THE BLOG

From Teaching Maths to a Global Stage

13/04/2016 11:06

When people think about teaching, they probably don't immediately think of it as a job with the potential to lead to the creation of a website used by thousands, and being named one of the top 10 practitioners of the profession in the world (with the related media coverage and interviews). Yet, for me, that's just what it's become.

My job as a maths teacher at Preston Manor School in Wembley, North West London, came about after six years working in the City at a top accountancy firm. Through their corporate responsibility programme, once a week we partnered with a school in Bethnal Green on a school reading programme for disadvantaged children. I worked in a structured, quiet office and when I saw and experienced the excitement of school life I knew I wanted to teach maths. I started the school-reading programme in June, quit my job in the August and embarked on my PGCE in September 2009.

I loved my teaching role, but it became something bigger than that in 2011. For a while I'd thought about creating online resources to help teach maths, and was spurred into action based on the experience of an A level student whose father was terminally ill in another country. So the student didn't get too far behind, I started to put lessons into online videos so he could continue his learning and exam preparation. From there, I made the videos accessible for all Year 13 students to look at online before the class so they could be prepared. That year group got the best A Level results the school had seen.

Following this success I applied for, and was awarded, £10,000 to develop a website dedicated to helping children with their maths learning, effectively putting the maths curriculum online. Since then, I've been shortlisted for Virgin's Pitch to Rich competition, won the Teacher of the Year Award, and HegartyMaths has gone live as an online platform that teaches, assesses and tracks everything a child needs to learn in school maths from upper primary to IGCSE level.

It's probably fair to say that a highlight so far has been being shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize. Being named in the top 10 teachers in the world, alongside teachers being recognised for countering extremism in the classroom in Kenya, or promoting the rights of girls to get an education in Pakistan, is a huge honour.

When it comes down to it, though, what gets me out of bed in the morning is still teaching kids maths. I relish challenging the prevailing mood amongst children, which is often that maths is rubbish and there is a general feeling that you are either good or bad at maths and a 'give up' mentality. Disproving this common belief amongst students is a really powerful thing and I believe that with good teaching children can succeed and maths can be a life differentiator, as it was for me.

I love inspiring students to realise their potential and trying, as best as I can, to give them the hunger for learning and education, which I believe is a great leveller. I was lucky enough to have the most wonderful parents who instilled this belief in me as a young man and this is something I like to share with the students I teach. Helping a student move from self-doubt to confidence in themselves is as good a gift as you can share. Working in a school is always exciting and there is rarely a day when a student doesn't do or say something to make you smile, often at a well needed time of the day.

As well as being passionate about the transformative powers of learning maths, I'm also championing the cause to attract more people to teaching. Teaching offers so much opportunity to carve out your own path, much more than I think people realise. There is scope to apply your own research to your own teaching and increasingly use social media platforms and the internet to be creative. My school has also been fantastic at allowing me to be flexible while I was developing the website. The sky's the limit if you approach it creatively - I certainly don't feel my work is done!

To find out more about the National College for Teaching and Leadership's return to teaching pilot programme, visit education.gov.uk/returners

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