David Atkinson – Ascent Trust

David Atkinson – Ascent Trust



Coming into education later in life, I joined the SEN sector in 2004, working with young people with a range of special educational needs, including young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties, severe learning difficulties and young people on the Autistic Spectrum. My early work was with young people as a swimming coach, I then progressed onto Higher Level Teaching Assistant working across the school, I was supported and encouraged by leadership of the school to undertake a Foundation Degree in Education and Care and I then continued to a BA Hons in Education and Curriculum Studies, focussing my dissertation on the benefits of outdoor learning for young people with ASD. More recently I undertook an assessment only route to gain QTS and am now a fully qualified teacher, something which as a young person growing up in the 70’s in a pit village in the North East of England I would have never of dreamed of. My own (negative) experience of education of that period has helped shaped my philosophy and ethos on the importance of developing a holistic and rounded individual focusing on emotional intelligence and self-awareness.

I came into education following 20 years as a Postman as my ‘real job’ and I spent the rest of the time when not at work training and competing in a range of sports including ultra-distance running, iron man events, triathlons, swimming, adventure racing, fell running and mountain marathons. I competed in the UK and across the world. All of these have one thing in common, they are often done in beautiful outdoor spaces both and allowed me to be at one with nature and my own thoughts. My passion for the outdoors grew through the simplicity of the sports I undertook. I developed an appreciation of the beauty of nature and began to learn more about the impact and benefit being in the outdoors can have, emotionally, physically and spiritually. More recently and as the body begins to slow down I have left the competitive side of adventure behind me and began to explore other areas such as journeying and adventuring through travel in a canoe, kayak, cycling, walking, and through skiing and enjoying wild camping.  Whilst travelling is a great passion I share with my wife and being teachers we both embrace the opportunity to travel during every school holiday, I love returning to my home and exploring my local coastline and woodland and feel very fortunate to live in such a beautiful place which is the North East of England.  In 2010 I was given the opportunity to get involved with Forest School through then Archimedes Training, after a very inspirational and life changing week of Level three training, my whole outlook and philosophy on teaching changed forever and anyone who knows me well will tell you I share my passion for the Forest School ethos with everyone I meet!. Since then I have become Leader of Outdoor Education and PE in the academy in which I teach and developed a Forest School site on the academy grounds and introduced Forest School teaching into the curriculum as well as helping other colleagues to engage in Forest School activities. In 2013 I undertook the Forest School Level 4 Practitioner training and over the next 18 months worked on completing the portfolio and training to complete the Level 4 award. My personal learning journey since my introduction to Forest Schools back in 2010 has been incredible, meeting so many new people with a similar outlook to myself, developing my skills and being able to introduce so many young people to Forest School education.

My specialism lies in the field of Autism, I have worked with young people and young adults with ASD for over 10 years now, and I have been involved in a range of action research relating to outdoor learning and young people with Autism. I hold a Level 3 Award in Working with Young People and Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and continue to update my professional development and keep up to date with new developments in the field of Autism. I continue to work for Ascent Academies Trust within Barbara Priestman Academy, Ascent was founded by four special secondary schools with the aim of developing a vision and strategic plan for special educational needs in Sunderland.  By collaboratively working together we are not only able to increase the opportunities we can offer our own students and staff, but we are also able to offer specialist knowledge to schools and academies across Sunderland and throughout the North East region, through our advice, consultancy and training arm of the company.

My approach is one of lifelong learning, I myself came into education later in life and would encourage colleagues young or older to get involved in Forest Schools. I don’t profess to know it all but will support, motivate and engage with colleagues to support your learning whilst on my own lifelong journey of education. Feedback from courses I have ran has been that I have a relaxed and friendly manner and work flexibility to meet the needs of colleagues on my courses. I look forward to welcoming you onto one of my courses.