About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Today Nesta, the innovation foundation, recognises 15 teachers and teaching assistants for pushing the boundaries of how maths and computer science are taught in schools. From discussing migration figures and how resources should be divided fairly through the benefits system, to building rockets and setting up a James Bond style Casino Royale, teachers across the UK are reaching beyond the curriculum to inspire their students to use their imaginations to tackle problems in a whole new light.

The £75, 000 award, to be shared by the 15 teachers, was established before the outbreak of COVID-19, but the current pandemic, combined with school closures, has shown that there has never been a more important time for teachers to innovate and for students to learn how to use their knowledge creatively to tackle large scale challenges.

The Classroom Changemakers Award was set up to unearth, celebrate and share the great ideas of those combining traditional school subjects with important future skills and inventive ways of learning. Winners have been selected for giving students the opportunity to be creative and solve problems in their lessons. Each of the winners will receive £5,000 for their school or college to expand their maths and computer science programmes.

Maths and Computer Science, despite being vital subjects, are still often perceived by students as being difficult and dull according to recent research by Wellcome Trust. The ideas put forward by the Classroom Changemakers prove that this doesn’t have to be the case. Trialling new approaches can allow innovation and creativity to flourish within lessons and inspire a more diverse range of students to engage with and enjoy these subjects.

Joysy John, Director Education, Nesta said, “We all remember that inspirational teacher who helped us to achieve things we never thought possible. We’ve managed to find 15 of them across the UK who are working their magic to create exciting lessons, build confidence in their students and inspire young minds to tackle some of the biggest challenges of our time. We believe that maths and computer science are subjects that are vital to the future, and will enable the youth of today to create and build a better world. Teachers often don’t get the recognition deserved for all the energy that goes into nurturing their students.”

Edward Vine,Classroom Changemaker and integrated STEaMplus Coordinator, Hockerill Anglo-European College, Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, said, "We need to give children more opportunities to work together in teams, more time to develop their projects and their creativity to join the dots across the traditional subject boundaries."

There is so much potential for creativity in maths and computer science and by addressing related concepts within the framework of project based learning where disciplines that are normally taught separately are brought together to solve problems. There is an efficiency gain that means that students have more opportunity to think more deeply and acquire a much greater sense of ownership and motivation. Such an experience makes the learning so much more powerful."

“The experience of homeschooling throughout the COVID-19 pandemic will allow people to realise you don't have to have a Victorian factory education system. A mix of classroom and project based work could be very effective where teachers are used more like consultants.”

Bryan Irvine, Classroom Changemaker and Computing Science Teacher, Biggar High School, Lanarkshire, Scotland, said, “I think the Classroom Changemakers project is really valuable and provides important validation for individuals. There are thousands of teachers who work really hard on fantastic projects and to do an award like this is a huge boost to teachers, schools and also to students.”

On how COVID-19 and learning from home will impact creativity and innovation amongst teachers he adds, “I’m a fan of digital learning but schools can take a long time to change direction and sometimes it can take an unforeseen nudge to make things happen. I’m hoping for something positive to come out of this situation and for schools to continue using more effective digital teaching tools.”

The 15 Classroom Changemakers are:

1. The Mathematics of Migration

Jessica Barnecutt, Assistant Headteacher, Mathematics, Oakland School, Bethnal Green, London

The Mathematics of Migration explores a big data set based on 500 refugees and migrants who crossed the channel in 2015, allowing students to critically engage with the realities of migration by using their maths skills.

2. Income Support in a Micro Society

John Healy, Teacher of Mathematics at Oakland School, Bethnal Green, London

Income support in Micro Society creates project based work where students create a micro-society of 24 families, each with complete profiles detailing family structure, living conditions, incomes and expenditures. Students are asked to create a mathematical model for distributing benefits, and engage with issues of fairness, inequality and efficiency to solve the problem.

3. Creative Project Work in Computing with Girls

Andy Jones, Head of Department, Computing, Sacred Heart High School, Hammersmith, London

A new curriculum plan designed around a series of projects in which girls have a role in creating lesson objectives. This idea was designed to help address the major gender gap found in secondary school computer science classes and has significantly expanded the cohort of girls taking computer science at Sacred Heart school. Projects have included the design of World War Two Enigma machines.

4. Project Based Learning at Ada - Industry Challenges

Tina Götschi, Vice Principal, Computer Science, Ada, the National College for Digital Skills, Tottenham, London

Ada runs comprehensive maths and computer science projects with industry partners including Deloitte, Bank of America and Salesforce. Taking place over three days, these projects involve the opportunity to use a wide range of skills including creativity and problem solving on a specific challenge such as a topical health or environmental issue. The industry partners help to refine each group's project and illustrate the links between maths, computer science and real world job opportunities.

5. Project based integrated STEaMplus

Edward Vine, integrated STEaMplus Coordinator, Hockerill Anglo-European College, Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire

Focussing on three themes Flight: Space and Polar Exploration this iSTEaM project based approach focuses on designing and building a vehicle aircraft, rocket, mars rover or dragster through Computer Aided Design (CAD). The students study the scientific theory behind the project as well as mathematical basics and analysis such as, area, volume, density, vectors and graphs. Students are working in competition within teams as well as collaboration within science, DT and CT departments.

6. Whole School Maths Themed Days

Amy Large, Maths Teacher, Millgate School, Knighton Fields, Leicester

Maths Themed Days give the students of Millgate School the opportunity to see Maths in an alternative, creative way which cuts across a range of other subjects and departments within the school. Using one theme, students are able to visit each department to study the day's theme. For example, James Bond day included using maths at the Casino Royal to consider the concept of probability via poker and blackjack to a Catering class which offered ‘shaken not stirred’ lessons which involved measuring qualities in different units to create a ‘mocktail’.

