All this month Get West London has teamed up with Teach First for the Challenge the Impossible campaign to encourage you to make teaching your next challenge in 2017.
Over the last month we’ve been showcasing the great work of schools and individuals in West London who are making a difference to the lives of young people who need it most.
There’s still more to be done as only one in five children from poorer families in West London achieve the Government’s new English Baccalaureate, five good GCSEs in specific subjects, compared to nearly two in five of their wealthier peers.
And 7% of pupils in West London who have been on free school meals go on to be not in education, employment or training (NEET), compared to 4% of their wealthier peers.
A new and emotionally charged video from the charity shows how teachers can turn the lives of their pupils around completely.
Sara, whose true story of a troubled time in school is told in Teach First’s powerful video, was just six years old when her father secured a job in the NHS and her family moved to London from Jordan.
But when she arrived at primary school she couldn't speak English, knew no one, and felt out of place and alone in her school.
Recalling her early experiences in the classroom, Sara said: “Learning to speak a new language was incredibly difficult, so when I couldn't understand what the teacher was saying I often cried.”
“I thought I was stupid, and my growing frustration meant that I began to misbehave.
"Sometimes, when a teacher announced that we had a test, I would just get up and walk out of the classroom.”
“I was constantly being excluded from school.”
Liam McGillicuddy,who also features in the video, was one of Sara’s teachers and Deputy Head at Quintin Kynaston Academy.
Speaking about Sara, he said: “She used to throw desks, knock over chairs, push past staff and not listen to them.
"Once she saw red, it was pretty hard to get her to stop.”
“As teachers it is vital to understand the barriers to learning that students have.
"We work together to share information and strategies that foster in students a love for learning.”
Sara's behaviour 'turned a corner' and she applied to Oxford
Liam and other teachers identified her self-doubt and lack of confidence as Sara’s biggest barrier and weren’t prepared to give up on her.
Thanks to the passion and sustained commitment of her teachers, Sara’s behaviour turned a corner.
Sara's progress was so astonishing that in sixth form her teachers recommended her for the Teach First Futures mentoring programme, which helps young people who have the academic potential to go to university but may lack the confidence, knowledge or support to get there.
Fastforward to today and Sara is in her first year of studying history at the University of Oxford.
Liam admits it was an emotional moment when Sara’s teachers found out she’d made it to university: “She was crying.
"I cried a lot actually. It was the best moment of my career.”
“Teaching is an amazing career.
"You see your impact immediately, from day to day, but also over the longer term.
"The difference that you make to the lives of others makes this job the greatest on earth.”
Sara says she knows her teachers have made a huge difference and set her up for a bright future.
"Without the support and encouragement of my teachers and mentors, I honestly don't know if I would have even applied to university, let alone secured a place. And not at just any university but one of the best in the world.
"I've got big goals for the future. I'd love to become a human rights lawyer, and maybe one day become an MP, to fight injustice and help others less fortunate than me."
Anna Townsend, West London Local Director Teach First , said: "There will be young people like Sara in every classroom across West London who need help.
"Great teachers need good communication skills, an ability to adapt their approach to each child, and ultimately resilience to persevere and not accept failure as inevitable."
"We've made great strides but sadly it's still the case that the majority of young people from low income backgrounds in West London leave school without the grades they'll need to succeed in life.
"It'll be a challenge to change this, but will it be impossible? No.”
“Do you have the skills, drive and determination to turn someone’s life around? If you want a role where you can make a real difference and be part of a movement to right one of society’s biggest injustices, then apply now to Teach First.”
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