Nicola Whiston

Ormiston Horizon Academy, Stoke-on-Trent, UK

Nicola  Whiston

Nicola loved every second of school as a teenager and always wanted to be a teacher, but she felt she did not have the necessary confidence. Instead, she got a Psychology degree and an industry job, before a year of working as a sales representative gave her the confidence to take the plunge and start her teaching journey. The school she first taught at was in one of the most deprived areas in the UK, and many students had very few female role models in their lives. Nonetheless, Nicola made a success of it, achieving great results for her Year 9 group. Forming the ambition to teach A Level Maths, she also took her own A Level in the subject and gained a mark of 99%, all while giving birth to two daughters.

In 2015 she moved to Ormiston Chadwick Academy. With the help of a supportive Principal, Nicola’s task became to improve the school’s outcomes in mathematics. She introduced the OCA_Maths Instagram page to post humorous videos about maths and introduce competition to the students, which has had a huge influence on their engagement. She also worked with Barclays Bank to send every student in Year 8 and above to a workshop that introduced them to finances in real life. Her class of 2016 subsequently achieved the most A/A* grades in maths in the school’s history. Following this, Nicola was part of the team that achieved an “Outstanding” rating in the school’s Ofsted inspection. In 2018, she won Maths Teacher of the Year at the Times Educational Supplement Awards due to the outcomes and transformation of the department.

In September 2018, Nicola joined Ormiston Horizon academy to help encourage new teachers to the area. This school in particular is in an area of deprivation, with over 50 per cent of the students on free school meals, and over 33 per cent leaving school with no qualifications (compared to 22 per cent nationally). At Horizon, Nicola is responsible for the progress of boys from disadvantaged backgrounds, living in communities where gang behaviour is often the norm. Aiming to start early, she has used links with universities to allow every student in Year 7 to visit a university outside their city for a day.

This year, Nicola also won a Silver award for Secondary Teacher of the Year at the National Pearson Teaching Awards. However, she feels her achievement isn’t the awards but rather the transformation of student outcomes. If awarded the Global Teacher Prize, Nicola would fund an initiative that motivates young people in her town of Stoke-on-Trent to achieve their best and see the world outside their immediate surroundings. There are already projects in her local community that support young people into industry – but the Prize funding could boost the work they have started to a meaningful level.