Saffron Walden: “Remarkable” teaching assistant wins distinction in 2011 teaching awards

A TEACHING assistant who has made a “remarkable contribution” to the educational needs of pupils with learning difficulties has been recognised in a national awards scheme.

Saffron Walden County High School’s Pearl Downham has been heavily involved in developing the provision of Down Syndrome students within the secondary setting - the school was also the first to take a Down Syndrome child into mainstream secondary education in Essex. She has also made the school’s ‘Jaffa Club’ - a year six to seven transition project - famous in local primary schools where for several years over 40 students have enjoyed Mrs Downham’s preparation for their move to secondary school.

Her efforts have been recognised in The Pearson Teaching Awards where she finished runner up in the was runner-up in the Teaching Assistant of the Year category.

The long-serving member of staff received her certificate and bouquet of flowers at a staff meeting.

“I feel really honoured by the award,” said Mrs Downham, who has been at the school since 1986. “I am so lucky and privileged to work with such fantastic staff both in the Learning Support department and throughout the school.

“To have played a part in the lives of so many students over the years has been a wonderfully rewarding experience.”

This year there were more than 22,000 nominations for The Pearson Teaching Awards – the highest ever.

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Mrs Downham was nominated for her award by English teacher Sarah Wright, who praised her colleague as “an incredible woman who strives for excellence in everything she does.

“She is an outstanding teaching assistant and truly is an inspiration to the teachers, the students and myself,” added Mrs Wright.

Headteacher John Hartley said: “We were absolutely delighted to support Pearl’s nomination, and she is indeed a very worthy winner.

“Over many years, Pearl has made a remarkable contribution to the educational achievement of many pupils with learning difficulties.”