By Elle Rigby
The head of a Leeds school is in the running for the 2017 Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize to win $1 million.
Nathan Atkinson, 40, head teacher at Richmond Hill Primary School, Leeds, is one of four Britons shortlisted from more than 20,000 nominations and applications from 179 countries from around the world up for the $1 million (£790,000) prize. The money has to be used to fund the projects the winning teacher is nominated for.
Mr Atkinson has pioneered free breakfast for children through his Fuel for School initiative, working with The Real Junk Food project to remove hunger as a barrier to learning.
He said: “It’s a real honour to be recognised for something with this magnitude. I just do what I do, what I love to do, but it’s amazing to be recognised for this and I feel honoured.
“I’m in a really privileged position as a head teacher and it’s been an interesting journey that has led to this shortlist.”
He added: “The funding would make a world of difference to young people’s lives, but even just the endorsement of this award to promote the work that we do will be so positive.”
Mr Atkinson spoke of his “laid back” feelings to the shortlisting but said: “you’ve got to be in it to win it.”
The Fuel for School initiative started by providing 600 students at Richmond Hill Primary School with breakfast at no cost to the school or the pupils and has now grown to delivers 39 schools with free food every week.
He has worked with campaigner Jamie Oliver and also coordinated a free “waste breakfast” for 10,000 school children from food that would have been thrown away despite being safe to eat.
Now in its third year, the award is organised by the Varkey Foundation, a non-for-profit organisation established to improve the standards of education for underprivileged children throughout the world.
The award aims to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers’ play in society and aims to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.
The winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on Sunday March 19.