How can we encourage innovation in the education sector? Michelle Ainley shares experience with the NxJ Innovation Challenge

We introduced the Teaching Challenge Initiative this year to support teachers and to help encourage thinking about education in a new way. We asked teachers to think outside of the box and improve teaching, and received a number of entries from both PS119 (New York) and Netley Primary (London).


One of the Netley winners, Michelle, created a program that helps parents support children with homework after noticing the correlation between children who weren’t able to complete their homework and the level of interaction between teachers and the students’ parents. We chatted with Michelle about the competition, and the opportunities that this competition had created:


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What inspired you to participate?

As teachers, we often try new things in our classroom to improve our practice or to benefit the children in our class in some way. However we very rarely share it with anyone, nor do we have an opportunity to share it. This seemed like a great opportunity to try something and share it with not only people I work with on a daily basis but teachers who teach in a completely different country. There are very few teachers who can say they’ve done that, therefore I felt very lucky to be offered the opportunity and for that reason I felt the need to take part.

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How has your teaching changed as a result?

My teaching, hasn’t changed much, however my approach to the relationships I have with the children in my class and their parents has evolved. I am far more empathetic towards the parents in our community, I have a greater understanding of the challenges they face and we face on a daily basis. I would like to work on more strategies and projects to educate parents in skills which ensure they can effectively parent their children and ultimately offer their children the best start in life.

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What do you think is the future of business-education collaboration and how it could evolve?

I hope the next few years will be exciting for business-education collaboration, I would like more partnerships to be established. There are so many ways in which businesses can work with schools. It is no secret that budgets are getting cut and schools are having to think more creatively about where funding comes from and how it is best utilised; I think businesses could make a small contribution to support schools with budgeting. Even if this isn’t possible, I believe the skills of employees within businesses can provide young children with key role models who may not feature elsewhere in their lives. Just 30 minutes of reading each week with the same child has shown to boost confidence and provide much needed support and recognition. I also think there is scope for businesses to develop STEAM workshops which go beyond coding and focus on engineering and specialist career-orientated tasks.

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I think the biggest hurdle we have is schools and businesses acknowledging the different scheduling, processes and logistics they experience to complete an average day or working week. As schools have a duty of care to hundreds of children and a responsibility to ensure the curriculum is fully covered, we plan ahead, our diary becomes full very quickly and so a timetable is a common way to manage this. We also send emails, but we don’t read or respond to these in lessons as our attention is on the learning and children in our care. Whereas businesses, are often more fluid, they can organise a meeting in minutes, change their appointments daily, respond to emails very efficiently and move their lunch hour to fit around what may need doing that day. I’m sure finding a happy medium is possible- it will just take some planning!


We’re happy that we’ve been able to help make these changes happen and thank these hard-working teachers for educating these youths. At Next Jump, we’re committed to helping others and we hope that many other businesses will also be inspired and collaborate with educational institutions around the world.

Watch interviews with the teachers at Netley School here: or follow us on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with the things we’re involved in.






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Innovation Challenge



Next Jump’s Adopt a School program originated with a survey of our employees that asked what cause they would like to help most – the answer came back overwhelmingly as children’s education.  One day not long after the results were compiled, the CEOs sent an email to the management team entitled “Crazy or Awesome – Lets Adopt a School” … the responses came back fast and furious (crazy, crazy and awesome, awesome).  Within six months we announced our first adoption – The Dr. Emmett W. Bassett School in New York.  A year later we announced the adoption of Netley Primary School and Centre for Autism in London.  We intend to continue expanding the program both within Next Jump – next up is our Cambridge Massachusetts location.  Our long term intent is to create a movement that will inspire other corporations to adopt schools and create a private/public partnership unseen in education to-date.


What is Adopt a School?


The program is meant to serve four groups:


Students: the program aids students through mentorship and motivation from industry professionals.  Next Jump staff visit the school to give inspiration, conduct academic tutoring and offer enrichment programmes in health, business, and engineering.


Teachers:  Schools benefit from support and mentoring for the faculty, resources like computers and supplies, and financial donations. Additionally, schools will get access to Next Jump’s cutting edge fitness and nutrition programs.


