We are delighted to announce that Miriam Eustace, Maths teacher at Little Heath School in Tilehurst, West Berkshire, is the 2021-22 winner of the James Furlong Award for Outstanding Mentoring in Secondary ITE.

Miriam Eustace receiving the inaugural James Furlong Award for Outstanding Mentoring.

The Institute of Education is committed to mentoring as a sustaining and inspiring force for positive change and professional development in teaching. In April 2022, we launched a new award for mentoring in our Secondary Education partnership of schools. Each year about 250 teachers in local schools mentor Reading Partnership Teachers (RPTs). This award aims to recognise the incredible contributions these mentors make to developing new teachers and implementing the University of Reading’s ambitious ITE curriculum.

It was decided that it would be fitting to name this award after James Furlong (1983-2022). James, who taught at the Holt School, Wokingham, was an inspirational mentor in the University of Reading Secondary ITE programme. James always pushed his RPTs to excel, giving his time generously and modelling outstanding teaching. James made several lasting contributions to his subject’s ITE curriculum following his active involvement in university subject mentor training and the university’s mentor network. We have worked with James’ former RPTs (all now teaching successfully in schools) and colleagues at the Holt School, to identify criteria that both capture what amazing mentors do and what James excelled at.

We received nominations from all over our partnership of schools. Miriam and nearly thirty other mentors were nominated for meeting at least once of the following criteria:

  • Providing outstanding teaching guidance and support that is tailored to their RPTs’ particular needs and the school context
  • Providing outstanding pastoral support that is tailored to their RPTs’ particular needs
  • Achieving outstanding outcomes (irrespective of their RPTs’ starting points)
  • Inspiring in their RPT a greater appreciation of their subject and what is possible for a teacher to achieve in that subject
  • Working collaboratively and positively with academic tutors and/or other mentors across the University of Reading Partnership

The nomination for Miriam referred to her as a ‘lifebelt’ in times of need, an ‘anchor’ in times of turmoil, and concluded that:

“If I made it as a teacher, that is Miriam’s achievement as much as mine”

The panel of judges agreed that it was clear that Miriam had made a life-changing impact in the life of an RPT.

When presented with her award, Miriam said that she had loved mentoring an RPT this year.

It was so rewarding to build a trusting relationship with a new teacher, to push and challenge in a way that keeps them motivated, and ultimately see them grow into their own teacher”.

A feature of Miriam’s mentoring style is to “encourage the RPT to take risks and support them to ‘have the opportunities and confidence to see things they have discussed shine through in their teaching practice.” This didn’t just go for her own classes though: “I love hearing about my mentee’s successes with other teachers as well”

Miriam offered two main tips for new mentors in the University of Reading partnership:

  • Manage your own time so that when you meet your RPT you can be fully present to plan, discuss, reflect and support. Try to identify deadlines and pinch-points, so that quality time can be ring-fenced for mentoring conversations.
  • Use the support of colleagues and university tutors so you don’t take the weight of responsibility all on yourself. Mentoring can be tough and the university builds support networks to ensure mentors aren’t operating in isolation.

This initiative has been a huge success, recognising and celebrating the vital role that our mentors in the University of Reading partnership play in helping RPTs become outstanding teachers, pioneers of their subjects and school leaders of the future. Here is the list of nominated mentors in full:

Miriam Eustace Maths Little Heath School
Katherine Park-Barnard Geography Prospect School
Alice Stratford History Reading School
Jo Walden Maths Piggott School
Jo Madzelewski PE Edgbarrow School
Chloe Bateman History Maiden Erlegh School, Earley
Gemma Hardy English Court Moor School
Naomi Aitken DT Waingels College
Paul Smith English Piggott School
Vivienne Girling English Maiden Erlegh School, Earley
Afsha Iqbal English Bulmershe School
Angalika Samuda Science Collingwood School
Richard Wakhem, Tima Lund and Suhkvir Palmer Science Little Heath School
Tor Wills History Newlands Girls School
Dan Carter PE Piggott School
Katje van der Zalm Science Newlands Girls School
Laura Tibbey English Piggott School
Sofia Simou English Highdown School and Sixth Form Centre
Dan Morgan Maths Bohunt School
Juliet Wragg Geography Holt School
Jenny Callaghan MFL Bohunt School
Matthew Hood Drama Bulmershe School
Matt Comber and Megan Brooke History Garth Hill College
Mireia Walsh MFL St Joseph’s College
Katy Leach MFL Willink School