Sky Sports Living for Sport Awards: Teacher of the Year Finalists

Last Updated: 20/05/14 5:42pm

Meet the three inspirational teachers shortlisted as Finalists for the Sky Sports Living for Sport Awards.

Michael Cox, Bedford Academy

Bedford's Wayne Instrell was named 2012 Student of the Year with Michael's help and Nahida Begum, the East of England regional student winner in 2011, was likewise inspired by Michael - a teacher who everybody at Bedford Academy describes as passionate and driven; the kind of role model who lifts an entire group of people through his sheer personality and energy.

But it's not only passion that underpins Michael's success in changing the lives of those he teaches. His real skill lies in the way he identifies key issues and concerns for various groups of students and creates a project around them, determined to help them transform their lives.

He has found that taking pupils out of their comfort zone, forcing them to rely on each other and on staff to succeed, can truly empower them and have a real impact on behaviour, confidence and academic attainment. Importantly, he always takes part in the sessions himself - even being thrown around a judo mat by Athlete Mentor Ian Rose - showing students that anyone can fail but that getting back up and trying again can lead to a real change in confidence.

This year Michael ran a swimming project for students with special educational needs, a group who were low on self-esteem. Run with the help of Athlete Mentor Fran Williamson (a four-times gold medallist Para World Championship swimmer), it was so successful in raising confidence and attainment that many of the pupils are now integrated back into mainstream lessons.

A second group, of 12 underachieving students of different ages who all had a mixture of issues from low self-esteem, low self-confidence or poor behaviour, took on a windsurfing project. Every single one of them was able to learn a new sport - including Michael of course - transforming their self-esteem and social skills in the process.

Paul Donaghy, Durham Community Business College

Paul has been a torch bearer for Sky Sports Living for Sport since the very start, 11 years ago, and there are few teachers in the country with more experience or passion for the initiative.

The sheer variety in Paul's imaginative Sky Sports Living for Sport projects is impressive, allowing students to try out sports as varied as Dodgeball, Rock Climbing, Ultimate Frisbee, Indoor Bobsleigh, Sitting Volleyball, Boccia (a type of bowls), New Age Kurling and even Underwater Hockey.

This year will see the school's first group of Sky Sports Living for Sport students leave the Sixth Form - and eight have gained places at universities to study sports-related courses.

One student, Scott Turpin, overcame a difficult start at school in which he struggled with academic work to become a 'volunteering' role model, giving up his free time to gain NGB qualifications in a variety of sports. He is now part of the County Durham Leadership Academy, has set up an after-school club for non-sporty students, and has been given five offers at Universities to take a Foundation Degree in Sports Coaching.

Fellow student Dominic Lynn, who overcame a lack of confidence to take up refereeing in Primary School matches, was last year presented with a special award for completing the greatest number of hours volunteering in Country Durham, more than 300 in all. And current pupil Laura Jones has overcome shyness to become a role model. She was instrumental in devising the Winter Olympic Games hosted by Durham Community Business College this year for six local Primary Schools - and recently was invited to attend the Step Into Sport conference at Loughborough University.

Stacey Howard, Holy Family RC School, Goole, North Yorkshire

Stacey works only two days a week as a specialist teacher but has given up almost all her spare time to support the school's Sky Sports Living for Sport programme - transforming the lives of dozens of students in the process.

As well as organising a lunchtime club, she has instigated a Sky Sports Living for Sport media team that has become a regular focus for news-hungry students and teachers at Holy Family, arranged visits to outdoor activity centres, taken students rock climbing, skating and sledging, and helped introduce an annual 'sports celebration week'.

Stacey's tactic is to introduce the programme slowly in Year 7, often choosing students who have found it difficult to settle into Secondary School life. In the early stages, students are offered 'time out' cards, allowing them to leave lessons if they become overwhelmed; but as confidence grows the cards are soon used less and less.

One of the main tools is a lunchtime club in which Stacey teaches the students the skills identified for success in sport and life. They range from mental toughness to people skills - and from breaking barriers to planning for success and form the basis for all the SSLFS projects.

Students are given a voice, choosing which activity to work on before eventually being offered an opportunity to set up their own clubs. Recent projects include GCSE pupils designing and delivering six weeks of team-building activities - which were so good they have now been included in the school's PE curriculum.

Six of Stacey's students who had previously shown no interest in PE and had never enjoyed sport, had a life-changing breakthrough when they achieved a qualification in officiating at boccia competitions, a Paralympic version of bowls, and also competed at the North Yorkshire School Games Finals.

Watch Game Changers with David Beckham and Jessica Ennis-Hill live on Sky Sports 1 on Tuesday from 4.30pm.

To find out more about Sky Sports Living for Sport - a free secondary schools initiative that uses sport stars and sport skills to boost confidence, change behaviours, increase attainment and improve life skills - click here.