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Two Brits among finalists for $1m teaching prize

Two teachers from England are among 50 people in with a chance of winning the first $1 million award for teaching.

TES columnist Tom Bennett, a philosophy and RE teacher at the Jo Richardson Community School in Essex, and Richard Spencer, a biology teacher at Middlesbrough College, will be competing in the final stages of the new Global Teacher Prize.

Shortlisted from more than 5,000 nominations from 127 countries, the teachers will be judged on what they do to “open up their pupil’s minds”, their contribution to the community and how much they encourage others to become teachers. 

The eventual winner will receive financial counselling when they receive the prize, which they will get in 10 equal annual instalments on the condition that they remain a classroom teacher for at least five more years.

The organisers of the award – the charitable arm of the Gems international chain of private schools – want it to be seen as the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for teaching and hope it will raise the status of teachers worldwide.

It is being backed by former US president Bill Clinton, honorary chairman of the Varkey Gems Foundation, who said that “attracting the best people to teaching” was “critically important” for education.

The 50 shortlisted teachers are being judged by a committee whose members include former Ofsted chief inspector Sir Mike Tomlinson and TES editor Ann Mroz*.

Ten finalists will be chosen, who will travel to the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai in March, where the winner will be announced.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Gems Foundation, said: “The prize is not only about money. It’s also about unearthing thousands of stories of inspiration as the many applications prove.

“Of course, more will be needed than the Global Teacher Prize to raise the status of profession worldwide.  But my hope is that it’s the start of a million conversations about the role of teachers – from families around the dinner table and teenagers on social media to education ministries around the world.”  

For further information on the top 50 shortlisted entrants, go to

*Ann Mroz recused herself from the judging process, which was overseen by PwC, when Tom Bennett was being considered.

Related stories:

Malala wins Nobel Peace Prize – 10 October 2014

$1m on offer for the world's best teacher, in 'Nobel Prize of education' – 30 October 2013


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