Parents: Parents at schools are recipients of benefits through mentorship and support, as well as skills-based training programs.  In New York, Next Jump helps to fund an afterschool program that helps parents from targeted income households save on childcare, which benefits the whole family.


Company employees: Employees are given the opportunity to volunteer at the school and work with children both as teachers and mentors.  Each Next Jump employee goes to the school once every four weeks (the equivalent of approximately 5 working days per year).


Overall, Next Jump’s mission is to change the world – if the children at these schools get inspired by their own potential we can see them giving back and helping to build better communities.  Better Me + Better You = Better Us


Innovation Challenge


This year we introduced an exciting new program called the Teaching Innovation Challenge.   The intent of the program is to support teachers and help enable them to bring their teaching to the next level.  Teachers and co-teaching pairs developed new curriculum, tried experiments, and generally had a go at raising their own standards and adding innovations to their schools.


I’m proud to be a part of the Adopt a School Program and to lead the Teaching Challenge Initiative.  As the son of two teachers, this program has afforded me an outlet to help schools in a way that my day to day business role could never do.  Growing up I saw how my parents struggled in the face of shrinking school budgets and an atmosphere of uncertainty within inner city schools.  In fact, my father ended up leaving the teaching profession entirely.  I’ve always wanted to give back in some way beyond just writing a check.  The AAS program and this contest have helped make that a reality for me.  Our long-term goal is to help other businesses form public/private partnerships that will help change the world.


The Problem: Wanted to give teachers more opportunity and incentive to innovate on curriculum + ways of teaching that engage students from the bottom up vs. the top down.


The Idea: Create a competition. Teachers submit ideas and then create a project or lesson.  The senior leadership at each school judges the teachers and teaching pairs with criteria for top innovations.


The Prize: The teachers behind the top two best innovations from each school win a trip to visit the other school as part of an all-expenses paid trip to the other city.


Each school held its ceremony and announced winners a week ago.  The engagement level we saw from teachers at both schools was inspiring – as were the outcomes!  You can see some of the innovations created by teachers at Netley here:


Netley Winners


Claire created a program that uses singing to improve children’s behaviors and language skills.  With 50% of school population having English as a second language, many of Claire’s students often had language and behaviors difficulties.  Her discovery was that those same children could sing brilliantly.  She developed a way to use singing to help develop and improve children’s language skills.


Michelle created a program that helps parents support children with homework.  When Michelle joined Netley last fall she noticed that she was having very little interaction between herself and parents (even at pickup).  This often correlated with children who were not able to complete their homework effectively.  She came to know that parents were not able to help their kids even though they wanted to do so.  She created an invitation only class that helped bolster confidence.  Michelle says the reason she changed schools this year was to find an environment that encouraged more innovation.



PS119 Winners


Lou and Nicole created a visual literacy project.  Their three-part mini-unit uses image analyses to enhance visual literacy.  Students are given the opportunity to discuss and examine an image in a small group and determine the image’s correct placement on a visual timeline. Student observations, inferences, and questions guide students to the conclusion.  The lessons are designed for fourth or fifth grade students, may last up to 90 minutes, and will leave students with the skills necessary to systematically deconstruct any image they see.


Jennifer created a rainbow sight word obstacle course.  Designed for Special Education/kindergarten students to help prepare/check for understanding before reading and spelling assessments, Jennifer’s lesson is tailored to the academic level as well as the physical abilities of her students to maneuver through an obstacle course. This obstacle course incorporates multiple types of learning and engagement, such as kinesthetic, academic (ELA), social-emotional, audio, and visual.


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Creating Competition: Pushing Teaching To New Heights

Our vision for Adopt A School is for companies around the world to partner with public and state run schools to build long lasting relationships that serve and support students, teachers, and parents, starting without ourselves here at Next Jump. Our learning tracks for students are well underway as we teach regularly at PS119 in New York and Netley Primary School in London.  We decided it was time to focus on another group that matters just as much– the teachers.

When Charlie and Meghan, our co-CEOs, asked Michelle, PS119’s principal, what she would change if she had a magic wand, her answer was simple – create an environment that fosters teacher innovation. The teachers at PS119 have a new reading and writing curriculum this year and are currently preparing grades 3, 4, and 5 for testing in March.  When we posed the same question to Bavaani, Netley’s head teacher, the response was to get teachers to think outside of the box.

