A TEACHER who boosts the confidence of children with learning difficulties by whisking them away on exciting field trips, was shortlisted for a national award.

Tim Walker, who teaches at Witney’s Springfield School, was one of four finalists in with a chance of being named school trip champion at the School Travel Awards on Thursday.

Though he just missed out on the top spot, Mr Walker said he was delighted to be shortlisted and raise the profile of west Oxfordshire's special needs school.

The school trip champion award was designed to recognise individuals who go the extra mile to organise exciting and educational trips and champion learning outside the classroom.

Mr Walker, who teaches a class with nine children with learning disabilities, has taken his class on trips to Parliament and Dorset's Isle of Portland.

He is also the Duke of Edinburgh Award manager at the school, which has seen him take youngsters out on expeditions – including canoeing along the River Thames.

He said: “The message I’m trying to get out is that these young people with learning difficulties are still very able to do loads of activities and face up to different challenges.

“Most of them not only do it, enjoy it and find it exciting but learn so much as well. Their self-confidence and self-belief grows massively. Then that allows them to move forward with whatever it is they want to do in their lives.”

Walking away with the school trip champion award at the ceremony at London's Royal Garden Hotel was Jacqui Hargreaves, head of design and technology and food science at Vandyke Upper School in Leighton Buzzard.

The judging panel consisted of Elaine Skates, chief executive of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, Gill Harvey, CEO of School Travel Forum, Peter Carne OBE, Learning Away National Adviser, and Rob Yandell and Keeley Rodgers from School Travel Organiser magazine.

Springfield is the special needs school for West Oxfordshire and educates pupils from two to 16 years.

All pupils have profound learning difficulties, often combined with severe medical conditions and behavioural problems.

The school aims to place a strong emphasis on teaching life skills that will enable pupils to live as independently as possible.

In March, to further its commitment to learning in the outside world, the school launched a fundraising campaign to buy a new minibus with wheelchair access, so it can transport its pupils.