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The music teacher making a ‘transformative' impact at The Totteridge Academy

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The music teacher making a ‘transformative' impact at The Totteridge Academy

Best in Everyone Awards

United Learning’s annual Best in Everyone Awards recognises the talents, achievements and dedication of pupils and staff across over 70 schools across the country. In this series of blog posts, we put the spotlight on some of our worthy winners.

Having completed his training and NQT year, James McEvoy-Stephenson is about to enter his third year at The Totteridge Academy in Barnet with a wealth of achievements under his belt. A graduate of St Peter's College, Oxford, James was recognised as the Secondary NQT of the Year at our Best in Everyone Awards due to the immense difference he has made at the school over the past two years.

James joined Totteridge as the school’s sole music teacher in September 2017, a daunting prospect for even an experienced teacher. However, senior leaders at the school ensured James benefited from regular, expert support and advice from the United Learning’s Head of Music and Performing Arts, Catherine Barker.

With this guidance, the support of his school colleagues and through his own tireless hard work, James has quickly become a truly outstanding practitioner whose lessons shine as examples of excellence. His rigorous and challenging music curriculum and unrelenting high expectations have been celebrated by senior staff.

In 2018, James was promoted to Head of Music, recognising the transformative impact he has had on his department. The school’s 2019 Ofsted report explicitly comments on the influence James has had, stating that pupils now make ‘stronger progress’ in music.

Aside from his outstanding teaching, James has provided abundant opportunities for students outside the classroom. In December 2018 James organised a spectacular winter show for The Totteridge Academy’s local community. The Winter Concert was an impressive showcase of students’ talents and creativity – performances ranged from jaw-dropping beat-boxing to beautiful soprano solos, and from classical piano to festive trumpets. Every year group got thoroughly involved, with the entire Year 7 cohort performing as an ensemble in the finale.

James has also taken advantage of Group-wide opportunities offered by United Learning. In 2019, James introduced his students to opera. Fifty students from The Totteridge Academy performed in the UK’s largest ever performance of Carmen, hosted by United Learning at the Copper Box Arena in London’s Olympic Park. Through this project, students were given the opportunity to perform in a remarkable venue, collaborate with their peers from across the country and be part of a special celebration of talent and creativity.

Chris Fairbairn, Principal of The Totteridge Academy, said: “James has been a brilliant addition to our team at The Totteridge Academy, impressing us all with his enthusiasm, dedication and creative approach. In just two years, he has played a key role in establishing our music curriculum, providing a broad range of opportunities for students to grow as performers in lessons and beyond.”

On winning his Secondary NQT of the Year Award, James said: “I’m privileged to work with such fantastic young people every day. It’s so rewarding to see them realising their passion and enthusiasm for music. I would like to say a huge “thank you” to the people who supported me at The Totteridge Academy and United Learning; their guidance and encouragement have made it all possible.”


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