Twelve teachers were honoured for their role in supporting Oxford students.
Twelve teachers were honoured for their role in supporting Oxford students.

Twelve teachers were honoured for their role in supporting Oxford students. Image: Edmund Blok.

Inspirational state school teachers honoured by Oxford

Twelve state school teachers from across Britain have been honoured as 'inspirational teachers' by Oxford University as part of an awards scheme designed to recognise excellent teachers from state schools and colleges.

On 15 May the teachers were honoured at an event at St Peter's College. They were recognised for their efforts supporting pupils who were successful in getting places at Oxford. The teachers were all nominated by current first-year Oxford students.

Dr Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Oxford, said: 'We all remember a teacher who passed on their passion for a subject to us. Mine was Chris Kilkenny, a history teacher at Heathfield Senior High School, which is now the Joseph Swan Academy, in Gateshead, who made history come alive through his inspirational classroom teaching and field trips around the North East.

'The Inspirational Teachers Awards are a way of recognising the importance of school or college teachers in encouraging bright students to realise their potential and make a successful application to Oxford, especially those who might not have initially believed they were Oxford material.

'Most of the students who submitted nominations this year were the only ones at their school with the academic ability to apply to Oxford and might not have even considered applying. We think it's important to recognise those teachers whose dedication really made a difference in pushing students to have confidence in their academic abilities and aim for the top, no matter what.'

She added: 'This year's winning teachers also represented the highest standard of commitment to all their students, inspiring successful Oxford applicants but also raising the aspirations or instilling an enthusiasm for their subject in others. They have inspired students with their passion, creativity and dedication to be the best they possibly can be and deserve recognition for that above all.'

Oxford's Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Professor Sally Mapstone, presented the awards. She said: 'A good teacher can be absolutely vital in encouraging and raising the aspirations of students over the course of their careers. Winning a place at Oxford takes hard work and dedication, and having the support of a committed teacher is for many students what makes the difference in pushing them to apply and make the strongest application they can. I hope this award will send the message that students and universities recognise how valuable the role of a supportive teacher can be.'


Nimmy Sidhu, a teacher at Oaks Park High School Sixth Form in Enfield, received an award after being nominated by Esther Odejimi. Esther said: 'I would have nominated two teachers if I could have, because there were really two people who supported me all the way through my student career to Oxford. Ms Sidhu and Mr Foster backed me every step of the way, but Mr Foster died suddenly after a short battle with cancer the day before I received my A level results. This was truly painful as he did not get the chance to see the product of his labour with me, but I know that he had every faith that I'd make it into Oxford. His support for me even extended to his death bed, as I was informed that he spoke about me getting into Oxford shortly before passing away. I was away at the time and didn't get the chance to thank him and say good-bye, but this award is every bit as much for his memory and all he did to support me as well. 

'Miss Sidhu, hands down, is the most inspirational, supportive and selfless teacher that I have ever had the privilege to be taught by and spend time with. When applying to Oxford University was just a thought, Miss Sidhu was one of the people that instilled the vision within me and continually reassured me that I was academically adequate to thrive at an institution like this, despite my socio-economic background. Whenever I needed her in any way, shape or form, she never failed to let me know that she was always there for me, regardless of what my need was. I will never forget the fact that every single day, the school cleaners would kick Miss Sidhu and I out of her classroom at around 7pm because we were the last people left in school and they needed to lock up!

‘I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that if there was anybody at my sixth-from that wanted me to do well, Miss Sidhu was the front-runner. If she knew that I was giving a speech somewhere as head girl, she would make sure she came to support me. If she knew I needed a push or extra help to keep on top of academic work, she was always there to support me. If I needed breakfast in the mornings to get me through the day, Miss Sidhu was there to save the day! If I just needed someone to talk to about absolutely anything, Miss Sidhu was always there, willing to give up her time, rearrange her meetings and even sacrifice spending time with her family, all just to ensure that I was ok and maintaining belief in myself.’

Ms Sidhu said: 'I feel truly blessed that I have the opportunity to work with young people ever yday at such a vital time in their lives. Teaching, like any profession, has it's difficulties but to me the satisfaction at the end of each day is a reward in itself. Often young people just need a small nudge in the right direction, or for someone to tell them that they believe in them, and that can become a driving force that leads them to follow their dreams.'

Another winning teacher is Jo Kemp from Fitzalan High School in Cardiff. She said: 'I was completely surprised to be notified about the award but equally delighted when I read the very personal citation that Mohamed had written. It really reflected the journey that he and I and the school community have been on over the last few years. As a teacher there is nothing better than receiving a genuine thank you from a pupil - so this feels very special. Getting this news a day after we heard that our second applicant had also been offered a place made it even more special.'

The winning teachers received a trophy and certificate and a £100 book token donated by Oxford University Press, which is a department of the University.

The award scheme recognises the crucial role teachers and careers advisers play in encouraging talented students in their schools or colleges. A selection of current first-year Oxford undergraduates were asked to nominate teachers or careers advisers for the award who inspired them to apply to Oxford, fostered their passion for a particular subject or supported them through the application process. The students were all from selected UK state schools or colleges with a limited history and tradition of sending students to Oxford.

Oxford University spends more than £5.5 million each year on more than 2,200 outreach events, reaching virtually all UK schools which produce candidates capable of making a competitive application to university. Work with teachers is a key priority for the University's outreach work, including a series of regional teachers' conferences each year, a one-day event for Oxford's own PGCE programme, and working with Teach First participants.

The winning teachers are:

• Peter Bardon, The Hermitage Academy, Chester-le-Street
• Alison Boardman, Hornsey School for Girls, London
• Kathryn Brooks, Sir Robert Pattison Academy, North Hykeham
• Michael Curry, Holy Family Catholic High School, Thornton
• Peter Gross MBE, Enfield Grammar School, Enfield
• Claire Hall, Highdown School & Sixth Form Centre, Reading
• Joy Humphrey, The Ilfracombe Academy, Ilfracombe
• Sheena Kar, St Benedict’s Catholic High School, Whitehaven
• Jo Kemp, Fitzalan High School, Cardiff
• David Perkins, Duffryn High School, Newport
• Ms Gurnimrat Sidhu, Oaks Park High School Sixth Form, Ilford
• Stella Vassiliou, Didcot Girls' School and Didcot Sixth Form, Didcot