Andria Zafirakou, the British Cypriot teacher awarded the 2018 Global Teacher Award, will donate her £1 million prize to set up an NGO to boost art education, starting with disadvantaged schools in London.
Asked why she had not decided to spend the money or herself and her family, she said that she could not use it as if it had come from a lottery. “This is something I won because I am a teacher, therefore it is right to give back to my profession,” she said.
With her when making the announcement were pupils, teachers, family and supporters including Simon Schama, Melvyn Bragg, the musician Naughty Boy and the artist Mark Wallinger.
Zafirakou launched her charity, Artists in Residence, at her place of work for the past 12 years, Alperton community school in Brent, and said she wanted to bring about a classroom revolution.
The campaign stems from the difficulties many schools have in getting artists of any sort – whether an up-and-coming local musician or a major movie star – into schools to work with and inspire children.
Zafirakou’s charity will essentially be a broker between schools and artists. “I get schools, I know the problems they have and I know the language of schools,” she said. “I know that many artists cannot get into schools because of logistical problems.”
The project will begin as a pilot involving 30 schools in disadvantaged communities, before widening to the whole of London and then rolling out to the rest of the UK in 2019.
She said she felt her award recognised the importance of arts education in schools and society. “When you have kids who are not picking up arts because they do not know what the jobs are or don’t realise the value of it, that’s when alarm bells ring and you have to do something.”