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Inspirational Darwen Educator Wins Prestigious National Teaching Award

Darwen educator Greg Smalley from Aurora Woodlands School has been recognised with a Silver Award for Unsung Hero in the Pearson National Teaching Awards. Selected from thousands of nominees, the win highlights the remarkable impact they have on shaping the lives of the young people in their care.

Principal Sarah Gregory said: “Greg joined the Woodlands family in February 2022 as a member of our support staff. He brought with him an enthusiasm and passion for the natural world that he wanted to share with our students, and this began with him leading small groups of students to spend structured time in our Woodland grounds participating in activities as diverse as shelter building, foraging and nature photography.”


  • Cleared and cultivated an area of land, now called Highgrove, ensuring all staff and students were able to get involved
  • Devised a diverse curriculum to spark interest and build self-esteem, enabling students of all ages to study AQA qualifications in topics such as forest craft, landscape design, horticulture and carpentry
  • Set up our “field to fork” programme through a partnership he established between the school and the Darwen and Whitehall Community Garden. Members of the community garden group became regular visitors
  • Ensured the criteria were reached for the Woodland Trust Green Tree Schools Silver Award
  • Given up a Saturday to accompany a student to the Blackburn Community Volunteer Awards to support them as they collected an award for their work with Whitehall Community Garden. This student quite simply would have been too overwhelmed to attend the event without Greg’s unwavering support.

 Greg will now be in the running for the coveted Gold Award, which will be announced at a prestigious awards ceremony later in the year. 

The announcement comes as students and schools across the UK are today paying tribute to all those who work in education to mark National Thank a Teacher Day, which celebrates the whole education community and shines a light on the exceptional impact they have on shaping young lives. 

National Thank a Teacher Day and the Pearson National Teaching Awards are run by the Teaching Awards Trust, an independent charity established over 25 years ago to celebrate the transformative impact of education, shining a spotlight on the pivotal roles teachers, support staff, colleges, schools and early years educators play in inspiring young people, every single day.

Michael Morpurgo, author, former Children’s Laureate, and President of the Teaching Awards Trust, says: “The work and devotion of all of those who play a role in educating young people is phenomenal. Not only do they play a vital role in shaping minds inside the classroom, often they continue to encourage, support, motivate and inspire beyond. That’s why it is important for us to take a moment on this National Thank a Teacher Day to recognise their efforts. 

“I am also thrilled to be able to congratulate this year’s Silver Award winners and recognise the amazing contributions and commitment they have shown that are shaping the lives of the next generation. Thank you!”

Sharon Hague, Managing Director of School Assessment & Qualifications at Pearson UK, says: “We're delighted to recognise this year’s Silver Award winners on their outstanding achievements. The contributions they make and the impact they have on young people’s lives every day is truly exceptional. We're extremely proud to support the National Teaching Awards and mark the achievements of all of our very worthy winners. Thank you for your continued work and congratulations!!”