National Awarding Organisation and educational charity, @NCFE, has revealed the winners of this year’s prestigious Aspiration Awards.

The awards programme, which was founded by NCFE in 2018 to honour the success of learners, educators and educational organisations across the UK, has grown in popularity year on year.

Attracting a record total of 200 entries across the four categories, the 2020 judging panel, which comprised NCFE’s Chief Customer Officer, Victoria Orr, Head Teacher, Tom Sherrington, Managing Director at Hawk Training, Crawford Knott, and the Association of Colleges representative, Catherine Sezen, spent hours reviewing and deliberating over the high calibre of candidates.

Nottingham-based, Stone Soup Academy, scooped the hotly contested ‘Centre of the Year’ Award. An Ofsted rated ‘Outstanding’ Alternative Provision for students who are either at risk of, or who have been permanently excluded from mainstream school, Stone Soup Academy wowed the judges with its innovative approach to learner engagement to help young people who have lost their way to turn their lives around and “create unimagined futures”.

Kerrie Henton, Principal at Stone Soup Academy, commented:

“We entered the Aspiration Awards because it resonated so closely with what we do. When our learners come to us, they have no aspirations of their own, so we have to aspire for them. It’s always lovely to get a pat on the back for a job well done, so winning the award is truly fantastic, but for us, it’s all about the learners - about celebrating their achievements and demonstrating what can be achieved with the right level of support.”

The Teacher of the Year Award was presented to Dawn Waite from Halesowen College, who despite only embarking on her career as a health and social care teacher a few short years ago, has supported hundreds of learners into careers in nursing, residential care, paramedic science and midwifery. Dawn has also gone above and beyond the call of duty to support a learner in her class who is completely blind – helping to make the entire Level 3 curriculum accessible to her, as well as the college campus itself.

“I get learners who come to me with very little self-confidence and by building them up, I get them to go to university and enjoy what comes after that – having a career, not just a job,” Dawn commented.

“I think if anything, winning this award has made me realise that I am a good teacher and I am good at my job but I’m still in shock to be honest!”

The Learner of the Year Award was presented to Aisha Aslam, a dedicated mother of five young children from Oldham in Greater Manchester, who has rediscovered her love of learning as an adult and between her other responsibilities, has found the time to complete both a CACHE Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools and Colleges, and a Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning to support her in her pursuit of a new career as a Teaching Assistant.

“When you’ve got kids, you just get on with whatever’s thrown at you. It is hard to be a mum and stay at home, constantly putting your children’s needs first and feeling like you can’t do anything for yourself. I just hope that in winning this award, it might help to inspire other stay-at-home mums to think, hey if she’s got five kids and she can do it, why can’t I?” said Aisha.

18-year old Elica Hale, a Health and Social Care student at Halesowen College, was also recognised in the Learner of the Year category with a Highly Commended Award for her incredible dedication to her course work while working full-time as a Health Care Assistant at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham during the worst of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“I’m so excited to have won the Highly Commended award,” Elica commented.

“I really want to get into University to study towards my adult nursing qualification and having this award will look great on my application and my CV in the future. I am really proud of myself and I can’t thank my tutors enough for putting me forward.”

The final winner in this year’s awards programme was 18-year old Holly Bailey from Southampton, who beat the competition to secure the ‘Against all Odds’ award which recognises learners who have overcome difficult personal circumstances in order to succeed in their studies.

Currently studying towards her CACHE Level 3 Diploma in Childcare and Education at Itchen Sixth Form College, Holly has had to juggle her studies between her responsibilities as a young carer, helping to support her parents in looking after her older brother who has Autism, a younger sister with ADHD, and a further younger brother who also needs close care.

“I was so surprised when I got the email to say that I’d won, I didn’t think it was real!” Holly said.

“A lot of working with children is about being able to overcome struggles and this award proves that I am still able to do what I want to do, irrespective of challenges in my personal life.

Victoria Orr, Chief Customer Officer at NCFE, added:

“We were overwhelmed by the incredible response to this year’s Aspiration Awards and completely humbled by some of the amazing work that learners, educators and centres are doing day-in, day-out across the UK.

“Now more than ever, it’s important to recognise achievements within the sector and share inspirational stories. We hope that by bringing some of these to the fore through our Aspiration Awards that we might inspire more people to share their achievements and give themselves a pat on the back for coming through what has undoubtedly been one of the education and skills sector’s most challenging years to date."

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