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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