IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Alumna named best teacher in the world

19 March 2018

UCL Institute of Education (IOE) alumna Andria Zafirakou (PGCE Art and Design) has been announced as the world's best teacher after winning the 2018 Global Teacher Prize.

Andria Zafirakou accepting the Global Teacher Prize award

Mrs Zafirakou, who works at Alperton Community School in Brent, was shortlisted from more than 30,000 people for the award, winning a prize of $1 million (£720,000).

She becomes the first UK winner of the prize which is awarded by education charity the Varkey Foundation.

The ceremony took place at the Global Education & Skills Forum, an event which saw speakers including former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Olympic champion Mo Farah and IOE Director Professor Becky Francis.

Following her victory, Andria Zafirakou said: "I'm so humbled to accept this award, not just for myself but on behalf of every teacher who is making an amazing amount of difference in their communities."

In her acceptance speech she paid tribute to her pupils and colleagues and teachers throughout the world: "I want to share this honour with my fellow teachers and wonderful students at Alperton Community School in Brent, London.

"I also want to share this honour with my fellow finalists […] and all the teachers all over the world because tonight it's not about one person it's about celebrating all the teachers and recognising the important role they play in shaping the future for our children."

Aside from her work as an art and textiles teacher and member of the senior leadership team, Mrs Zafirakou was nominated for earning the trust of her pupils and their families to help understand the complex lives they've come from. With this knowledge, she redesigned the curriculum across all subjects from scratch - carefully working alongside other teachers - to have it resonate with her pupils.

Her work has included helping vulnerable pupils to stay out of danger by escorting them home, visiting their families, and setting up clubs and societies to keep them off the streets.

In her speech, she had a message for students across the globe: "Whatever your circumstances, whatever your troubles, please know that you have the potential to succeed in whatever your dreams may be. And that is a right that nobody should take from you."

Mrs Zafirakou is also a graduate of Leadership CoLab's National Professional Qualification Senior Leadership programme. This is a partnership between the London Centre for Leadership in Learning (LCLL) based at the IOE and over 200 schools and partners.

Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute to Mrs Zafirakou, saying "To be chosen from more than 30,000 nominees in 173 countries is an incredible achievement. It's a fitting tribute to everything you've done for your pupils at Alperton Community School whether it's learning how to greet pupils in each of their 35 first languages or organising extracurricular activities around their lives rather than the school day you have shown enormous dedication and creativity in your work.

"Being a great teacher requires resilience, ingenuity and a generous heart. These are the qualities that you share with your students every day. So thank you for all you have done and continue to do."

The Global Teacher Prize was set up four years ago by the Varkey Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation established to improve the standards of education for underprivileged children throughout the world.


Rowan Walker, UCL Media Relations
+44 (0)20 3108 8516