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NCFE Aspiration Awards 2024 celebrate inspiring learners and educators   


Winners of this year’s Aspiration Awards have today been announced. Created by the education charity and leader in vocational and technical learning NCFE, the awards, now in their seventh year, honour learners, educators and organisations across the UK.  

Successful individuals include a health and social care apprentice, a care leaver with a passion for travel, an experienced police officer who switched handcuffs for the classroom, and learners who have overcome significant adversity to continue their studies. 

David Gallagher, Chief Executive of NCFE, said:

“There isn’t just one definition of success. Throughout NCFE’s 175 years in this sector, we’ve seen it in many shapes – from going above and beyond to exceed expectations, overcoming obstacles to achieve the unexpected, or coming up with new and innovative ways of working to help others. 

“This year’s Aspiration Awards winners are examples of how individuals can overcome barriers to achieve and fulfil their potential. These awards are a reminder of the transformative power of education and those who matter most, our learners – who have dedicated their time and energies to improving themselves and the lives of others through the knowledge and skills they gain along the way.”  

Hull College which claimed the prestigious Centre of the Year title

Also picking up an award this year is Hull College which claimed the prestigious Centre of the Year title. After undergoing a historic transformation, the college has grown from instability and near bankruptcy to becoming one of the UK’s top-performing FE institutions. Its inspiring journey towards success has been driven by a re-energised staff team, focusing on student success, improving culture and financial stability, and championing innovation. 

The full list of Aspiration Awards categories, winners and highly commended include: 

Against All Odds 

Winner: Michael Wells, Serco Training 

Highly commended: Joanne Smith, Oldham Lifelong Learning Service 

Highly commended: Isabelle Melville, Exeter College 

Apprentice of the Year 

Winner: Ellie Burke, Rochdale Training 

Highly commended: Alfred Oki, Professional Training Solutions 

Centre of the Year 

Winner: Hull College 

Educator of the Year 

Winner: Pauline Strong, Herefordshire, Ludlow and North Shropshire College 

Learner of the Year 

Winner: Matthew McGrotty, North West Regional College 

Highly commended: Adult Learner of the Year: Andree Illand, Professional Training Solutions 

Highly commended: T Level Student of the Year: Ella Martyn-Brierly, MidKent College 

Highly commended: V Cert Pupil of the Year: Lily Skidmore, Walker Riverside Academy 

Support Staff of the Year 

Winner: Simon Sharratt, The Sheffield College 

Winner of the Apprentice of the Year category, Ellie Burke is a Level 2 Health and Social Care apprentice at Rochdale Training. Her journey, determination and achievements are truly inspiring, previously earning her the title of Apprentice of the Year at the Rochdale Business Awards. 

Ellie’s learning journey has not come without its hardships, and she’s faced tough personal challenges to get where she is today. In September 2022, after the tragic loss of her father to suicide, Ellie found herself unsure of what steps to take next.  

With the support of her mother, Ellie was introduced to the Prince’s Trust team in Rochdale, where she initially felt very nervous due to struggling with alopecia and lacked confidence in her skills. However, after completing a 12-week course, and with guidance from her mentors at the Rochdale Council’s Youth Hub, she successfully secured an apprenticeship with Rochdale Training and is now making positive changes for young adults with mental and physical health needs.  

Ellie encourages others to consider apprenticeships by acting as an ambassador and expressed that she finds the role “so rewarding and seeing service users smiling is what makes the job worthwhile.” She added: “I definitely recommend an apprenticeship because it helps you to learn new skills, and gives you support on the right path to your future.”  

David Gallagher concluded:

“Ellie is a remarkable apprentice who is making a positive difference to service users within her role, despite facing challenges in her own journey. NCFE is delighted to present Ellie with this award.” 

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