Two teachers in Tower Hamlets win national award

Classroom changemakers

In early May, two maths teachers from Tower Hamlets received recognition as ‘classroom changemakers’ from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and Arts (NESTA).

Only 15 awards were handed out, across the country, celebrating teachers who have taken a creative approach to teaching maths or computer science - inspiring their students to solve problems.

Both teachers are from the same maths department at Oaklands Secondary School, E2. Jessica Barnecutt, who is Assistant Headteacher, was recognised for her ‘Mathematics of Migration’ dataset, a series of five one-hour lessons, based on the lives of 500 refugees who crossed the Mediterranean in 2015.

Maths of migration

Through this approach, students are able to learn the relevance of maths to life outside of the classroom. “The narrative is so different,” says Jessica. “Kids really related to the issue, they like learning about individual stories.”

John Healy, maths teacher, was recognised for ‘Income Support in a Micro Society’. His lesson invites students to create a society of 24 families, before distributing wealth fairly between them all. “The first thing I noticed was how excited the students were about the creative aspect of it,” he says.

A common approach shared by both teachers stresses the importance of project-based learning, using real-world skills and situations, to develop critical thinking.

They add, that the ability of many of their students is such that they are able to take a more creative approach to learning. John concludes: “If I was at another school, I may not have had the opportunity.”


  • Each teacher will receive £5,000 to invest into their departments, and their idea will be profiled in a Classroom Changemakers report to be released this Summer.
  • Download The Mathematics of Migration lesson plan for free here.
Posted on Monday 8th June 2020