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    Film star Colin Firth made an emotional tribute to Further Education today as he received a Gold Award from the Association of Colleges (AoC), which honours successful college alumni that are role models for hundreds of thousands of students.

    The international celebrity, who won this year's BAFTA Award for Best Actor, was a student at Barton Peveril College in Eastleigh, Hampshire.

    Mr Firth once admitted in a local newspaper interview that he had never really enjoyed education until attending the college. At the House of Commons awards ceremony, he paid homage to Barton Peveril's staff for their role in shaping his life.

    He said: "I really value what College did for me. Barton Peveril College saved me, I've always felt very grateful for the extraordinary level of faith they managed to maintain in me. It's left me with a belief that everybody deserves a second chance.

    "My two years at Barton Peveril were among the two happiest years of my life. I must have been paying some attention as I can still quote randomly from Thomas Hardy and Lord Byron. Receiving this award gives me an unusual opportunity to thank my college and the person who helped me the most, my extremely fine English teacher Penny Edwards."

    The other winners of this year's AoC Gold Awards are:

    • Bank of England Executive Director and Chief Economist Spencer Dale

    • Paralympian swimmer and cyclist Sarah Storey OBE

    • Businesswoman and BBC 'Dragons' Den' star Deborah Meaden

    • Police Superintendent Leroy Logan MBE

    • Film-maker and adventurer Emma Brumpton

    • Joint winners Simon Needham and James Sommerville, co-founders of global creative agency ATTIK

    AoC chief executive Martin Doel said: "The AoC Gold Awards draw attention to the superb work done by both students and their colleges across a variety of sectors and prove that, no matter what your aspirations, Further Education can make a significant contribution to your future success. I'd like to extend my congratulations to Colin and to all of this year's winners, who demonstrate just how far students can go when their talent and ambition is both recognised and nurtured."

    Jason Rainbow

    (Pictured: Colin Firth with his former drama teacher Penny Edwards and current Barton Peveril College drama student Mike Parker)

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