UK teacher unionist wins Global Teacher Prize award

published 19 March 2018 updated 20 March 2018

Education International congratulates UK teacher unionist Andria Zafirakou upon winning the 2018 Global Teacher Prize award.

First UK winner

Andria Zafirakou,a member of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) who teaches at Alperton Community School, a secondary school academy in the inner city borough of Brent, north London, became the first UK winner of the Global Teacher Prize. She was selected among teachers nominated from more than 170 countries.The prize, launched in 2015 by an education charity, the Varkey Foundation, was created to highlight the teaching profession.

Zafirakou teachesinan ethnically diverse district where students speak130 languages. Students come from some of the most disadvantaged sectorsin Britain, and face challenges fromviolence topoverty in their communities.

Teaching art and textiles,which she sees as “powerful subjects” that “help the students unlock all of their language barriers,”she redesigned the curriculum across all subjects– carefully working alongside other teachers – to make it meaninful forher students.

Also learning the basics of many of the 35 languages in Alperton’s pupil population, Zafirakou has been able to reach out to her once marginalised students and, crucially, establish relationships with their parents.

Thanks to her sustained efforts, Alperton is now in the top 1 to 5% of the country in terms of qualifications and accreditations, and has even been awarded ‘specialist school’ status in visual arts. This as a colossal achievement given how low the students’ starting points were and how rapidly they progressed during their five to seven years at the school, a point recognised by the national inspection team.

The power of the arts

“There is no other job like being a teacher,”Zafirakouacknowledged.“In what other profession are you selfless and completely devoted to creating the right opportunities for another person to achieve? Being in a classroom and watching a student have an idea and transform it into a formidable outcome is so satisfying and fulfills me.”

In her acceptance speech, she called for more support for the “power of the arts” in school, particularly for the “poorest communities”.She was adamant that schools could make a great positive difference - particular through creative subjects.

She went on stressing that schools should be “safe havens,” spoke of the hardship and overcrowded housing conditions facing many of her students, andwarned of “deprivation” and “tough lives” where “children may not eat well because their lunch boxes are empty”.

NASUWT: world-class quality of teachers across the UK

“On behalf of the NASUWT, I would like to extend our congratulations to Andria on winning the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2018,” said NASUWTGeneralSecretary Chris Keates, underlining that “the Global Teacher Prize recognises the hard work of teachers who are committed to making a difference in the lives of the children they teach”.

I am sure that the staff, students and community at Alperton Community School will be extremely proud of her achievement, she insisted, noting that Zafirakou's success in winning the Global Teacher Prize “reminds us also of the world-class quality of teachers across the UK, dedicated to the pupils they teach.”