From education to employment


Gemma Westlake, Basingstoke College of Technology, is an Automotive lecturer at Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT)

Further education staff honoured as Schools #andColleges across the country celebrate #ThankaTeacherDay to highlight families’ gratitude to school staff 

Selected from thousands of nominations, 13 Further Education lecturers have been honoured out of 102 Pearson National Teaching Silver Award winners for their commitment to changing the lives of the students they work with every day. 

The Award for FE Lecturer of the Year

Melissa Tisdale, Walsall College, has some of the highest achieving Media learners in the country despite many students coming from socially deprived areas with historic challenges to education. Her success comes from her independent production company, run by students where they can gain valuable real-world work experience on external commissions, including filming and editing for the NHS. Melissa also created the college’s own film festival through her company, with this annual festival raising funds for the charity Mind – more than £1,000 this year despite all being online. Her students gain incredible experience through her work as well as the chance to put together a professional quality showreel when entering the world of employment.

Laura Denton, Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education, has a razor focused dedication to her students across all aspects of their development, ensuring they leave college in the best possible position to enter into employment or progress onto the next level. Her experience within the tourism and hospitality industry helps provide the best opportunities and contacts for her students, including developing a partnership at her old restaurant in Florida where students can apply for an internship and to work there. She also created the ’12 Days of Christmas Kindness’ project after lockdown last year to give back to those who need it most, raising money for 12 different community groups, along with gifts, food supplies and personal notes from students.

Gemma Westlake, Basingstoke College of Technology, is an Automotive lecturer at Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT). Gemma has worked at the College for her entire education career, receiving her 10 year long-service badge last summer. Gemma is an epitome of an outstanding FE lecturer, instinctively nurturing all her students and supporting colleagues to use new technologies, particularly during the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Working in a traditionally male dominated industry means Gemma acts as a positive role model for young females she very quickly demonstrates to her learners how she can help them succeed. Her consistent and methodical approach has helped students meet her lesson objectives.


Paul Mercer, South Eastern Regional College, uses his industry background, education expertise and passion to create an innovative and engaging curriculum at the College. This is evident in his many initiatives including the College Kitchen Charity Partnerships which bring basic cookery skills to vulnerable adults and children through student-led cookery tutorials; opportunities for students to raise their technical skills level through participation in regional and international competitions; and the development of student companies and enterprises which have secured coveted food franchise spots at festivals including Sea Bangor, Portavogie Seafood festivals and a Snow Patrol concert. He also established partnerships with local charities and councils, resulting in SERC’s Hospitality and Catering School donating 1000 Christmas dinners to the Bangor, Downpatrick, and Newtownards Food Banks and local charities.


Carina Ancell, Newham Sixth Form College, regularly goes above and beyond in her work. This includes setting up a lunchtime debating club which puts attendees forward for debating competitions held by Oxford and Cambridge University, continuing to provide support and advice to former pupils, and establishing an alumni network to help pass on advice to current pupils. A committed and approachable teacher who has raised student aspirations; in the last two years the number of students in the honours programme has more than doubled and last year Newham Sixth Form College saw the highest number of pupils applying to Russell Group universities. To Carina, a rich and varied curriculum can be a tool to progress social justice; Carina is an active member of the decolonising the curriculum movement and founder of the NewVlc African Studies Centre.


Jonathan Rogers, Gower College Swansea, is well respected in the music world, Jonathan utilises his links with organisations – such as the Swansea Philharmonic Choir (where, as Conductor, he set up a scholarship scheme to provide opportunities for students to perform large choral works with orchestras) and the Dunvant Male Choir (who provide a host of opportunities for young performers) - to inspire the next generation of musicians. A true advocate of community engagement and enrichment, during the pandemic Jonathan has worked tirelessly to ensure that students can still access practical opportunities at a time when the world of live performance has been hugely impacted.


The Award for Excellence in Special Needs Education

Stephen Evans, who works at specialist further education college Derwen College, has a determination to bring out the best in every student. His students have a wide variety of complex special educational needs and disabilities, and some of them arrive at College believing that sport just isn’t for them. As Sports & Leisure co-ordinator, he recognises the physical and mental benefits of exercise, encouraging teamwork, social skills and fun. By partnering with community and national sports organisations, Steve has enabled a wide and inclusive range of opportunities for the college’s residential and day students. His passion and drive has been instrumental in bringing the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards to Derwen College, giving students the opportunity, motivation and self-belief to get involved with these challenging awards, encouraging them to strive and attain goals beyond their expectations. 

The Award for FE Team of the Year

The PE Department, New College Pontefract, has built not only an outstanding track-record of learner outcomes, but also a reputation as the largest provider of extra-curricular activities across the college. Beyond sports teams, the department ran campaigns aimed at getting staff and students physically active in lockdown, as well as supporting their students’ on-going engagement in volunteering and developing their leadership skills. This year alone, twenty-four NPLQ lifeguard qualifications have been completed, while 80 students are completing the national CSLA and HSLA sports leadership awards. This means that over 100 hours of voluntary sports leadership is taking place in the community every year, led by college students.

The Hospitality and Catering Team, Eastleigh College, ensured no learner was disadvantaged during lockdown by organising food deliveries to every learner’s house with the ingredients required for that day’s online lessons, while tutors delivered live cooking masterclasses from their own homes. Outcomes are consistently excellent with 100% of students achieving their targets. 

The Sports Department, Wigan and Leigh College, provides programmes for a range of sporting expertise from elite level athletes to learners who want to participate for recreational reasons. Staff have incredible experience in the sports industry which means they pass on thorough knowledge to learners. Student destinations are amazing, with learners progressing to universities and sports scholarships across the world. The department boasts a 100% pass rate, with 78% of students achieving grades above their target, and every student goes on to secure a place at their destination of choice. The team have also established links with external partners to support student wellbeing and disability specific sports.

