Meet the history teacher inspiring the future generation of Greater Manchester

Julia Morton believes teaching is not just about education but creating social inclusion for the next generation.

This article is an edited version that originally appeared on the Manchester Evening News.

Since The University of Manchester was founded, delivering civic impact has been at the heart of its values.

With 45% of Manchester’s graduates remaining and working within the north-west, it's unsurprising that the University has such a profound impact on the local region.

The University's remarkable contribution to public services means that local communities can blossom and thrive. At the heart of society lies our teachers, who dedicate their careers to inspiring the minds of the future.

In the wake of the pandemic, The University of Manchester is committed to building a greater Manchester for everyone, a sentiment which deeply resonates with one of the University's most recent teaching graduates, Julia Morton.

“I wanted to do something with society and teaching is a great way to affect change.”

Making a difference

Although the impacts of the pandemic on education are yet to be fully understood, it is already apparent that it has contributed to the widening of existing social inequalities, something both Julia and the University are working hard to combat.

"I think that when anyone starts out at university, they want to pursue something that they hope will make a difference," Julia said.

"I had an idea that I wanted to do something to do with society, maybe work in politics, and it just became really apparent that teaching is a great way to affect change.

"With everything that's going on in the world at the moment, there's a real kind of passion and discussion within society about social mobility, and where opportunities start for young people.

"I definitely think the classroom is the first place for young people to be inspired, and that's exactly why I chose to teach."

The University of Manchester strives to break down social barriers in many ways, such as training 550 teachers each year, with thousands of graduate teachers currently working in local primary and secondary schools.

Socially inclusive education

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Julia, now a history teacher, believes she has a responsibility to ensure the education she provides for her students is socially inclusive, providing her students with the knowledge, skills, and language accessible to everyone.

She feels this will help to shape a more inclusive society.

"One of the big debates within education and history teaching, in particular, is social inclusion, and I think The University of Manchester has done a really good job of instilling that into us," Julia explained.

"We need a more inclusive world and a more inclusive society, and that absolutely does begin within the classroom.

"I was teaching a series of lessons on the British Empire, which has been widely debated within the media recently.

"As a history teacher, I felt a sense of responsibility to change the narrative around why we teach the British Empire, and why it's important for our students to have that knowledge of British history.

"I was teaching a lesson about the British Raj in India, and a couple of students within my classroom were second-generation Indian immigrants.

"They had a discussion with me at the end of the class about how it made them feel more included, and they were so pleased we'd addressed issues to do with their families' heritage and where they had come from.

"They almost lit up at the fact we weren't just talking about a king or a queen they couldn't really relate to, and so pleased we were introducing more discussion around the impact of the empire and the impact it has had on a global scale.

"We have also been teaching lessons on LGBT history and race relations, and we've seen that it has had a positive impact in the classroom already, with so many students feeling empowered and encouraged by that."

Manchester teaching graduate, Julia Morton.

Julia believes she has a responsibility to ensure the education she provides for her students is socially inclusive.

“We need a more inclusive world and a more inclusive society, and that begins within the classroom.”

Destined to teach

Julia grew up in Sale, Greater Manchester, surrounded by a family full of teachers.

Her grandfather was a secondary school headteacher, whilst both her mum and grandma also worked in schools.

Although she initially resisted a career in teaching, feeling it may be a bit of a cliché given her family's record of working within education, she later found a career within the same industry to be a natural progression.

Julia said: "I studied my undergraduate degree in history and politics at The University of Liverpool, but always wanted to come back to Manchester because I was born and bred here and I love the city so much, it's the greatest city in the world.

"During my undergraduate degree, I soon realised that I really enjoyed working with young people and that I wanted to pursue that as a passion as I moved forward in my career and as I moved on from the university.

Manchester’s rich history

The University of Manchester has a brilliant story, just because of where it is situated, Julia said.

“There is so much to learn here, it's a place where incredible social movements have been born which reflects in what we're trying to teach.

"100 years ago, we had the suffragettes movement, and Emmeline Pankhurst's house is just down the road from the University, next to the hospital.

"200 years ago, just up the street in St Peter's Square, the foundations for universal suffrage in the UK were laid.

"The incredible history and the story this city has to tell sets the University apart from all others."

Manchester teaching graduate, Julia Morton.

The University of Manchester offers a fantastic teacher training programme, says graduate Julia.

“It makes me so happy to see students grow to love history and watch their passion for the subject develop in my classroom.”

Education is an opportunity for change

Julia, who recently completed her PGCE Secondary History course, believes The University of Manchester's PGCE historians have had a profound impact on the wider community in Greater Manchester, not just through teaching placements and the work they conduct by going out to work with the young people in our city, but also through different programmes they have on offer.

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre based at Manchester Central Library is part of the University, and in the past few years, there has been a great debate about how teachers can tackle decolonising the history curriculum.

The work the students of The University of Manchester have done with the Centre has undeniably helped to broaden the understanding of how teachers deal with race relations and issues to do with race within schools, as well as within the community, to ensure inclusion and acceptance for everyone.

Julia said: "It's so important for students and residents in Greater Manchester to have access to brilliant education because education is a real opportunity for change.

"There are some brilliant things going on in Greater Manchester at the moment, we've got MediaCityUK in Salford, where there are loads of opportunities for our students, as well as opportunities for them in and around the city centre.

"If young people in Greater Manchester are provided with an excellent level of education, they will hopefully be able to see that there are so many opportunities for them within our region.

"One of the key ways The University of Manchester impacts the education available to the people of Greater Manchester and those within the region is that it offers a fantastic teacher training programme that I have been a part of.

"Not only is this on offer for residents in Manchester who have grown up here like me, but it also puts us into the communities, advertising the PGCEs to those that we know, and impacting the young people in terms of their education.

"Quite often, students will ask you 'where did you go to university?' and you're quite proud to say you studied at The University of Manchester. It's nice to start that conversation with students and nice when they want to know quite a bit about the person teaching them.

Inspiring young people

Inspiring students is always rewarding, says Julia.

"One of the most rewarding elements of the job are the results you see within teaching, and I don't mean the results on a piece of paper when you stand with a student as they open their results and then send them on their way.

"I'm talking about the everyday results, when you can see how a student starts at the beginning of the year, and how you take them forward and inspire them, creating a passion within them for your subject.

"Students telling me they love history is one of the brilliant aspects of my job, it makes me so happy to see them grow to love history and watch their passion for the subject develop in my classroom.

"It's so lovely to see them grow as individuals. One of the hardest parts of the job is the work that goes in to ensure you're getting the absolute best out of every student, and we truly do care about our students, each and every one.

"Teaching and education do become a part of who you are. It's such a vocational role, and it's such an enjoyable role, being part of the trainee teachers at The University of Manchester has absolutely shaped who I am and who I will become in the future.

"The University does a really good job of instilling self-belief in its trainee teachers, which has definitely been a positive, and it's something we can, in turn, instil in each of the students we care so much about.

"I am so happy that I returned to Manchester. I absolutely love the city. It's the greatest city on earth.

"I am so proud to be able to say I grew up here, I was educated here, and to be able to work within Manchester is an amazing opportunity in terms of affecting that change that brought me into education. I am so excited to be starting my new role as a history teacher at Oasis Academy in MediaCityUK this September.

"Working in education is a setting that is more challenging than most but I'd love to inspire the next generation to create a happier, more inclusive society for everyone."

Manchester teaching graduate, Julia Morton.

Julia will be starting a new role as a history teacher at Oasis Academy in MediaCityUK.

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