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World’s best teacher commits $1m winnings to improve arts education

Artists in Residence launch
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A London teacher who was named the best in the world will use her $1 million prize money to promote arts engagement in schools.

Melvyn Bragg and Simon Schama are among the first backers of Andria Zafirakou’s plan to recruit leading figures from the performing arts, design, fine arts, music and architecture to spend time in schools.

Earlier this year, Zafirakou, who teaches art at Alperton Community School in north London, won the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize. It has prize money of $1 million (£758,000).

With it, Zafirakou has founded Artists in Residence, a not-for-profit programme that aims to give young people unparalleled access to time with leading artists from a variety of fields.

It will connect individual schools with artists, who will commit to spending a day with students, with a goal of establishing longer-term partnerships.

Zafirakou said: “In recent times, there has been a decline in children choosing to study arts and GCSE, or enter into the workplace in an arts based job.”

She said the scheme would not be based on “celebrities performing inspirational speeches”, but would be about “real exposure to inspirational experiences, lasting creative relationships and inspiring children to start and journey into artistic industries”.

Artists in Residence will pilot in 30 London schools this autumn, ahead of a full launch in January, expanding to a nationwide programme in September 2019.