Ben Levinson, Winner, The Award for Making a Difference – Primary School of the Year 2020
“I visited each classroom with the Gold Plato, and it really felt like I’d won an Oscar”
I will never forget the moment that Alex Jones cut to myself and Soofia (my Assistant Head) in the Green Room and said, ‘Ben and Soofia, can you hear us?’ I’d say it’s the stuff dreams were made of but I never for a second dreamt that I’d be on The One Show with Alfie Boe and Michael Ball! Of course, it was the strangest of times. We were in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. and our community had faced so many challenges in the previous months. Through all of that, our Teaching Awards journey kept us going. It gave children, our team, and the whole community such a boost. And then actually winning…I remember every moment of it. Bringing that Award back to Kensington Primary and East Ham was such a joy. The children’s excitement – ‘we saw you on the TV Mr Levinson!’ And the pride for all the community – simply magical.
THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES
I’ve been teaching for 11 years and even in that time there have been so many changes. I love being a Headteacher. I know it’s not for everyone but, for me, nothing beats being able to make a genuine impact on so many lives – and see that first hand as well. I am so privileged to be able to do that every day and get paid. I can’t believe my luck sometimes. Of course it can be challenging and the last year, in particular, has been the most challenging yet. I feel fortunate to work in a time though when we have the freedom to innovate – although sometimes that is made harder than it should be. There are many challenges ahead – for everyone, not just in education. A key reason why I chose to come into teaching – and Primary teaching in particular – is that I believe it is where we can make a fundamental difference. If we can provide these young children with the skills and knowledge they need to become amazing people, we can truly change the world. We need to seriously consider the curriculum and what children need in their formative years. At Kensington, we’ve developed a trailblazing curriculum – Curriculum K – that rethinks what a Primary age child needs. I hope we can be part of a wider conversation about this in the years to come.
So many along the way! All the work that Paul Harris – now CEO of our Trust: The Tapscott Learning Trust – did to set us on our trajectory and continues to do to support the school’s development. The launch of our vision – A place everyone loves to be – back in 2018. The development of Curriculum K. Recruiting all the incredible members of our team. For me personally, I went to an amazing secondary school – Watford Boys Grammar – which was hugely formative for me. My mum was a teacher and inspired me greatly with her ethos and values. My now wife is also a teacher and it was certainly some of our conversations and talking to her colleagues that got me into teaching. I was inspired by Geof Cumner-Price, the Headteacher at my first school – Oakthorpe Primary in Enfield. But I found my home at Kensington. I worked with Paul Harris and learnt so much from him. It’s been an incredible journey from where we started in 2014.
Apply for a Teaching Award! Seriously, it’s a great experience and, whatever the outcome, a wonderful chance to reflect on and celebrate all of the wonderful work you do. We are all primed to look for the bits that aren’t working or need to improve; taking time to talk about everything that is amazing doesn’t happen enough. Apart from that, I’d say: be true to yourself. Education is constantly changing. There’s always a new fad and everything circles back around in the end. Be clear on your values and ethos and then stick to these. Know your community and work with them: we’re all in this together. Listen. Have the self-confidence to back yourself but the humility to recognise you are not always right.
THE TEACHING PROFESSION
It’s a wonderful career. All careers have pros and cons. It’s far from perfect. But I wouldn’t ever do anything else. I’ve worked in the private and third sector; once I started my teacher training, I never looked back. You can truly make a difference; no two days are ever the same – you will never be bored; you have autonomy (or at least you should have), and it’s fun. Working with children is brilliant. Children are brilliant. They bring light and joy to your life. As I say, I can’t believe this is my job. I would recommend it to anyone.