London maths teacher shortlisted for $1m teaching prize

A London mathematics teacher has been shortlisted for a $1m (£780,000) international teaching prize after his tuition website went global during lockdown, helping millions of pupils in the UK and around the world to continue their maths studies at home.

Dr Jamie Frost, who is maths lead at Tiffin School, an all-boys grammar in Kingston-upon-Thames, is a top-10 finalist for the 2020 Global Teacher Prize, now in its sixth year, set up by the Varkey Foundation and run in partnership with Unesco.

Frost was one of 12,000 nominees from over 140 countries. His website, DrFrostMaths, became a lifeline for pupils – and teachers – during lockdown, offering teaching resources, videos and a vast bank of exam questions free of charge as schools around the world were forced to close and move lessons online.

Within a week, page views jumped from 0.4m to 1.3m per day; there have now been more than 7m downloads, and Frost is still receiving emails every day from teachers and pupils around the world thanking him for his support.

“I had an email from Brazil yesterday saying: ‘We are still in lockdown and your site has been an absolute godsend’,” said Frost, whose site has been accessed by teachers and learners from 133 different countries in the past year.

The site has proved particularly popular in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, and Frost has even been asked to support younger detainees at a prison in Ohio with their maths studies.

Frost, who teaches at one of the highest achieving schools in the country, failed the 11+ but went on to Oxford University where he graduated with a first and studied for a PhD.

The website is taking up more and more of his time, but he is enjoying being back in school and intends to remain in the classroom. “I just love teaching. It’s something I’m good at and I love that day-to-day interaction with the kids.”

The winner of the prize will be announced on 3 December. The other finalists include Mokhudu Cynthia Machaba, from South Africa, Leah Juelke, from the US and Yun Jeong-hyun, from South Korea.

Stefania Giannini, the assistant director general for education at Unesco, congratulated Frost, while highlighting the devastating impact of the pandemic on pupils across the globe. “Since the coronavirus pandemic first emerged, we have seen 1.5 billion learners across the world impacted by school and university closures.

“But not all learners are being impacted equally. Governments must act decisively to close the digital divide in education exposed by Covid-19 and find solutions to deliver effective remote education for the 706 million learners who do not have access to the internet.”

Two years ago, Andria Zafirakou, an arts and textiles teacher from Alperton community school in Brent, north-west London, became the first UK teacher to win the teaching award. Last year the award went to Peter Tabichi, 36, a maths and physics teacher at Keriko secondary school in Pwani Village, in a remote part of Kenya’s Rift Valley.

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