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Monday night, 30th October 2006, and the stars shone bright at QIA’s first STAR Awards ceremony at the Battersea Evolution Centre. This was a glittering evening to celebrate the unsung heroes of the further education system.

The STAR Awards were introduced by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in 2004 with two clear purposes; firstly, to celebrate the achievements of those very many people across the sector who are held in high regard by their colleagues but who otherwise would be unlikely to receive national recognition. The second is to promote the successes of the sector. People like Maggie Unwin of Work Solutions, whose work with employers has been outstanding; Bridget Ely from City of Bristol College who won the Innovation and Inspiration Award for her work with previously institutionalised students; Robert Randall from Gloucester Adult Education Service, who has been very successful in his work with children and families.

This year we have introduced a Learner’s Choice Award where learners nominate someone who has made a real difference to their learning. The first winner was Abdellatif Erraoui, a French and Arabic tutor at Birmingham Adult Education Service who is particularly skilled at adapting his lessons to the needs of his learners.

In all there are 17 Award categories covering the range of teaching, training, leadership and learner support. Most are for individuals but there is also an Award for the Outstanding Support Team.

Nearly 1,400 nominations for these coveted Awards were received this year and the winners were chosen by staff from across the sector.

An innovation this year was the introduction of regional ceremonies for all the shortlisted nominees. We held three events – in Warwick, London and Doncaster – to celebrate the achievements of everyone who made it to the shortlist. Nominees received their certificate and had a chance to meet each other. The ceremonies also provided, through local and regional media, good publicity for the regional winners and their organisations.

Excellence and innovation awards, like the STARs and Beacons, give QIA the opportunity to identify outstanding individuals and organisations from the sector, and to publicise their achievements. On November 29th, at a ceremony in London, we will be announcing the next group of Beacon providers ““ organisations which have met stringent criteria. As well as providing excellent service for their own learners and local employers, Beacons make a huge contribution to the sector by sharing their skills and expertise with peers, to the benefit of all.

William Lewis, Programme Manager [Improvement and Strategy], Quality Improvement Agency.

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