Barnsley teaching assistant wins top award

Jill Birch has been named outstanding higher level teaching assistant (HLTA) of the year.

Ms Birch, who has been at Birkwood Primary School in Barnsley for 11 years, works mainly with year 6 children and is responsible for art and design technology across the school.

Her additional expertise in reading, writing, maths and practical science has helped pupils to “significantly improve” their reading skills.

Described by her colleagues as “an outstanding role model who encourages a can-do attitude”, she willingly gives up her break and lunch times to support pupils.

Her strengths in art and design are shown in displays around the school and she has helped the school achieve Artsmark Gold Status.

To celebrate her work, Ms Birch received a trophy and framed certificate from shadow schools minister Nic Dakin at a ceremony in London last week.

She said she was “delighted to receive the award but really shocked, especially when you consider all the excellent work all of the other finalists are doing.

“Everyone at the school is thrilled to bits for me. We always have a celebration assembly at the end of the week and the children presented me with flowers, which was lovely.

“The children are the main reason I love the job. They are a delight to work with. Getting the best from them every day is why I do it.”

The award, now in its third year, is organised by the HLTA National Assessment Partnership (HNAP), an organisation made up of the five regional assessment providers that work to manage and quality assure the assessment of standards for HLTAs across England.

Professor Richard Rose, chairman of HNAP, said: “Jill had to meet a range of exacting criteria set by the judging panel, including demonstrating high aspirations for each pupil, a firm belief in pupils’ abilities and a strong commitment to pupils’ progress, as well as a continuing commitment to her own professional learning and development.

“Without exception the work of the candidates shortlisted for this prestigious award was praised by their professional colleagues who recognise the outstanding contribution that HLTAs make to their schools and to the lives of children, families and teachers.”

Pic: The finalists of the Outstanding HLTA of the Year awards with winner Jill Birch (middle)

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