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UK’s most inspirational FE lecturers and staff honoured at prestigious Pearson National Teaching Awards

The nation’s most inspirational Further Education teachers, lecturers, and teams have been honoured at a prestigious ceremony following a televised week-long celebration of teaching on The One Show. At the Pearson National Teaching Awards UK Ceremony on Saturday 26 November, sixteen Gold Award winners were celebrated for excellence in their selected categories, having been chosen from thousands of nominations.

The ceremony followed a week-long celebration of these education award winners on the BBC every night on The One Show. The week ended with all the award-winning teachers, teaching assistants, lecturers and school staff being presented with their coveted trophies at a glamorous ceremony at The Brewery in the City of London. 

These inspirational FE winners include (full pen portraits below):

  • Steph Lee-Vae, The Award for FE Lecturer of the Year
  • Kalam Neale, The Award for Digital Innovator of the Year
  • Simon Wheatcroft, Outwood Academy Adwick, The Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year 
  • Angela Williams, Huddersfield New College, The Award for Lifetime Achievement
  • Health Studies Team at North West Regional College, The Award for FE Team of the Year

These Pearson National Teaching Award winners are shining examples of the people who make our schools and colleges so special. Our schools are the beating heart of our communities, and these awards are a wonderful opportunity to recognise the unseen work that schools and colleges do on a daily basis, from going the extra mile to provide reassurance during uncertain times through to offering wider support to families who need it most.

The Gold Award winners have been honoured for their incredible work supporting learners across the country. Each award winner has repeatedly gone above and beyond their role to change the lives of their students, supporting them and their families, and helping them move towards a bright future.  

The Pearson National Teaching Awards is an annual celebration of excellence in education, founded in 1998 by Lord Puttnam to recognise the life-changing impact an inspirational teacher can have on the lives of the young people they work with. This year marks its 23rd year of celebrating our school teaching staff across the UK. 

Sir Michael Morpurgo, celebrated author and former Children’s laureate, and President of the Teaching Awards Trust, said:

People of all ages will always remember that amazing teacher who made such a difference in their lives, whether that’s igniting a fire for their favourite subject or the support they’re received outside the classroom. Teachers and school staff will never know how many lives they have changed, or the impact they have made on so many children and their families, but our hope is that these awards help show them our gratitude, how much we owe them, how much we value their dedication.”

Sharon Hague, Managing Director, Pearson School Qualifications, said:

“More than ever we are seeing the tireless work that our teachers, lecturers, and school staff do day in, day out, to support not only our children but their families too. 

“Congratulations to all our Gold Award winners, who are shining examples of the incredible work going on in our nurseries, schools and colleges every day. This week we have heard so many inspirational stories about our school staff that highlight the exceptional dedication they have to their students, their colleagues, and their communities.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: 

“Many congratulations to all the winners of this year’s National Teaching Awards.

“Their fantastic work and dedication to their students is truly an inspiration, and these awards provide well earnt recognition of the work of incredible teachers and school staff up and down the country.  

“We have some of the best teachers in the world and I want to thank every single person working so hard to support children and young people for their expertise and commitment.”

Pen Portraits

Steph Lee-Vae, The Award for FE Lecturer of the Year

Steph’s boundless energy, prolific ideas and ability to network drives an extensive list of opportunities for her students. Steph’s courses have a track record of 100% retention and achievement over the past few years and last year, 100% of Level 3 Graphics students progressed into Year Two. Steph set up a YouTube channel in 2020 with video tutorials and digital workshops for students to access at their own pace, so that no one is left behind. It remains in place in 2022. 

Steph recently supported a terminally ill student to write and complete a bucket list, including setting up a GoFundMe page to fund it. Steph worked with their awarding body to get the student his qualification before he passed; copies of which are hung up in the department and in the student’s parents’ house. 

Steph also coaches skateboarding and BMX, with two coaches recently winning Olympic medals, won funding for an arts magazine which is now international with students’ work published in it, and arranged for students to design shoes for Vans. 

Kalam Neale, The Award for Digital Innovator of the Year

Kalam has envisioned, created and driven ground-breaking, specialist digital provision with educational development at its heart. Barnsley College has become a sector leader in the field because of his trailblazing work, and his expertise is now in demand in the UK and across the world. Kalam has been central to the creation of the country’s first ever college esports course and to the outstanding success of Barnsley’s esports division. 

