Why I'm excited to be starting at West London Zone

15 years ago I taught in a secondary school a few miles down the Uxbridge Road from West London Zone's office.

I was an inexperienced teacher. I worked really hard to support the young people in my classes to succeed. Some of them did pretty well; some of them didn't. I still think about those students who didn't succeed, and wonder what I could have done better.

Like all teachers, I faced a brutal truth: school is an important part of a young person's life, but not the only part. I was lucky: as an English teacher I got 4-5 hours of contact time with each student per week - but just imagine all the other things that were happening during the rest of their week. Happily a lot of my students had fantastic support outside the classroom; but some of them didn't, and had many other challenges to deal with in day to day life.

It is often these children who struggle most to succeed in the classroom. So when I wonder how I could have helped my students to succeed, to some extent I'm asking how I could have supported them to deal with all those other challenges beyond the GCSE English curriculum.

This is why I'm excited to be starting at West London Zone.

Like all of my new colleagues at West London Zone, I believe that all children have the potential to thrive with the right support. This needs to be early intervention and it needs to be holistic: the social and emotional aspects of a young person's life are just as important as the academics.

In my role as Strategy and Impact Director my goal is to ensure that our support reaches the young people that need it, and that it is as effective as possible. I'm also responsible for helping West London Zone to learn more about the impact it's already having through its 4-year evaluation with UCL's Institute of Education, and for planning to grow to reach all of the young people within the Zone who need our support.

I believe the education system has improved substantially since I taught down the road 15 years ago: the academic gap between the richest and poorest students has narrowed; classroom practice is far more evidence-based; and we have much more understanding of the importance of mental health and wellbeing in children's development. However, our children's lives have been turned upside down in the last 18 months by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of them need personalised, specialist support to get them on track to reach their potential. I'm proud to be joining West London Zone to contribute to this work in the coming years.

Andrew Berwick, Strategy and Impact Director

together, every child and young person can flourish.