North West teachers awarded funding for educational ideas

Four North West teachers have received funding for projects that will improve the prospects of children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Competition ‘Let Teachers SHINE’ offers up to £25,000 over two years to teachers with ideas to help disadvantaged children in the North of England succeed in English, maths or science. 

Educational charity SHINE helps teachers test their ideas, initially on a small scale. The project demonstrates impact on children, and SHINE help expand it. 

Blackpool teacher Sam Slingsby received £14,000 for his project that aims to improve the numeracy skills of school students who are currently below the average for their age. 

Sam’s Numeracy Bridger project first received SHINE funding last year, to develop the project at Educational Diversity, the alternative provision school where he teaches. The new grant will allow him to scale up the concept to help students at other schools in Blackpool. 

Numeracy Bridger is a series of 30-minute sessions, run one-to-one, or in small groups. The sessions are based on the fundamental numeracy skills that are required to master the GCSE curriculum – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. 

The sessions also introduce real-life concepts such as house bills, tax, mortgages, and rent. 

Sam said: “I want to continue the legacy of this intervention and share my resource so as many pupils as possible can have the opportunity to strengthen their fundamental numeracy skills, preparing them for GCSE maths and life beyond school.” 

Hal Eccles, from St Patrick’s RC High School in Salford, has been awarded a grant of £25,000 to develop an educational podcast produced and hosted by students that will help them prepare for their GCSE exams. 

Hal hopes the new project will inspire students, and help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to gain better exam results. Each podcast episode will cover a different subject of the curriculum, covering difficult concepts and content. 

He said: “We might do an English episode covering complex themes from ‘Of Mice and Men’, and then the next episode we might do history discussing the problems faced by Weimar government in 1920s Germany. 

“The idea is that there is going to be a season’s worth of content, each subject with its own episode. Within each episode, there will be segments on how to revise, difficult content and tackling misconceptions.” 

Tameside-based chemistry teacher Jon Blackbourn, from Fairfield High School for Girls, has received funding for his new project which uses YouTube videos to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds with their science GCSE. 

Jon, creator of ‘Revise Chemistry with Mr B’, strongly believes that video lessons can serve as a valuable alternative for students who are unable to afford private tuition leading up to their exams.  

The videos are thoughtfully structured in a logical sequence, with GCSE topics carefully organised, ensuring new concepts are built upon prior knowledge. 

Jon, who is entirely self-taught when it comes to filmmaking, said: “What I’m finding is that numerous students are utilising it to prepare for their exams, consolidate their learning, and even gain background knowledge prior to their lessons. 

“Beyond that, it has been a lifeline for those unable to attend school due to physical or mental health issues, providing them with a valuable resource for their education. 

“I’ve even heard a few science teachers have used it to showcase experiments that would otherwise be impractical to conduct themselves. They can then present the experiments to their students and foster a more engaging and interactive learning environment.” 

Andy Hopkins, assistant headteacher at Trinity School in Carlisle, has received funding for his innovative project that aims to address deep-seated barriers to literacy through a unique combination of tutoring, counselling and music. 

Students from low-income families in Years 7, 8 and 9 will be involved in the project which will seek to improve their well-being, their music production abilities, and their core literacy skills. 

The students will receive access to a counsellor, who will listen to their concerns and encourage them to verbalise their thoughts, fears, issues and ideas. 

They will also work with a literacy tutor, who will teach English language skills using hip-hop and drill lyrics in place of more conventional texts. 

Thirdly, the students will use what they have learned to write and create their own music, with support from former students and professional producers. 

Andy said: “In the North West we’ve got some of the most deprived areas in the country and we’ve got students who would benefit from creative ways to engage with the curriculum. 

“And even though they might go home and listen to quite complicated, incredible music, they still regard the production of that music as being outside of their reach. They don’t know how to get the skills and they don’t think that either they or the art form are treated seriously. 

“This project is a way of encouraging them, building their confidence, and giving them the language to talk about what they already know and the way to express themselves. 

“We will be giving them the skills to begin to express themselves verbally and also through their own music.” 

Let Teachers SHINE is run by SHINE in partnership with Tes and is open to any qualified, practising teacher working in England. Applications will open in October 2023. 

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