Let Teachers SHINE winners 2023 handed a share of £150,000 to fund their innovative ideas

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A group of talented educators has been granted a share of more than £150,000 to bring their project ideas to life after winning a prestigious education award.

Let Teachers SHINE, an initiative organised annually by the education charity SHINE, supports exceptional teachers in developing innovative practices for the classroom.

The winners receive grants of up to £25,000 to pilot projects aimed at helping disadvantaged children in the North succeed in school.

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.

This year’s winning projects span across the fields of mathematics, science, and English.

Andy Hopkins – Drill and Literacy

Andy Hopkins, assistant headteacher at Trinity School in Carlisle, has secured funding from Let Teachers SHINE for his literacy project.

This initiative combines tutoring, counselling, and music to overcome literacy barriers among low-income students.

Andy’s approach involves using rap lyrics and music production to engage students and boost their confidence.

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

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

Previous iterations of the project have yielded positive results, and Andy aims to have a broader impact on students’ well-being and literacy skills.

Andy said, “I hope this project will have a positive impact on their lives, but also the impact that they wouldn’t necessarily notice, which is that they get better at reading and writing and able to succeed in a world that is not always geared up for them.”

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Penelope Melville – Mind Wandering Cards

Penelope Melville, an English teacher at Christopher Whitehead Language College and Sixth Form in Worcester, has been awarded a £15,000 grant for her innovative teaching method that aims to mitigate mind-wandering and improve students’ learning.

The concept uses colour-coded cards to boost students’ listening, understanding, and debating skills.

Penelope explains her motivation behind the concept: “I kept thinking that nobody is focusing on how well the kids are actually listening when they do this. I know for myself, I don’t necessarily take in everything all at once.”

She highlights the importance of addressing mind-wandering and misunderstandings to facilitate effective engagement in debates.

She describes the positive response from students and her desire to share the methodology with other educators: “I’d love to expand it… because it has such a positive response from the students.”

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Jonny Foster – Prodigy

Jonny Foster, a teacher at Macmillan Academy in Middlesbrough, has been awarded his second round of funding from Let Teachers SHINE for his project, Prodigy.

The website aims to bridge the gap between maths and science grades while also addressing the overall achievement gap for disadvantaged students.

Jonny emphasises the importance of transferring knowledge between subjects, stating, “The research showed me that there is, as I suspected, a disparity between students achieving in maths and in science.”

Prodigy seeks to make learning interactive and relevant by linking lessons to students’ out-of-school interests.

Jonny explains, “Within the Prodigy online platform, I want to build profiles of the students’ interests, so that we can link questions to their interests.”

He plans to constantly update the content to keep it engaging and up-to-date. Jonny hopes to expand Prodigy into more schools and other subjects if it proves successful.

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Hal Eccles – RevisePilot

Hal Eccles, a teacher at St Patrick’s RC High School in Salford, has been awarded £25,000 to develop an educational podcast hosted and produced by students.

Hal explains, “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.”

He envisions a unique, entertaining format, stating, “I think what will make this podcast stand out is that it will be more of a light entertainment format, with students discussing things that are relatable to others.”

Hal is excited about the project’s potential, saying, “There is lots of excitement amongst the students… I envision the project to be all-encompassing, involving every department of the school and having the potential to reach beyond local schools, extending to the wider community.”

The grant will be used to invest in podcast technology, including setting up a studio and providing comprehensive training. Hal also plans to collaborate with other schools and universities, aiming for a sustainable program with trained presenters taking over each year.

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Sam Stenton & Aaron Lewis – A-Level Up

Recent research highlights a concerning maths attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils in North East Lincolnshire, necessitating innovative interventions.

Grimsby teachers Sam Stenton and Aaron Lewis have been awarded a £25,000 grant by SHINE to develop “A-Level Up,” an app aimed at aiding A-Level maths students in exam preparation.

Sam explained, “Our app will guide students towards relevant questions, helping them identify and fill knowledge gaps efficiently.”

They plan to prioritise software development using the grant, with Aaron adding, “Writing A-Level maths questions can be challenging, but we’ll rely on our expertise as maths teachers to cover the curriculum.”

