'Inspirational' state school teachers honoured for encouraging pupils to apply to Oxford

The teachers were nominated by former pupils, now studying at the prestigious university, in recognition of their hard work and encouragement

Eleanor Busby

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Ten state school teachers from across the UK have been honoured by the University of Oxford for the inspirational roles they played in educating students now studying among the dreaming spires.

The teachers,who were nominated for Inspirational Teachers Awards by their former pupils, received their awards at a ceremony held at Oxford’s St Peter’s College.

Debra Walsh, a French teacher at Brynteg Comprehensive School in Bridgend, Wales, was recognised after former pupil Elis Harrington, who is now studying Modern Languages at Jesus College, Oxford, nominated her. 

"I am absolutely delighted to have been nominated by Elis for this award, and although it is a privilege to be recognised in this way, I feel quite overwhelmed," Ms Walsh said.

"My advice to students applying to university is never think that you have set the bar too high. If you aim high and you are committed, the opportunities and rewards are immeasurable."

Ms Harrington said: "Madame Walsh always acted as the backbone for my learning, particularly at times when I had doubts about which academic path I wanted to take.

"Her faith and confidence in me drove me to believe that I could achieve great things, such as getting a place to study at Oxford University."

'Vital work'

The Inspirational Teachers scheme recognises the crucial role teachers and careers advisers play in encouraging talented students in their schools or colleges.

A selection of current first-year undergraduates were asked to nominate teachers or careers advisers who inspired them to apply to Oxford, fostered their passion for a particular subject or supported them through the application process.

The students were all from selected UK state schools or colleges with a limited history and tradition of sending students to Oxford.

Samina Khan, director of undergraduate admissions and outreach at the university, said: "The Inspirational Teachers Award is one of the ways in which Oxford recognises the vital work of teachers in encouraging students to realise their potential and make a successful application to Oxford – especially those who might not initially have believed Oxford was for them.

"This is particularly true for teachers who champion students who might be the only ones in their year – or even their school’s history – with the academic ability and drive to apply to Oxford.

"Achieving a place at Oxford requires dedication, and having the support of a committed teacher is, for many students, what makes the difference."

'They have inspired students'

Dr Khan, a former teacher, added: "Teachers motivate and inspire students with a huge range of abilities and interests, and this year’s winning teachers also clearly showed faith in all their students.

"They have inspired students with their creativity and enthusiasm to be the best they possibly can be and deserve recognition for that above all. I hope this award goes some way to saying thank you."

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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