There were celebrations for the Deaf Academy, as teaching assistant Nikki James (pictured centre above) received a highly commended award in the Teaching Assistant of the Year category at the prestigious TES Schools Awards 2022.

For 2022, the TES Schools Awards brought together both the awards for state and independent schools to create one combined and inclusive national event to celebrate excellence across the whole education sector.

Nikki, who attended the Academy as a student from the age of 13, and joined as a teaching assistant in 1996, received special recognition from the judging panel and was one of only a handful of attendees on the night to be awarded highly commended.

She was nominated for the work she does to support students and parents, including, delivering social media sign language video lessons and the development of the Academy’s BSL library to make books more accessible to Deaf students. She also holds weekly sign language classes for families, to enable them to communicate with their children, and special sign language weekends.

Sylvan Dewing, principal of the Exmouth-based Deaf Academy, said: “We are absolutely delighted for Nikki and so proud of her achievement. She is a fantastic role model for our young Deaf people. She works hard to support parents and the support she gives is totally authentic, as it comes from her own experience.”

Nikki said: “I’m really delighted to receive this highly commended award. Having attended the Academy myself, I can use my experience to support our students and their families. I absolutely love the work that I do. I’m a people person, and have dedicated my career to supporting Deaf young people.

This is the third prestigious award for the Deaf Academy staff over the last year. In November, teachers Joanna Fison and Matt Jenkins were awarded the Pearson golden national teaching award category Lockdown Hero – Learner and Community Support which was a special award created for 2021. The award was for the innovative work in setting up online teaching and support during the height of the pandemic for the Academy students. The announcement of the awards was made live on BBC’s The One Show.

The Academy was also shortlisted for a Natspec Student Voice award. Natspec is the membership association for organisations which offer specialist further education and training for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.