Dance teacher at West London specialist school scoops national Inspirational Teacher Award

Hillingdon Manor School – an independent specialist provision in Uxbridge, West London for children aged 3½-19 with autism run by Options Autism and part of Outcomes First Group – has won the Inspirational Teacher Award at the 2018 National Association for Special Educational Needs (Nasen) Awards. Professionally trained Jonathan Baron introduced dance to the school to provide a unique expressive outlet to help students develop skills both on and off the dance floor, with amazing results!

The Nasen awards are presented annually and seek to recognise and share best practice in supporting children and young people with special and additional educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Jonathan, who formed the dance troupe in 2013, earned the accolade ‘Inspirational Teacher’ for going above and beyond the call of duty, delivering an enriched curriculum and empowering each individual to be the very best they can be.

In addition to developing dance skills, Jonathan’s lessons have helped to provide structure and familiarity, whilst also boosting individuals’ wellbeing, building muscle memory, balance, body awareness, movement and sensory coordination and spatial awareness. Jonathan’s invaluable support has also helped each dancer’s self belief and confidence to flourish, and students take their role as ambassadors for autism very seriously.

The group made history in May this year when it won second place in the European United Dance Organisations (UDO) Championships in Germany and became the first special needs dance group to compete in the finals, with judges unaware of the students’ autism.

Jonathan’s work with the group has also helped students overcome severe anxieties – including fear of flying. To ease anxieties, as part of their preparation for the trip, the group visited Heathrow Airport where staff helped to familiarise them with check-in and security procedures.  They also had the opportunity to experience flight conditions, including take off and landing, in a flight simulator at the O2.

Commenting on his award win, Jonathan said, “It is an honour to receive this recognition and a privilege to work with such inspiring young people. It has been so empowering for the students to realise that they can do things – they just need the right opportunities and someone to invest in them.”

Sophie Garner, Head of Service at Hillingdon Manor School added: “Jonathan is an inspirational teacher and has demonstrated his outstanding commitment to every individual – this award is very well deserved. Here at Hillingdon Manor we recognise the importance of engaging young people positively in education in order to bring out the best in them; for a large number of our pupils, Dance is the driving force behind their school lives – it helps them with their focus, attention, happiness and goals.”