December 13 2013 Latest news:
Aylsham High School teaching assistant, David Bonnington, wins national award. Pictured with students, left to right, Archie Wilson 13, Jack Bastin 14, Elly Watson 14, Abbie Craske 13, Rob Riches 12 and Caitlyn-Rose Davis 14. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY
By ALEX HURRELL, Reporter
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Pupils at Aylsham High School affectionately say his jokes are “the worst”, but judges in a national competition have voted teaching assistant David Bonnington the best in the east.
“Mr B’s” informal classroom, with its colourful poster-packed walls crammed with positive messages such as “Keep calm and sparkle”, is a haven of cheerful calm for vulnerable pupils experiencing long- and short-term difficulties.
“Every school should have a David Bonnington,” was one of many appreciative comments which swayed judges in the 2012 Pearson Teaching Awards, who shortlisted him from a record number of nominations.
He will be feted at a House of Commons reception next week and join other winning teachers from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland at the prestigious UK ceremony, which will be aired on BBC2 in the autumn.
A former shopkeeper and Norwich Union staff member, Mr Bonnington, 53, switched careers and came to Aylsham five years ago where he runs the inclusion area, helping children in need of special support feel at home and thrive.
Pupil: “Has the bell gone?”
Mr B: “No. It’s still on the wall.”
Mr B: “What do you call a man who makes a hole in the road?”
Pupil: “I don’t know. What do you call him?”
Mr B: “Doug.”
“He tells awfully funny jokes - they’re so awful, they’re funny,” said Archie Wilson, 13. “He’s really supportive. If you’re feeling bad, he helps you, and he buys you a breakfast bar if you’ve missed breakfast. He’s awesome - amazing. He should wear a cape with ‘Super Teacher’ on it.”
Robert Riches, 12, said: “If you’ve had a bad morning he’ll let you spend time in his room where you feel comfortable and less nervous. He’s naturally funny - he tries to make us skip down the corridor with him.”
Mr Bonnington would willingly lend anything from PE kit to pens and offered to help with everything, including making sets for drama productions, according to Jack Bastin, 14.
Abbie Craske, 13, said when she had been having friendship problems, Mr Bonnington had been welcoming and “brilliant”, helping her enjoy school life again.
"He’s awesome - amazing. He should wear a cape with ‘Super Teacher’ on it."
“He remembers everyone’s birthdays and puts up a banner and balloons,” she added.
Mr Bonnington and his family moved to Norfolk in 1989 from his native Sheffield where he had been a store manager with the Co-operative Society and had sat on the Co-op’s education committee, working with youth groups.
He and his wife Alison, who is now a science teacher and head of house at Cromer Academy, ran the village shop in Southrepps for a time and over the course of 15 years he completed an Open University degree in childhood studies.
He also served as a school governor at what was then Cromer High School where his children, Laura and Martin, were pupils.
Laura, 24, is now a teaching assistant at Sheringham High School while Martin, 27, is an area station manager for First Great Western.
Mr Bonnington, who lives in Roughton, said he was shocked, pleased and flattered by the award.
He believed in not dwelling on the past. “I don’t want to know all the things they can’t do. I want to know what they can do. I’m always looking for positive outcomes,” he said.
Aylsham high head teacher Duncan Spalding said he was thrilled for Mr Bonnington who had had a profound impact on vulnerable students. He added: “David epitomises the belief that we have as a school that everyone is capable of success if given the right support and environment in which to thrive.”