Education charity Teach First hands out £60,000 to projects aiming to narrow disadvantage gap

A “university” for teachers has been given a cash boost towards opening, as part of an award scheme run by education charity Teach First.

The Graduate School of Education, aiming to open in two years’ time, was one of four projects given £15,000 each at the Teach First Innovation Award ceremony at Credit Suisse’s headquarters in Canary Wharf last night.

The other three winners include a mindfulness project, a literacy scheme and a programme aimed at improving children’s nutrition.

The Innovation Award, a nationwide competition launched in 2013, aims to close the gap between children from poorer backgrounds and their wealthier peers.

As well as their share of the £60,000, each scheme will receive support from Teach First for a year.

Previous winners include The Girls’ Network, a programme that inspires girls by connecting them with a network of positive female role models.

Last year’s winner, Right to Succeed launches in Blackpool this month and will encourage more evidence-based interventions in schools through pupil premium spending.

Brett Wigdortz OBE, founder and CEO of Teach First and one of the award judges, said: “No one can deny the exceptional work of all teachers across the country, but where challenges persist, we cannot expect them to handle this alone. We all depend on new ideas for helping to address the wealth of challenges underpinning educational inequality.

“It is only through Britain’s greatest talents being focused on solving the issue of educational disadvantage, will we truly drive forward the solutions needed to give our young people the start in life that they deserve.”

The winners:

Grubb Club

Set up by maths teacher Ashling Kiran, Grubb Club was first piloted at her secondary school in Kent when she noticed pupils, many from low-income families, were often going without the right food and nutrition and it was affecting their concentration and behaviour in class.

The scheme was designed to provide training and tuition to pupils and their parents about affordable and healthy cooking. Working in low-income communities, the 12-week programme is currently supported by food donations from local supermarkets.

Speaking to Schools Week, Ms Kiran said: “After lunchtime, the difference in pupils’ behaviour and attention at secondary school is amazing. They get very lethargic and detached. The sessions have got them and their families in to talk about what differences they can make – for example some single parent families who want their children to do more housework, like cooking, so we are helping them to learn those skills.

“I couldn’t believe it when I won. It is completely overwhelming.”

The Innovation Award will allow Grubb Club to expand into new areas of the country, first at Hornsey School for Girls in North London.

Graduate School of Education

Matt Hood, a Teach First Ambassador, is aiming to open the first independent Graduate School of Education in the UK, a ‘university’, led by master-teachers who lead demanding, rigorous masters courses to build on where excellent practice already exists amongst classroom teachers, and further accelerate the progress of disadvantaged students.

Through the support of the Innovation Award, Mr Hood is aiming to launch the college by September 2017.

Mindful Music

Teach First teacher Martha Wright set up Mindful Music at her school, Cedar Primary School in Strood, as a social enterprise that helps to improve 7-10 year olds’ behaviour and learning by teaching mindfulness through music.

Ms Wright will use the Innovation Award to help her work with more schools across the country.

Tales Toolkit

Created by Kate Shelley, an early years teacher in Bermondsey, Tales Toolkit provides an interactive story kit aimed at raising language and literacy levels while developing characteristics of learning.

So far, Tales Toolkit has helped to improve vocabulary and more coherent speech. The Innovation Award win will mean Tales Toolkit can work with children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Thinking Reading

Hailing from New Zealand, and now based in Bedford, Dianne Murphy and her husband, James were also declared winners and awarded an additional £15,000.

Both experienced in education and working with children with special teaching needs, the pair developed Thinking Reading as a way of addressing the challenges that underpin barriers to reading and learning. Their research-based approach has helped to ensure rapid progress for pupils, many of them up to four years behind their peers.

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  1. You should be more careful in your reporting, and the use of the phrase ‘university’. You know, as well as many of us, that you can’t just create a ‘university’ for teachers. The term ‘university’ is a protected term for good reason and can not be used in company names or titles without that particular company, charity or organisation seeking explicit permission and working through due processes. I doubt that this has been done.

    Your coverage of this new venture as a ‘university for teachers’ is misleading, however Teach First might be describing it.

  2. Just to mention that Tales Toolkit is a partnership started by 2 teachers, Kate Shelley and Inge Wilson. Both very excited to make a difference to language and literacy for young children