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Alperton Community School’s Andria Zafirakou to use $1m prize to get artists into London’s schools

PUBLISHED: 10:46 27 June 2018

Andria Zafirakou winner of the $1m Varkey Foundation Global Teacher prize with her pupils at Alperton Community School (Picture: Suzanne Plunkett)

Andria Zafirakou winner of the $1m Varkey Foundation Global Teacher prize with her pupils at Alperton Community School (Picture: Suzanne Plunkett)

Suzanne Plunkett

An Alperton Community School who won the ‘world’s best teacher’ prize has pledged to use the $1m prize to get more artists into London’s schools.

Alperton Community School teacher Andria Zafirakou. Photo by Alperton Community SchoolAlperton Community School teacher Andria Zafirakou. Photo by Alperton Community School

Andria Zafirakou scooped the £720,000 Varkey Foundation Global Teacher prize earlier this year, and is using the funds to set up Artists in Residence, championing creative subjects at state schools in disadvantaged areas.

The campaign by Ms Zafirakou, supported by Melvyn Bragg and Simon Schama, comes at a time when arts subjects are being in squeezed out of the curriculum in the face of cuts from central government.

The arts and textiles teacher, who had no obligation to launch such an ambitious project with the prize money, said: “In recent times, there has been a decline in children choosing to study arts at GCSE, or enter into the workplace in an arts based job.

“Artists in Residence brings prestigious artists into school and enables students to vision an exciting world they can be part of.

“This programme is not just about celebrities performing inspirational speeches; it is about real exposure to inspirational experiences, lasting creative relationships, and inspiring children to start a journey into artistic industries.”

The foundation prize, which is awarded in instalments over a period of 20 years, was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society.

In winning the award, Ms Zafirakou was described as “going against the grain”, taking the time to understand student lives beyond school by visiting their homes, riding with them on the bus and sometimes standing at the school gates with police officers to welcome pupils as they arrive at the start of the school day.

She has also learnt basic “hello” and “goodbye” greetings in many of the 35 languages spoken at the school, including Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil and Portuguese.

The project will begin as a pilot involving 30 disadvantaged schools in the capital, before widening to the whole of London and then rolling out to the rest of the UK in 2019.

For more information on how you can apply for the scheme visit artistsinresidence.org.uk.

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