From education to employment

Festival of Learning award winners showcase the power of learning and inspire others to transform lives

The Festival of Learning award winners for 2022 have been announced by Learning and Work Institute. The 12 winners, revealed at an awards ceremony, include inspiring stories of adult learners, as well as outstanding adult learning provision, tutors and employers.

Festival of Learning has been England’s biggest celebration of lifelong learning for almost 30 years. It is supported by Department for Education, NOCN, The Education and Training Foundation, Skills and Education Group and City Lit. The Patron’s Award winner is chosen by Learning and Work Institute’s Patron, HRH The Princess Royal.

All of this year’s winners show the power of learning to transform and enrich people’s lives.

The winners are:

  • Mica Coleman Jones has been selected by HRH The Princess Royal to receive the Patron’s Award. Mica found her love of learning as an adult and is now sharing that passion with others by training to become a special educational needs teacher.
  • Music and Mental Health Programme is an innovative project run by Liverpool Philharmonic that uses music and the creative arts to engage adults in learning, collaboration and creative exploration to support adults mental health. They have been selected to win the President’s Award.
  • FD Works has been recognised with the Employer Award, supported by NOCN. Their wide ranging and open-minded approach to staff training and development has promoted growth and productivity; aided retention within the business; and supported their staff to overcome personal and professional barriers.
  • Helen Sonnenfeld, who works for the NHS, has won the Tutor Award, supported by Education and Training Foundation. Supporting learners within the secure care system to unlock their potential, Helen’s innovative and creative approach has played a huge role in the mental health and wellbeing of patients.
  • Emma Smith, a woman who has battled addiction for a long period of time, received the Learning for Work Award, supported by NOCN. After looking for direction in her life, Emma started courses with New Horizons and now works full time supporting people who are going through something similar to her.
  • Jo Wyatt, from Ipswich, found herself as a single mother with no direction in her life. She has won the New Directions Award, supported by Skills and Education Group, after returning to learning and discovering her passion for social work. Jo is now embarking on a career as a young person and children social worker.
  • Joanne Sandison has been awarded the Learning for Health Award. Following a diagnosis of terminal cancer, Joanne enrolled on courses to help her understand how she could support her family to cope with her diagnosis, while also managing her own stress and improving her mental health.
  • Shamim Hussein, from the West Midlands, has won the English Language Learning Award. When his wife suffered a life-changing injury, he needed to be able to negotiate hospital appointments and communicate with his daughter’s school. Shamim has gained a new sense of security and independence and has inspired other men in his community to enrol in English classes.
  • Bristol City council’s Move In Move On Move Up programme has received our Learning Provision Award. It joins up support services across homelessness, learning, employment, life skills and health support to create a holistic, multi-agency project which meets complex needs.
  • Joanne Matthews, from London, has won the Return to Learning Award, supported by City Lit. From a young age, Joanne struggled with school and had little confidence. Joanne was encouraged to attend classes at Learn Hillingdon and has been able to find a new lease of life and gain a career.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of Learning and Work Institute said;

“The Festival of Learning award winners are truly inspiring. They show the many ways learning as an adult can make a difference, including finding a new job or career, making new friends, being active in your community, and improving your health and wellbeing. I congratulate all of the award winners, and know that they will continue to inspire more adults into learning that can transform lives.

As a country we must rise to some big challenges over the next decade and lifelong learning can help do that – contributing to achieving net zero, levelling up opportunity, improving health and wellbeing as the population ages and so much more. Investment in adult education is rising again, but will still be lower in 2025 than it was in 2010. We need to be much more ambitious for lifelong learning. Our award winners help make that case.”

Graham Hasting-Evans, Chief Executive at NOCN, said:

As a longstanding advocate of adult learning, NOCN Group is proud to have been able to support Learning and Work Institute’s Learning for Work and Employer Awards. It’s always inspiring to hear the winner’s stories. They show the many ways in which adult education can benefit individuals, communities and employers and reinforce our commitment to ensuring that learning is accessible for all. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of the award winners and wish them every success for the future.”

Jenny Jarvis, Interim Chief Executive at Education and Training Foundation, said:

At the Education and Training Foundation, we strongly advocate the importance of lifelong learning and the vital role tutors play in this agenda. 

“We are delighted to continue our collaboration with the Festival of Learning through our sponsorship of the Tutor of the Year Award.  

“Many congratulations to this year’s richly deserved winner, Helen Sonnenfeld, of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.”

Paul Eeles, Chief Executive at Skills and Education Group, said:

“Each year, the Festival of Learning awards shine a spotlight on inspiring individuals with incredible stories. Each award winner is a reminder of the power of education to make a difference – at all stages of life.

At Skills and Education Group, we are committed to supporting and championing lifelong learning. It is therefore a real pleasure for us to be involved with the Festival of Learning and to sponsor the New Directions Award. It is never too late to change your direction in life, and the winners are shining examples of that.

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners, and particularly to Jo Wyatt, winner of the New Directions Award. I wish Jo all the best in her exciting new chapter as a social worker.”

Mark Malcomson, CEO at City Lit, said:

“We believe that lifelong learning, retraining and upskilling has a hugely important part to play in building a fairer and more inclusive society. Adult education opens up opportunities for individuals and communities often under-served by traditional support. That’s why City Lit is delighted to support Festival of Learning in celebrating those individuals who have returned to learning as an adult, and through this learning have transformed their own lives. We look forward to presenting the award for Return to Learning, marking the great achievements of every winner and nominee.”

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