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Inspirational Highgate Wood sociology teacher lauded by high-flying ex-students at Oxford University

PUBLISHED: 14:58 18 May 2017 | UPDATED: 14:58 18 May 2017

Highgate Wood sociology teacher Neil Robertson.

Highgate Wood sociology teacher Neil Robertson.

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A Crouch End secondary school teacher has been honoured by Oxford University for the inspirational role he played for two of his former students.

Former Highgate Wood pupil Harry Vinall-Smeeth.Former Highgate Wood pupil Harry Vinall-Smeeth.

Neil Robertson, a sociology teacher at Highgate Wood School, is one of 10 state school teachers recognised in Oxford’s annual “inspirational teachers awards”.

Harry Vinall-Smeeth, who is studying maths at Worcester College, believes that the debate-centred extracurricular activities put on by Mr Robertson gave him a huge sense of self-worth which earned his ticket to Oxford University.

The 19-year-old said: “It may seem a little strange that someone studying maths should nominate a sociology teacher, but looking back on my time at school I feel the teacher I owe the most to is Mr Robertson.

“His lessons always challenged my perceptions and made me think differently about the world, and in classes with students with very different needs he always managed to push the most able students without leaving anyone else behind.

Ex-Highgate Wood student Blue Weiss.Ex-Highgate Wood student Blue Weiss.

“Mr Robertson spent huge chunks of his time organising and facilitating extracurricular activities.

“As a naturally very shy, self-conscious and nervous person, I owe so much to these activities.”

Harry nominated Mr Robertson along with fellow ex-Highgate Wood student Blue Weiss, who is studying history at St Hilda’s College.

The 18-year-old said: “Mr Robertson fostered a unique personal relationship with me and with his other students, and treated his students with a huge amount of respect for their ideas, beliefs and convictions, helping facilitate their academic and personal development.

“Most impressively, and most personally to me, Mr Robertson organised the Model United Nations programme at our school, allowing hundreds of students from a broad range of backgrounds to develop their confidence, public speaking, teamwork and engagement in social issues.

“In truth, words can’t fully capture the role he played in creating a sense of community among his students, or the value and self-confidence he gave me and so many others.”

Mr Robertson will receive his award at a ceremony held at Oxford’s St Peter’s College on Friday.

He said: “It is extremely humbling to receive this award. It is a reminder that there are state schools across the country which support and challenge their students to achieve their boldest ambitions.”

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