MBE awarded to volunteer maths teacher

By Judith Burns
Education reporter, BBC News

Image source, Gbolahan Bright
Image caption,
Gbolahan Bright who runs free maths classes has been awarded an MBE for services to education

A man who runs free maths classes for primary age children has been recognised in the New Year Honours list with an MBE.

Gbolahan Bright has been running the Bright Academy maths clubs for primary age children in London and Essex for the past 20 years.

"I have gained a lot from this society. I have been blessed and it would have been ungrateful of me if I did not give back," he said.

Of the 500 or so children who have taken the classes, about 50 gained their GCSE while still at primary school.

Mr Bright's honour is for services to education in East London.

It was his wife, Afolasade's involvement in local politics, first with Hackney council and later with Barking and Dagenham, that saw him started on the idea.

Primary focus

"Being a Christian I am not one to sit on the fence. I wanted to give all it takes to make it work," he says.

"I feel so humble to be recognised at this level."

The couple arrived in the UK from Nigeria in 1990.

Mr Bright is a chemistry graduate and has been a teacher for 36 years.

"That is my life. I have a passion for teaching."

He now works part-time as a mathematics lecturer at Barking and Dagenham college and was ordained as a pastor in 2012.

Together with his wife, he now runs four free maths clubs, taking children from the age of seven - though they will sometimes include six-year-olds with older siblings already in the class.

Image source, Gbolahan Bright
Image caption,
The couple say the aim of the clubs is to encourage children to aim to be the best

"If the foundation is strong then you can build a good structure, therefore the focus is at primary level," he explains.

The couple's own three children all gained GCSE maths while in primary school.

The eldest, Joshua, 22, went on to gain a bachelor's degree from Queen Mary University London at 17, a masters at 18 and now works for a global investment bank.

Mrs Bright says having a mathematician for a husband was a big advantage.

"He believes that you have to catch children while they are young. He knows that without maths you can't really do much. You can't really get anywhere in life without it."

The couple realised other parents might struggle to help their children with maths problems, so they set up their first club to help other families.


"We are very child-centred. We help them regardless of their background, social or religious.

"We create an atmosphere of fun. It's not just about learning. We do debates, develop their presentation skills. A lot of them have been successful in a variety of fields," says Mrs Bright.

"We view every child as gifted. It is our job to motivate them", her husband adds.

"It is not just about mathematics. The aim is to encourage the children to aim to be the best. We want to get them away from things that distract them and give them a positive influence instead.

"We want to have an impact irrespective of a child's background. It is beyond mathematics. The aim is to bring the best out of each child. It gives us joy."

In total some 10% of the honours are for work in education with three head teachers receiving knighthoods or damehoods.

They are Oremi Evans, of Brookfield School and Specialist College, Herefordshire; Kate Dethrdige of Churchend Primary, Reading, and John Townsley, executive principal of The Gorse Academy Trust, Leeds.

Also recognised was Teresa Lees, a professor of social sciences at Cardiff University, who becomes a dame. Prof Lees, a former pro-vice-chancellor and Equal Opportunities Commissioner, is a sought-after expert on gender equality in higher education.

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