The teachers envision expanding the project to other subjects, and Sam expressed confidence, stating, “A-Level Up will make a substantial difference.”

“Assuming a successful outcome, we believe that we could extend this project to other subjects as well. Particularly in skill-based subjects such as computer science, physics and chemistry, this kind of app could prove to be a game-changer for students.

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Jon Blackbourn – Revise Chemistry with Mr B

Jon Blackbourn, a chemistry teacher from Manchester, has been awarded a grant from SHINE for his project, ‘Revise Chemistry with Mr B,’ which utilises YouTube videos to support disadvantaged students with their science GCSE.

Jon believes that these video resources can be a valuable alternative for students who cannot afford private tuition.

He shared his passion for creating engaging content, stating, “I’m aiming to cover the entirety of the GCSE course… I’ve created over a hundred videos already!”

Reflecting on the impact of his project, Jon said, “It has been a lifeline for those unable to attend school due to physical or mental health issues.”

“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.”

“Ultimately, my vision is for my channel to become the primary destination for children seeking to revise chemistry.”

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Sean Harris – Crafting a Curriculum with Poverty in Mind

Sean Harris, an Improvement Lead at Tees Valley Education Trust, has received £18,000 from Let Teachers SHINE to develop a curriculum that addresses the challenges faced by students from low-income backgrounds.

Sean believes in incorporating students’ perspectives to create a more meaningful and engaging learning experience.

Reflecting on his experience, Sean shared, “It made me realise how easily we, as teachers, can make assumptions about the prior knowledge which students are using to access the curriculum we teach.”

He initiated a pilot project to engage students during lunchtime, questioning their existing knowledge and curiosity.

Sean explained, “Our approach encourages a fresh way of thinking about the curriculum and provides a systematic framework for working with the children.”

With the funding, Sean plans to work with primary schools, purchase iPads for student involvement, organize conferences, and create a comprehensive toolkit.

He aims to develop a practical toolkit that incorporates students’ voices, challenges orthodoxies, and addresses the impact of disadvantage.

Sean expressed his gratitude for the funding, stating, “It is an investment in the education of all children, not just those in our school.”

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Sam Slingsby – Numeracy Bridger

Sam Slingsby, a teacher from Blackpool, has received his second round of funding from Let Teachers SHINE to scale up his Numeracy Bridger project, which aims to improve the numeracy skills of students below the average for their age.

SHINE’s first grant enabled Sam to “develop, refine and test drive” Numeracy Bridger. It also allowed him to train two teaching assistants to deliver the programme.

The second, larger, grant will mean Sam can introduce Numeracy Bridger in two local secondary schools and develop the real-life elements of the programme.

Sam’s project involves one-to-one or small group sessions focusing on fundamental numeracy skills and real-life concepts such as budgeting, taxes, and mortgages.

He explained, “Numeracy Bridger aims to give pupils the opportunity to both relearn those core concepts that underpin maths and develop numeracy skills that can be used and transferred into real-life situations.”

The funding will allow Sam to introduce Numeracy Bridger in two local secondary schools and further develop the program.

He emphasised the importance of numeracy skills in everyday life, stating, “Numeracy is essential for all pupils, not just when studying maths.”

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Darren Eales – The Mars Rover Project

Children in North Lincolnshire will compete to “put life on Mars” after primary school teacher Darren Eales won funding for his innovative space science project.

Darren, who teaches at Broughton Primary School, near Scunthorpe has received £25,000 in funding from SHINE after winning the education charity’s Let Teachers SHINE competition.

The funding will enable Darren to develop his Mars Rover Project, which will involve children from schools across the region.

Pupils will be tasked to design and program a robot to plant, grow and harvest crops on Mars. The project will target disadvantaged children who often do not have the opportunities to develop further studies outside the curriculum in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Darren hopes to light a spark in their fascination in STEM and encourage them to continue studying while at secondary school and hopefully inspire them to pursue careers in science and technology.

He emphasised the importance of numeracy skills in everyday life, stating, “Numeracy is essential for all pupils, not just when studying maths.”

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