Our co-CEOs worked with Michelle to fully understand her world and how we might help. The result? A teaching competition. The purpose of the competition is to encourage all teachers to think outside of the box, to improve teaching and outcomes in addition to give them a platform to raise their opinions and ideas.


All the teachers at each school will have the opportunity to compete for four winning spots (two per school) –  Next Jump is offering the opportunity to win an all-expenses paid trip to swap places for a few days to share their learnings with the other schools.

At Netley teachers are presenting on innovative teaching approaches with their various methodologies and the desired outcomes. The approach will be focused on a target group of students, but will also be transferable to other year groups.    At PS119 teachers are signing up to be observed by Michelle and her leadership team (a process that Michelle already does regularly, but with an added incentive).

We are very excited to see what the teachers in PS119 and Netley will come up with and we are looking forward to sharing their inspirational ideas with teachers around the US and UK.

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Netley Primary School Takeover

Netley Primary School places a great emphasis on UNICEF’s children’s rights – childs right to have views and be heard, covenants 12 & 13.

At school, the students have a chance to take over the classroom for a day. On the same day in our UK office, we had the opportunity to contribute in a similar manner, the AAS takeover! We had five bright and energetic young ‘uns come into the office to take a look around and see what working life is like.


Our lovely young visitors and their teacher were treated to a mini culture tour, where our young guests showed boundless curiosity with regards to how the company had grown and were very impressed by Charlie’s beginning ethos. They saw pictures of NY’s PS119 and were ready to be similarly displayed on our walls, and even gave us some great tips for the office! Some interesting improvements included a room of puppies!


One student, Gustavo, helped us run a webinar for our clients, reading out live questions as the Q&A session went on. It was also great to give our clients a chance to see Adopt A School at work and spread the message about what we want to achieve here at Next Jump.

They then got to meet a member of every team, learning about who we are and what we do, and how each department is connected. They had lots of questions on how we work and by the end of it, were ready to become Next Jumpers themselves!


We enjoyed having them round and building a stronger link with Netley – we loved having the chance to be a part of these youths’ education and to show them a part of our world as much as we will be a part of theirs. They left with lots of new office friends and admiration for what we do, and we can’t wait to see them again soon at Netley.

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Adopt A School Kickoff – UK

The Adopt A School program began with a bang in the UK – we closed up office for a day to head over to Netley Primary School and begin our new partnership with their wonderful staff and students.


On our way

We were welcomed raucously during playtime, with lots of curious kids already introducing themselves and guessing why we were there! We were split into several groups and given a tour of the school by some very friendly and informative Year 5s, who we’ll be working the most closely with throughout the program. It was a great way to get to know the school and get the students’ perspectives on day to day life in Netley.


A warm welcome



Tour of the school with our student guides

Next, we headed to the auditorium, where Kevin introduced the three tracks we’ll be running; Business, Health & Fitness, and Engineering. As keen Minecraft players, the Engineering track was met with extra enthusiasm, and all the students received their t-shirts, which they quickly pulled on, ready to adopt the Next Jump orange for themselves!


Each track had a mini-taster lesson prepared for the students, and they all participated with lots of positive energy and openness. We finished with a lot of ideas for the future and are ready to challenge ourselves to make this a truly great experience for everyone involved. It’s so exciting to be part of such a collaborative effort to make a difference in kids’ lives, and we’re really looking forward to our next visit to Netley.


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Adopt A School Program Launch – 2016

In May of 2015, Next Jump’s New York office announced the launch of our Adopt A School program. Two months later, we officially adopted PS 119, a title 1 public school in the South Bronx where 75% of the students live below the poverty line.


PS119 Kickoff 2015

Through this program, Next Jump will partner with public schools to build long lasting relationships that serve and support students, teachers, and parents. The program is part of Next Jump’s broader Better You giving back platform, and joins other successfully established programs such as Adopt-A-Nonprofit and Code for a Cause.

Now, we can proudly announce that our UK office has adopted a school on London: the Netley Primary School and Centre for Autism.