7. Problems Set by Professionals

Subashini Suganthakumaran, Key Stage 3 Coordinator and Teacher of Mathematics, Hammersmith Academy, Shepherd's Bush, London

To encourage problem solving, Subashini Suganthakumaran has asked friends in industry to send in maths problems they have experienced in their working life which are then adapted and used in lessons. Not only does this ensure an interesting variety of problems to work on, but also highlights the sort of real-world issues that maths skills can help to solve.

8. Computer Science Student Mentorship

Janice Osbourne, 2iC Computer Science, The Charter School North Dulwich, Herne Hill, London

A mentoring programme designed to empower and support Year 10 students

The programme is focused on uplifting and supporting a group of Year 10 students with particular emphasis on those who lack confidence and are at the lower end of the ability range.This is a six week programme with mentors and mentees meeting one hour per week to work through a set of programming challenges, improving both of their confidence.

9. Using Computing and Mathematics to Make Biological Molecules Come Alive

Mari Chikvaidze, Teacher of Mathematics, Claremont High School Academy, Kenton, Harrow

Mari Chikvaidze has designed a course that allows students to build up their computing and maths skills on a project about molecular biology. In addition to enabling students to use these skills in a new context, the idea has been delivered to students from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

10. Games Development

Bryan Irvine, Computing Science Teacher, Biggar High School, Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland

The Games Development project at Biggar High School teaches software development to first year students. Students are asked to think about what ‘good’ means in the context of a game and through this success criteria is identified. Students come up with their game concept and are then guided on how to create their world, character and game mechanics.

11. How can Technology Improve Your Local Community?

Marc Matthews, Computer Science Teacher, West Exe School, Exeter

Year 9 and 10 pupils have been building apps that address community problems, learning about mobile app technology and how this technology could be used to benefit members of their community. Students have both designed an app and created a prototype using AppLab.

12. If a Machine Can Think, What Should it Think for us?

Michael Jones, Director Computer Science - Computer Science, Northfleet Technology College, Gravesham, Kent

Moving students from being passive recipients of artificial intelligence into active creators, Northfleet Technology College have been working with the Year 8 students to explore AI, machine learning and the process involved in making a machine ‘think.’ Students have also been encouraged to consider social and moral questions such as ‘who is responsible when AI goes wrong?’ or ‘how can AI be harnessed to make people’s lives easier?’

13.CIM: Collaboration, Innovation in Maths

Domingo Garcia, Maths Teacher, Shaftesbury High School, Harrow

Working closely with students with a range of physical, learning, emotional, sensory, behavioural needs, Domingo Garcia of Shaftesbury High School has been developing skills and aptitudes that will help young people become independent and valued members of the community and carve a pathway to employability. Incorporating enterprise focused projects, students learn to understand how maths is used in the world of work. Students also learn about personal finance and budgeting

14. KPRIDE: Inclusive Programming Pedagogy

Pete Dring, Head of Computing, Fulford School, Fulford York

A programming pedagogical framework has been developed to support understanding of computer science aimed at mixed ability students in Y7-11, known as KPRIDE (Keywords, Predict, Run, Investigate, Debug, Extend). To encourage independence, creativity and logical problem solving skills students are asked to predict what code does, extend code with their own ideas and investigate intriguing lines and debugging.

15.Artful Maths

Clarissa Grandi, Stem Faculty Lead Practitioner, Mathematics, Thurston Community College, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Clarissa Grandi has developed a way to use maths skills in an artistic context through Artful Maths. These fully resourced lessons are designed to engage students through the creation of ‘mathematical art’ geometric patterns, allowing a fun way to understand geometric concepts. The lessons work by posing a question that requires students to visualise and form conjectures: for example “what are the paths of a trio of predatory bugs when each chases the bug to their right?”and “why is this object impossible to construct in reality?”. Their answers are then discussed, and the interesting mathematics behind the situation drawn out.


For more information contact Juliet Grant in Nesta’s press office on 020 7438 2668 or 07866 949047, [email protected] or [email protected]

Nesta_Press [email protected]

Notes to editors:

About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society. We've spent over 20 years working out the best ways to make change happen through research and experimenting, and we've applied that to our work in innovation policy, health, education, government innovation and the creative economy and arts. Nesta is based in the UK and supported by a financial endowment. We work with partners around the globe to bring bold ideas to life to change the world for good.

Nesta has a history of scaling innovations which aim to improve young people’s skills including social and emotional skills through a grant funding programme the Future Ready Fund and young people’s maths and problem-solving skills through the Maths Mission partnership with Tata.

In addition, Nesta has a long history of involvement with computer science, having supported initiatives around encouraging young people to learn coding and being successful in calling for the government to get programming and computer science added to the curriculum through the influential Next Gen report.

Classroom Changemakers entries were judged on:-

  1. Idea: An explanation of your idea which gives young people the opportunity to be creative and/or solve problems in maths or computer science.
  2. Impact: An explanation of the link between your idea and how it allows young people to be creative and/or solve problems in maths or computer science. Details are provided on how your idea has shown potential and what successes have been achieved so far.
  3. Inspiration: An explanation of the need for young people which inspired your work.

    There was an internal shortlisting process from Nesta staff with personal details including region hidden. The shortlisted 30 were whittled down to 15 by an expert panel of 2 computer science and 2 maths experts from external organisations. Again, the personal details were omitted. Final selection was confirmed by Nesta staff but aligned with the expert panel views.