Ark Blacklands teaching assistant picked as finalist for “the Oscars of teaching”

An inspirational teaching assistant from Ark Blacklands Primary Academy is in the running to win a national teaching award after using gardening to help pupils with challenging behaviour.

James Havbro, who runs an outdoor learning centre at the school for children with difficult behaviour, has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious Pearson Teaching Awards – often thought of as “the Oscars of teaching”.

James was nominated by Ark Blacklands Academy for his outstanding contribution to children’s engagement and learning, including work with children who have difficult behaviour or at risk of exclusion. Without James’ support, some of these pupils may not have succeeded within mainstream education.

James has also worked tirelessly to create and maintain an outdoor learning centre at the academy and has worked weekends and during the summer holidays to build a greenhouse at Ark Blacklands. Soon the children will be eating vegetables at lunchtimes they grew themselves.

James was selected from thousands of teaching staff from across the UK and joins a list of 67 exceptional teachers who are the Teaching Awards “stars” of the education profession for 2015.

If selected as a winner, James will be invited to the star-studded UK final to be held at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in October 2015 which is filmed and broadcast by the BBC.

James said: “I feel privileged and honoured to have Pearson’s recognition for my work at Ark Blacklands. I hope that my being shortlisted will help celebrate the great work teaching assistants do.”

Ark Blacklands Academy Headteacher Lorraine Clarke said: “All of us at Ark Blacklands are thrilled and proud to hear that James has been selected as a finalist for the Pearson Awards.

“James’ outdoor learning centre has become a hugely important part of the school community and his commitment to Ark Blacklands pupils has been invaluable to students who have been struggling in the classroom.”

Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, president of the Teaching Awards said: “I am genuinely proud and honoured to be the president of the Teaching Awards. I owe so much of what I’ve done to my fantastic teachers at school and university and it is exciting to join in celebrating what is probably the most important profession of them all.”