Education & Family

UK teacher in final for global prize

Colin Hegarty Image copyright PA
Image caption Colin Hegarty has created 1,500 video maths lessons which have been viewed five million times

A London maths teacher is among the top 10 finalists for a global teaching prize.

Colin Hegarty, who has set up his own maths teaching website, has reached the final of a competition to find the world's most exceptional teacher.

The winner, to be announced at an awards ceremony later on Sunday, will receive a prize of $1m (£700,000).

The finalists include teachers from India, Kenya, Finland and the United States.

This is the second year that teachers from around the world have competed for the Global Teacher Prize, which will be awarded at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.

Created by the Varkey Foundation, the charitable arm of the GEMS international education firm, the prize and Oscars-style ceremony are intended to raise the status of the teaching profession.

Mr Hegarty, from Preston Manor School in Wembley, north London, is the only UK teacher in the final shortlist, in a competition that had 8,000 entries from 143 countries.

His maths website began when one of his pupils had to go overseas to look after his sick father.

Mr Hegarty put lessons online so that the student did not fall behind and this has developed into a website with 1,500 video tutorials, which have been viewed almost five million times.

Before entering teaching Mr Hegarty had been an accountant, but took a £40,000 pay cut for what he hoped would be a more fulfilling career.

He rejects the idea that some people are inherently good at maths, believing that anyone who is well taught and works hard can understand maths.

He went from growing up in a London council flat to gaining a first-class degree in maths at Oxford University. But he says that he never felt disadvantaged because his parents had always been supportive with his education and had encouraged him to work hard.

He says this also applies to maths. "It's about hard work. If you get stuck, just try harder."

Mr Hegarty's competitors include another maths teacher.

  • Maarit Rossi from Finland developed her own method for teaching maths. Finland has some of the best maths results in the world in international tests, but Ms Rossi's classes are high achieving even against Finnish standards.
  • Hanan Al Hroub grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp and now is a teacher of refugees herself, specialising in supporting children who have been traumatised by violence.
  • Aqeela Asifi came to Pakistan as a refugee from Afghanistan and is teaching refugee children in a school that she created.
  • Ayub Mohamud, a business studies teacher from Kenya, has reached the finals with a project to discourage violent extremism and radicalisation.
  • Robin Chaurasiya from Mumbai in India founded an organisation to teach and support teenagers from the city's red-light district.
  • Richard Johnson, a science teacher from Perth in Australia, set up a science laboratory for primary school children.
  • Michael Soskil from Pennsylvania in the United States, a previous winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, has motivated his pupils by linking them with projects around the world.
  • Kazuya Takahashi from Japan has developed innovative ways to teach science and to encourage global citizenship.
  • Joe Fatheree from Illinois in the United States has pioneered teaching projects using 3D printing, drone technology and using online games such as Minecraft.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, told the international education conference that the prize was intended to bring greater public recognition to the importance of teachers.

"My hope is that children from around the world will watch Sunday's ceremony and think about what their own teachers do for them," said Mr Varkey.

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