,000 views, and he received the 2015 UK national teaching award for innovative use of technology and in 2013-14 won the Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator Award.

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