Nature teacher named ‘lockdown hero’ in national teaching ‘Oscars’

Ian Sippitt, the Aurora Eccles teacher who has received a national Pearson teaching award.

Ian Sippitt, the Aurora Eccles teacher who has received a national Pearson teaching award. - Credit: Aurora Group

A Norfolk teacher who helps young people with special educational needs learn to love nature has been recognised as a ‘lockdown hero ’in prestigious national awards. 

Ian Sippitt was honoured in the Pearson National Teaching Awards, known as the 'Oscars' of the teaching profession.

Ian Sippitt with pupils at Aurora Eccles School in Quidenham.

Award-winning teacher Ian Sippitt with pupils at Aurora Eccles School in Quidenham. - Credit: Aurora Group

Aurora Eccles School in Quidenham remained open throughout the pandemic and has continued to run its forest school for children with learning, communication and social interaction difficulties.

Determined to keep pupils in touch with nature, inspirational teacher and Forest School practitioner Mr Sippitt founded a Forest Folk YouTube channel.

The first video ‘mindfulness five countdown’, ensuring the physical and mental health of students with special needs did not deteriorate during Covid. 

It was intended to help Eccles’ students regulate in times of distress and upset but the video quickly received thousands of views on social media, as far away as the USA.


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He said: “Sending work home to children in lockdown is much easier if you’re a maths teacher than it is if your work is in the woods, so we thought what are we going to be able to provide?”

Asa Hardy-Brownlie and Ian Sippitt presenting videos on their Forest Folk YouTube channel.

Asa Hardy-Brownlie and Ian Sippitt presenting videos on their Forest Folk YouTube channel. - Credit: YouTube

A parent, whose child attends Aurora Eccles, an independent school providing specialist education for students aged 7 to 16 who experience difficulties learning in mainstream schools, said: “Our daughter Amelia really struggles with the busy world we live in and had not been successful in mainstream schooling due to Autism and social anxiety. 

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“Mr Sippitt’s lessons bring out the best in her by encouraging and gently pushing her to succeed. It has taken years for her to voice her excitement about school.”

His work was recognised with a silver award in the ‘lockdown hero award for learner and community support’ category of the awards for “outstanding commitment to changing the lives of the children they work with every day”.

He has now been shortlisted to win one of just 15 gold awards later in the year, in a programme which will be broadcast on the BBC.

Ian Sippitt teaches Aurora Eccles pupil campfire making.

Ian Sippitt, Aurora Eccles teacher, encourages pupils to learn in nature including bushcrafts like campfire making. - Credit: Aurora Group

School principal Arabella Hardy said: “He works tirelessly supporting our students to enable them to develop increased self-esteem and understand the world around them.” 

“The whole school is looking forward to celebrating with Ian. We are planning a team based activity using bushcraft skills to light a campfire, followed by an all school celebration with woodland treats.”

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