A teacher at Newham's London Design and Engineering (LDE) UTC has been named as one of fifty finalists worldwide for the Global Teacher Prize.

The awards have been run since 2014 by the Varkey Foundation – a global charitable organisation – and are open to teachers of children who are in compulsory schooling or between five and eighteen.

Shafina Vohra was nominated after her success in integrating Lego into her psychology lessons in an unorthodox teaching experiment to engage her “active, fidgety, intelligent Year 7 science class”.

Shafina was reportedly “amazed” by the boost in their learning after the Lego was introduced.

LDE chief executive and principal Geoffrey Fowler said: “Her work weaving Lego into learning has produced some extraordinary results, as demonstrated by the high level of international and media interest.

“It is an excellent example of the inquiry-led learning which we deliver at LDE that enables our staff to be free to formulate creative and, as we can see, highly-successful solutions for students.

The Lego has proved its use for keyword recall, making links between topics and for game-based learning among other things.

Since her discovery, Shafina has received co-funding by LDE and the Aziz Foundation to complete a PhD studying at Imperial College.

Newham Recorder: Shafina VohraShafina Vohra (Image: Fraser Whieldon, Shafina Vohra)

She has also been trained as a Lego education trainer in robotics and STEM learning.

Having seen its benefits, LDE has introduced a curriculum that uses Legoin a free community-based programme, allowing children in deprived areas to learn about technology, maths, engineering, and design engineering.

The programme readies children for university, apprenticeships, and future employment opportunities by widening their skillset.

Shafina’s work has stretched beyond the Royal Docks school, sparking international interest from several universities and foreign delegates eager to hear more about use of Lego in learning.

If she wins the Global Teacher Prize, Shafina has pledged to use the $1m - £823,670 – prize money and take the programme global, training in schools in a hands-on approach.

She also hopes to create her own Lego sets more suited to diverse student needs such as those with neurodiversity.

As for her plans beyond these awards, the teacher hopes to take her research to a post-doctorate level and to develop a charity to help disadvantaged communities gain STEM skills.

Shafina said: “I am ecstatic to have been nominated and named a finalist for the Global Teacher Prize […] this is really one of the high points of my career”

Geoffrey Fowler added: “We are so proud of Shafina’s achievement […] “I know everyone at LDE, our fellow UTCs, and across London schools will be cheering Shafina on.”