“Adoption” certificate

After meeting with a number of schools, our leadership team was especially inspired by Netley’s passion and engagement with their students. We felt that their leadership and mission most aligned with Next Jump, and that Netley was closest to helping us accomplish our ultimate goal of setting up a model for other corporations to adopt public schools.

As part of the program, every Next Jumper will visit the school at least once a month to teach, learn and share with the children at Netley. We hope to inspire both teachers and students alike, as well as join them on their journey of their development and growth. We envision a day when every one of the 100,000 US public schools and the 22,000 UK public schools are adopted by a for-profit company, to create better, connected communities.


Introducing the Program to Netley students

We’re intensely excited about the chance to get directly involved in helping these young people and in a way that is so core to our values here at Next Jump.


To learn more about Next Jump and our Adopt-A-School program, follow our blog.

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Our goal is just to help: how Adopt A School evolved as we went in deeper


I have talked before about how our intention going into PS119 was to go in, listen and help, whatever that meant. And that’s why a few weeks back, I said our program does not have an exact perfect plan, it’s a dynamic partnership where things change as we adapt to what we learn. With that in mind here is a  timeline of events that have unfolded so far, and how things changed as we went in deeper:

  • Jan 2015: Surveyed NxJumpers
    (1) Childrens Education + (2) Childrens Health emerged as the top 2 areas our employees cared most about. As a result we targeted adopting a school as part of our giving initiatives.
  • What’s the Plan? What’s the Budget? People asked us those 2 questions constantly. Our answers were:
    (A) The Plan is To Help + (B) The Budget is a Better Me + Better You budget, to grow ourselves and help others in the process
  • July 2015: After spending a few months talking to schools, principals and superintendents we ended up with 9 schools in a selection process. We fell in love with PS119 in the South Bronx, felt most aligned with our culture
  • We went in with an initial goal of sharing our best practices, coaching and mentoring teachers and the administration team.
  • Aug 2015: We learned there is a bigger need: the After School Program closed 2 years ago and that’s preventing many parents from holding jobs as they have to pick up kids every day at 2:45 pm. After a quick internal deliberation Next Jump makes the decision to reopen the After School Program (funding: $300K,  212 kids accepted)
  • Sept 2015: We don’t want to just write a check, we want to be involved and be a part of the school. On Thursdays we develop and run the curriculum for the After School Program. Alternating groups of Next Jump employees travel every week to the school to teach. Every employee teaches once a month on average. Here are our tracks:
    (1) Robotics (the picture in this article is of our robotics track, kids learning to build and control robots)
    (2) Coding
    (3) Health &Wellness
    (4) Business Skills
  • Nov 2015: We learn a Professional Development Day is coming up for staff & teachers, we invite the principal to host at Next Jump. We prepare and run the full day with talks, presentations, health advice, all by Next Jump employees.
  • Jan 2016: TOP 5 recognition, a Next Jump program, is adopted by PS119 for their staff and teachers to increase “helping each other succeed”. Recognizing servant leadership.
  • Jan 2016: monthly Principal & AP coaching sessions begin
  • Jan 2016: We decide our UK office will adopt a school in London, budget: another $300k. Their selection process kicks off.
  • Feb 2016: monthly tech help, we start arriving at the school 1 hour sooner every Thursday so that we can spend it with the principal and her team and help with technical and computer system problems, little things to help increase efficiency.
  • March 2016: Student Field Trip scheduled, we plan on having kids visit the Next Jump offices for a career day, to inspire and show them many things they can become if their set their own sights on it.
  • May 2016: PS119 Avengers Award, this will be a ceremony to recognize the top servant leader at the school. Nice surprises will go along that I will not reveal just yet.
  • Summer 2016: Peter Hallock Next Jump internship. Peter has been awesome, the biggest supporter of our program, working tirelessly with us. We are excited that he will be working closely with us over the summer.
  • Volunteer Tracking APP [BM + BY], we are going to build an app to help track employee volunteering time.
  • Fall 2016 (plans): We have some exciting things in the works which I will not disclose yet :)!


That is the Next Jump way. We learn as we go, and we adapt to help.


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