Colin Hegarty: Maths teacher could become millionaire after being shortlisted for annual award

Colin Hegarty swapped Deloitte’s in the City of London to train as a maths teacher six years ago

How to solve the Edexcel maths question
How to solve the Edexcel maths question

A former City worker who took a £40,000 pay cut when he quit to become a teacher is the only Briton on a shortlist for a major international teaching prize.

Colin Hegarty, 34, swapped Deloitte’s in the City of London to train as a maths teacher six years ago, taking up a job at Preston Manor school, an academy in Wembley, west London.

He is now on a shortlist of 10 for the Global Teacher prize – an annual $1m (£700,000) award given to teachers who have made an outstanding contribution to their profession.

“I’m not in things for money – otherwise I wouldn’t ever have changed jobs,” said Mr Hegarty.

His ability was quickly recognised and he won a UK award for the teacher who made best use of technology.He had set up a website that can help other teachers to teach maths – a tool that’s of vital use at a time when there is a national shortage of maths teachers.

The website (HegartyMaths at mathswebsite.com), which he has taken a year-long sabbatical from his job to develop with the aid of the charity Shine, is used by 5,000 children a day in 200 different territories around the world. It provides questions for pupils to answer by themselves.

He refines the website through an internship programme that involves 20 GCSE and A-level maths students coming to his home every day during the week and trialling the questions.

“They come in for three hours a day, Mondays to Thursdays,” he said. “They have helped with the questions on the site. Some of the teachers using it have said things like, ‘It’s the best system [for teaching maths] that I’ve seen for years,’” he said. “I don’t want to take the maths teacher out of the classroom, though, so I’d prefer it if it was used in conjunction with a teacher.”

He tells of one pupil who was in the bottom set of his school for maths and used the online aid with its questions for eight weeks – and shot up by three classes during that period. “It is not a gimmick,” he said. “It is the real deal.” Mr Hegarty was the first person in his family to go to university and gained a first-class honours degree from Oxford in maths before going into the City.

How to solve the Edexcel maths question

His parents worked as a builder and a cleaner and he was brought up in a one-bedroom council flat.

Despite the success of his online teaching aids, Mr Hegarty still loves teaching in the classroom. While he has been on sabbatical he has continued to teach his Year 11 GCSE pupils at Preston Manor.

“I felt I owed it to them. I miss teaching – and I can’t wait to get back to it,” he said.

Mr Hegarty will know whether he has won the award at a ceremony in Dubai next month; the global teaching prize is sponsored by the Varkey Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to improving education for underpriviliged children.

“I was quite flabbergasted when I heard I’d been shortlisted,” he said. “I looked at the biographies of the other 10 and thought, ‘What am I doing here?’ I don’t let things go to my head, though.”

If he wins, the $1m prize will be paid in instalments over five years and he has to promise to stay in the profession for five years. He will, though, feature as an international role model for the profession.

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