#AoCBeacons - Now in their 25th year, the @AoC_info Beacon Awards celebrate the best and most innovative practice among UK colleges.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic the scheduled Parliamentary reception for July had to be cancelled and instead today winners and runners up celebrated their successes in a virtual awards ceremony.

AoCBeacon Gavin WIlliamson

Introducing the Awards Ceremony, Education Secretary of State Gavin Williamson, said in his opening statement:

“I’m really pleased I can support your celebrations today. Colleges have gone above and beyond showcasing their commitment to people within them, the communities in which they operate and providing support to employers as the country rebuilds.”

The winners of the 2019/20 awards are:

British Council Award

Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher Education won for the UK’s largest staff international research innovation that improved opportunities for their local community.

Julie Nerney, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust said:

“The AoC Beacon Awards showcase exactly why colleges are so important to every community and why people value them. This award recognises international collaboration and exchange, importantly helping to shape an international mind-set in learners. The work of the winning college and their partnerships overseas show how vital colleges are to maintaining our reputation and connections as the UK prepares to leave the EU.”


Southern Regional College

Burton & South Derbyshire College

The Careers and Enterprise Company Award for Innovation in Careers and Enterprise

The Manchester College won for offering students a seamless, holistic experience on their pathways to work-readiness.

Julie Nerney, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust said:

“This college has shown great innovation in highly effective engagement with schools, employers and other agencies, in providing learners with excellent impartial careers education, advice and guidance. Enabling learners to make informed choices about their progression to further study and training, including apprenticeships, will have a lasting effect on the rest of their lives.”


Cambridge Regional College

Barnsley College

Sunderland College

Edge Award for Excellence in the Practical Delivery of Technical and Professional Learning

Grimsby Institute has won for radically changing the teaching and learning on its full-time media courses, trailblazing a brave new way forwards for vocational delivery with innovation, creativity, responsiveness and a collaborative approach with employers and industry who work hand in hand to facilitate qualification achievement.

Julie Nerney, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust said:

“This award showcases exactly why colleges are so important to every community, and why people value them. This college is inspirational in the way the teaching delivered is accessible and students get to experience education in a relatable way. Having a curriculum that students can identify with is hugely important for developing skills that will be used long after they have leave college - a strong foundation for the next stages of their life.”


London South East Colleges

Abingdon & Witney College

Pears #iwill award for Social Action and Student Engagement

EKC Group has won for social action and student engagement through a series of Community Weeks. They were put in place for all students, during which they are given the time to engage in social action that has a positive impact on the community they serve.

Julie Nerney, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust said:

“Colleges have a significant role to play in preparing students to become active citizens and engage with the world around them. This college has shown a really high standard of participation, curriculum enhancement and learner engagement in social action which benefits both learners and communities.”


South West College

NOCN Group Mental Health and Wellbeing Award

Barnsley College has won for a college-wide organisational transformation programme to enhance the mental health, wellbeing and welfare of its learners, its staff and its community.

Julie Nerney, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust said:

“The work colleges do on wellbeing often gets overlooked. But it is a core focus for so many institutions. This college stands out with its whole college mental health strategy that spans both improving teaching and learning and providing effective support for everyone. All this vital, high quality work enables students to feel more secure and able to learn.”


Bridgend College

College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London

Hartpury College

Jisc Award for effective use of Digital Technology in further education

The Manchester College has won for creating over a hundred bespoke assistive technology solutions each year. The college focused on collaboration and co-creative activity of Transition Officers, SENCOs, students and parents.

Julie Nerney, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust said:

“Colleges excelling digitally is hugely important as they reflect the fast-paced changes that are happening out in the world of work - particularly now, as so much work moves online due to the coronavirus pandemic. Colleges will need to use technology to contribute to the development of the curriculum more than ever – including equipping their SEND students with digital skills. This college is ensuring they underpin their learning experience as well.”


Bridgwater & Taunton College

City and Guilds Award for College Engagement with Employers

Fareham College has won for designing a highly innovative Civil Engineering and Groundworks Training Initiative.

Julie Nerney, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust said:

“Colleges often don’t get the recognition they deserve. The AoC Beacon Awards aim to showcase exactly why colleges are so important and reward their dedication to learners and their progress into the workforce. Colleges produce the workers of the future, and it’s clear from the winning college’s work that their contribution to local and regional economic development is of enormous value.”


Exeter College

Bradford College

Hugh Baird College

RCU Support for Students Award

Preston's College has won for creating bespoke programmes for asylum seeker students. Their initiative aims to empower and equipping learners with skills vital to starting to reclaim their lives, through a supported education after such shocking and harrowing journeys and ordeals. The college has adapted courses, and support practices for sanctuary seekers to enable a smooth transition to work and further education.

Julie Nerney, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust said:

“This college has gone above and beyond in equipping and empowering students to have a voice, to solve their own challenges, make their own choices and to participate in their community. They have shown great dedication to fully support students into college, employment and adult life, enabling them to achieve their goals and helping them to transform their lives.”


Abingdon & Witney College

Grimsby Institute

In total there were 130 entries from over 100 colleges.

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