Seven inspirational teachers win share of £115,000 to develop ideas for improving education

Exciting new teaching ideas will be introduced into classrooms after seven innovative educators won a share of more than £115,000.

The recipients of this year’s Let Teachers SHINE awards have each devised potentially groundbreaking projects aimed at helping children from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed at school.

The awards they have received will help them turn those ideas into reality.

Let Teachers SHINE is a competition run annually by the North of England education charity SHINE.

Alongside funding, SHINE provides all winners with free access to a wide range of development workshops and coaching opportunities, enabling teachers to maximise the potential of their ideas.

Over more than a decade, it has funded innovations of all shapes and sizes, which have helped millions of schoolchildren. Past winners include the likes of Times Tables Rock Stars and Hegarty Maths.

This year’s winning projects encompass the fields of English, maths and science and more than half incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) in some way.

Winners of this year’s Let Teachers SHINE competition are:

Benjamin Barker – Progress Checker

The principal of a brand-new secondary school in Liverpool is developing an innovative app which aims to transform communication between teachers and parents.

Benjamin Barker wants to ‘build something different from the norm’ at King’s Leadership Academy Wavertree, which is due to open in September 2025.

He has received a development grant of £10,000 from Let Teachers SHINE to help him fine-tune his idea to create an app that allows teachers to give video feedback on pupils’ work.

Benjamin wants to ‘move away from old-fashioned paper reports and parents’ evenings that don’t give the bespoke detail needed to help pupils progress’.

He hopes his Progress Checker app will address ‘the significant communication gap between teachers and parents in secondary schools’.

Benjamin said: “I’m really excited to see how it will develop over this next year and then, hopefully, we’ll be successful in applying for the full grant in the following year.”

Jon Blackbourn – Revise Chemistry with Mr B

A secondary school teacher’s online video revision aid for chemistry students is to ‘go live’ after he won funding from Let Teachers SHINE.

Jon Blackbourn, who teaches chemistry at Fairfield High School for Girls in Droylsden, Manchester, last year received a development grant for his revision video project, Revise Chemistry with Mr B.

Since then, Jon has created more than 160 videos for YouTube, which have been viewed over 64,000 times. His YouTube channel has over 1,000 subscribers and continues to grow steadily. He has also created almost 200 TikTok videos, which have been watched more than 900,000 times. His TikTok channel has more than 3,000 followers.

Jon can now take the concept to the next level after he received a grant of almost £25,000 from SHINE which will pay for new video equipment and give him more time to produce videos.

Jessica Mellor – Fixing Fluency

Fixing Fluency, which has won Jessica Mellor a £25,000 award, has been designed to develop the fluency of primary-age pupils – particularly those aged between 7 and 11 years old.

Jessica, from the Great Heights Academy Trust in Halifax, said: “Reading continues to be one of the most significant barriers to educational achievement, particularly for our disadvantaged pupils.

“Reading fluency is crucial to unlocking the potential and power of reading in terms of academic achievement.”

Fixing Fluency involves teachers leading their whole class in daily activities based on that week’s chosen text, culminating in Readers’ Theatre – a performance of the text.

Jessica added: “I was absolutely delighted to receive the award. It’s a real privilege to be able to work with an organisation like SHINE that prioritises the importance of a shared mission around achieving great things for children and giving them the best possible chances in education, no matter what their starting point or educational background is.”

Mark Robinson – Instant Feedback for Every Child

With his new AI-assisted platform, Mark Robinson hopes to transform the teaching of physics so that thousands of students receive instant expert feedback – the kind that is often only found with private tutoring.

Mark, a teacher at Ark Burlington Danes Academy in London, has received £25,000 from Let Teachers SHINE to develop his project, Instant Feedback for Every Child.

Mark envisions a future where every student, regardless of background, receives personalised support that helps them achieve academic success. He hopes his project will also alleviate some of the pressure on teachers, allowing them to focus on the most important and rewarding parts of their job.

At the core of Mark’s project lies a comprehensive online platform designed to provide students with immediate feedback with the help of AI, revolutionising how they learn.

Mark said: “I feel it will be possible to make this tool available to everybody, so we have complete equality by raising everyone to the highest level of education so that nobody will be disadvantaged by not having money.”

Matt Harte – Better on the Big Screen

It is hoped a new project that combines the magic of movies with the convenience of AI will inspire students resitting their English language GCSE.

Better on the Big Screen is the brainchild of Matt Harte, from Leeds City College.

The project blends communal cinema trips and online clips of famous films with AI-generated prose to spark the imagination of students who may have otherwise struggled to engage with the subject.

Matt explained: “The students will see the films and film clips, which match the lesson content they receive afterwards, allowing them to build their analysis of the narrative they have watched.

“The use of AI enables us to curate a wide range of teacher-controlled pieces of prose that are linked directly to the plot, characters and visual richness of the films.”

Jordan Scott – ProVision

A primary school teacher believes his innovative AI-powered system will revolutionise targeted support for disadvantaged students and reduce the workload of teachers and teaching assistants.

Jordan Scott, from Benton Dene Primary School, in Newcastle, has received a Let Teachers SHINE award of £16,000 to fund ProVision, an online intervention and pupil data management system.

Research shows that targeted interventions can improve student progress by more than five months.

Current practices often miss this potential due to systemic issues, Jordan said.

“Existing strategies often fall short of supporting diverse student needs. Inadequate progress-tracking systems also contribute to inefficiency and increased workloads.”

Jordan’s solution is to create a system which uses AI to streamline the planning, implementation, and monitoring of interventions, ensuring they are tailored to individual student needs.

“I really can’t wait to get started on the project and to be involved in the network of SHINE teachers,” Jordan said. “I am excited about being able to access that range of expertise.”

Sam Tallintire – Mathematical CPD Library

A Sunderland secondary school teacher hopes to support colleagues across the region by creating online training video resources for maths teachers.

Sam Tallintire, from Southmoor Academy, has been awarded a development grant by Let Teachers SHINE to begin creating her project, The Mathematical CPD Library.

The grant, totalling £5,000, will enable the production of the first part of a collection of high-quality video tutorials for maths teachers to help them develop their subject and pedagogical knowledge in all areas of the curriculum.

These video tutorials will be supported by resources to be worked through or used with students in the classroom.

Sam is excited to get started on the pilot. She said: “I’m really, really pleased to receive the grant from SHINE.

“It is so nice to have people outside of your organisation believe in your idea and believe that it can have an impact on students.”

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