Through his impressive vision, he has transformed the lives of his students, many of whom were likely to drop out of education, who now have the drive and confidence to succeed, with many going onto university. He uses esports to teach skills such as public speaking, through ‘shoutcasting’, business management, as well as digital skills. He launched a mentoring programme, matching his students with primary children, which is now being rolled out across the college. Health and wellbeing are important to Kalam, who includes compulsory health and wellbeing modules as part of the course to ensure students get enough exercise and understand how to take care of themselves. They do this through VR boxing, yoga and mindfulness.

Simon Wheatcroft, Outwood Academy Adwick, The Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year 

Simon is a Computer Science teacher, a motivator and is described by colleagues as ‘an inspiration to his entire school community’. He brings a love of technology and a wealth of knowledge and industry experience into the classroom to bring alive for students the impact of technologies in society. 

In 2016, Simon was the first blind person to run solo the 4 Deserts Marathon, in Namibia, something he couldn’t have achieved without technology. This first-hand experience, coupled with his unrivalled passion to put students first and help them fulfil their potential is why Simon is such a popular member of staff. This passion led to him running two very popular enrichment clubs, the Gaming Club and the Physical Computing Club. Students get to enjoy gaming and computing, while applying the practicalities of physical computing, such as robotics or actuation. Beyond the sheer enjoyment the students get from these clubs, is the importance of these clubs in improving students’ skill levels, and ultimately their life chances.

Angela Williams, Huddersfield New College, The Award for Lifetime Achievement

Angela broke the mould in her own family and community as one of the only children to go to college. She speaks candidly about her background, knowing that it inspires her students themselves to aim high. Born in Liverpool, her father was a milkman and her mother a cleaner. As a white, working class female, she represented less than 1% of the graduates at Oxford University that year.

She knows the transformative power of education and it’s personal for her. She is a role model to all who meet her. She has changed her own family history, and wants to show others they can do that same. Her true passion is to find and nurture the talents of every child, no matter their background. 

During her 15 years as Principal at Huddersfield New College, Angela has helped well over 18,000 young people to achieve their dreams in an environment that provides equality of opportunity for all. She transformed the post-16 education available to young people in Kirklees and the surrounding areas, and their life chances. Huddersfield New College is now in the top 10% of colleges in the UK.

Health Studies Team at North West Regional College, The Award for FE Team of the Year

The Health Studies Team is part of a large technical and vocational college, delivering courses to over 200 students across 3 campuses. They are focused, passionate and committed, and support their students to reach their professional goals and open doors to bright futures for them. The team brings years of unique professional health and caring experience with them.

They are focussed on introducing their students to the practical skills they need to succeed in a career in the Health Services, including through work placements. They have an overwhelming sense of duty, to their students and to the health profession. During COVID when the call for volunteers came, the team stepped up and encouraged their students to do the same. 37 students volunteered to take various shifts that the local trust couldn’t cover, from health professionals to cooks. The department supported the NHS Trust in their hour of need, as a result many of the students are still employed by the Trust. In fact, in the City, at any healthcare setting you’ll find their students. 

Full list of Pearson National Teaching Award Gold Winners: 

The Award for Excellence in Special Needs Education

Andrew Sanders, Moorcroft School, Uxbridge

The Award for FE Team of the Year

Health Studies Team at North West Regional College, Londonderry, Northern Ireland

The Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School

Helen Stott, Allerton CE Primary School, Leeds

The Award for Impact through Partnership

Royal Opera House: Create and Dance Partnership in Coventry, Earlsdon Primary School, Coventry

The Award for Lifetime Achievement

Angela Williams, Huddersfield New College, Huddersfield

The Award for Making a Difference – Secondary School of the Year

Limavady High School, Limavady, Northern Ireland

The Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year

Simon Wheatcroft, Outwood Academy Adwick, Doncaster

The Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School

Nicola Richards, Caegarw Primary School, Mountain Ash, Wales

The Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School

Tara Hall, Fir Vale School, Sheffield

The Award for Digital Innovator of the Year

Kalam Neale, Barnsley College, Barnsley

The Award for Early Years Team of the Year

The Early Years Team at Redgate Community Primary School, Liverpool

The Award for FE Lecturer of the Year

Steph Lee-Vae, The Bedford College Group, Bedford

The Award for Making a Difference – Primary School of the Year

Port Ellen Primary School, Isle of Islay, Scotland

The Award for Teaching Assistant of the Year

Esta Bernardini, Carlton Keighley, Keighley

The Award for Unsung Hero

Carolynn Southcombe, Cottingham CofE Primary School, Cottingham

The Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Secondary School

Andrew O’Neill, All Saints Catholic College, Kensington

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