The Performing Arts Team, Newham Sixth Form College, work at one of the largest sixth form colleges in the country and serve a socially and economically deprived borough. In recent years alumni have gone on to become professional musicians, actors and dancers, as well as choreographers, music producers, costume designers and more. Students have the chance to work with professionals in the industry to get a deeper understanding of their craft, and are encouraged to question society and explore issues relevant to them, such as Black Lives Matter and HIV/Aids. The team prepares students for work in the creative industries, including providing professional headshots to get them started.

The Foundation Learning Team, Telford College, works closely with parents, carers, councils, schools and support agencies to give each student a level of support that is right for their individual needs. Learning at Telford College has always been about much more than what happens in the classroom – and the Foundation team epitomises this. Foundation students require additional support to prepare for the world of work, and Telford College teaches vital life skills such as compassion, developing confidence, and much more. They have overcome many obstacles during lockdown, including creating work experience opportunities around the college campus, developing an online shop and building a programme of virtual visits and guest speakers.

The Beauty Therapy and Makeup Artistry Team, North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College, inspires the next generation in the same way that they were inspired by their own learning experience, with eight out of the nine team members having qualified in beauty therapy at NWSLC and returned to teach at the college after working successfully in industry. The team teaches a range of beauty and complementary therapies including spa therapy from Level 1 to Level 3, and make-up artistry at Levels 2, 3 and 5 including an HND in Theatrical Make-up. The team have a strong track record of success in national competitions including at WorldSkills UK LIVE. They work extensively with vulnerable and disadvantaged groups and offer their services free of charge in special schools, and to patients in hospitals and hospices in Nuneaton. Other activities in the community include fund-raising for charities including the Teenage Cancer Trust and Macmillan.

The winners have now been shortlisted to win a Gold Award in their category, in a programme which will be broadcast on the BBC. This is a great opportunity to celebrate the exceptional school and college staff who have worked wonders during an incredibly challenging time for educators across the country. 

The Silver Award winners are being honoured as part of the wider celebrations for ‘Thank a Teacher Day’, a national campaign to honour and recognise college staff for their incredible work. The celebrations follow new data which shows how the previous year’s lockdowns have significantly changed how families across the country view the role of teachers. 

New research from Parentkind and The Teaching Awards Trust highlights that three in four parents and carers have a newfound respect for the teaching profession following their experiences of remote learning during lockdown. 74.9% of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they had more respect for the work that teachers do following their family’s experiences of remote learning.

The last year has seen a wealth of stories of teachers and lecturers making care visits to vulnerable families, coming up with innovative ways of remote teaching, keeping their pupils settled by regularly checking in and even using their school sites for Covid-19 testing when classes did return. There has never been a better time to appreciate them and the vital work they do. 

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 22nd year of celebrating, award-winning teachers, teaching assistants, headteachers and lecturers across the UK 

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

“Thank a Teacher Day gives us all a chance –  children, families, all of us – to pay tribute to those wonderful educators who change more lives than they will ever know. Today we say thank you to the teachers who have helped our young people navigate these most difficult of times, and who will continue to inspire countless young minds over the coming years.”

Sharon Hague, Senior Vice President of Schools at Pearson UK, said:  

“After a year like no other we want to take today to say thank you to all the incredible school staff who have kept children and young people learning despite unprecedented challenges. We hope the celebrations today show how much you are appreciated, and that your hard work has not gone unnoticed nor unrecognised.” 

The 2021 Pearson National Teaching Awards are open to every school across the UK. The awards were established by Lord Puttnam CBE in 1998 and are managed by the Teaching Awards Trust, an independent charity. The vision of the charity is to recognise and celebrate excellence in education. It does this through its public-facing ‘Thank A Teacher’ campaign, and through the Pearson National Teaching Awards. 

Learning is the most powerful force for change in the world. More than 20,000 Pearson employees deliver our products and services in nearly 200 countries, all working towards a common purpose – to help everyone achieve their potential through learning. We do that by providing high quality, digital content and learning experiences, as well as assessments and qualifications that help people build their skills and grow with the world around them. We are the world’s leading learning company. 

Michael Morpurgo is one of Britain’s best-loved writers for children. With a writing career that spans four decades, he has written over 100 books, selling more than 5 million copies in the UK and over 35 million worldwide. A former Children’s Laureate, Michael has won countless prizes, including the Smarties prize, the Blue Peter Book Award and the Whitbread Award, and was awarded an OBE for Services to Literature. Michael was also awarded an MBE in 1999, along with his wife Clare, in recognition of their work in founding Farms For City Children, a charity that has enabled 100,000 children to visit the charity’s three farms over the last 40 years. 

The 2021 Pearson National Teaching Award Categories are: 

The Award for Excellence in Special Needs Education

The Award for FE Lecturer of the Year, supported by DfE

The Award for FE Team of the Year, supported by DfE

The Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School, supported by Hays Education

The Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Secondary School, supported by Hays Education

The Award for Digital Innovator of the Year, supported by Nord Anglia Education

The Award for Making a Difference – Secondary School of the Year, supported by PiXL

The Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, supported by Nord Anglia Education

The Award for Making a Difference – Primary School of the Year, supported by PiXL

The Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School, supported by Randstad

The Award for Lifetime Achievement supported by DfE

The Award for Teaching Assistant of the Year

The Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year, supported by DfE

The Award for Impact through Partnership

The Lockdown Hero Award for Learner and Community Support


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