Andria Zafirakou, a primary school teacher at Alperton community school in the borough of Brent has been awarded a prize amounting to 1 million pounds after being acclaimed “best teacher of the world” by the Varkey’s Foundation’s annual Global Teacher Prize in March 2018. The award she initially received recognised the importance of arts education in schools and society: Andria Zafirakou was the first British teacher to receive the prize.
She has now pledged to spend this money in a programme aiming to bring back the arts in primary schools in the United Kingdom.
Twelve years ago, she set up a charity called “Artists in Residence” aiming to build a bridge between the classic British educational system and the world of the arts. She strongly believes that arts play a crucial role in the educational process and that today is the best time to incorporate more arts in schools. She claimed: “This is our time, this is the time for the arts, we are going to make a change and do something quite incredible”
This campaign mainly stems from the difficulties many schools have in getting artists of any sort into schools to inspire children. Zafirakou’s charity aims to be a broker between schools and artists to facilitate the mix of the two. Being a teacher, she said “I get schools, I know the problems they have and I know the language of schools”, “I know that many artists cannot get into schools because of logistical problems”.
Alperton community school, where she is currently teaching, is located in one of the poorest areas of the country with pupils coming from a wide variety of social backgrounds: for instance, 130 languages are spoken in the Borough of Brent. Having taught there for twelve years now, she claims that most people don’t “have a clue” about the level of deprivation and poverty she sees on a daily basis around her classroom. Zafikarou has always been very involved in providing the best education but also moral support for her pupils, making sure that everyone could have a free breakfast in the morning and adapting after-school clubs schedule to her students’ availability.
The project she wants to develop involves 30 schools, similar to Alperton in disadvantaged communities to incorporate more arts, before widening to London and probably the rest of the United Kingdom by the end of 2019.
Schama, an artist-in-residence at Alperton who worked with Zafirakou claimed that “music and arts in schools is not a luxury nor a add-on: it is an indispensable centre. What will remain of us when AI takes over is creativity, creative spirit and visionary sense of freshness”, making the arts a central piece in the puzzle of personality.
Art, music and drama are, according to him, “not only essential to personal growth and self-understanding but they also teach young people to think creatively, learn to communicate effectively and build resilience. All these skills will be important for the jobs that they are likely to do when they leave school”.
Her approach clashes with most educational reforms and “political wisdom” that for kids to be successful they should have a structured, rigid and old-fashioned education. But to quote Lord Bragg in regards to educational and academic reforms: “The curious thing is that the only people in the country who don’t get it are the politicians.”
Fore more information, you can read the Guardian article of the 26th of June 2018.