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Forgotten Stars' chance to shine

Thirteen winners of the first ever "Oscars" for the learning and skills sector proudly stepped up to receive their trophies this week in a glitzy ceremony in London to rival that of the teaching awards.

But unlike the gongs for teachers, Star Awards honour those working in a wide range of jobs across a very diverse sector - anyone from chief executive to a college receptionist can be nominated.

Among the parade of winners, a learning support worker and health and fitness tutor stood alongside college principal and head of department - all receiving equal recognition for their achievements.

The first batch of award winners were chosen from 130 short-listed nominees, selected in turn from more than 1,600 nominations from students, colleagues and managers.

Half the shortlisted nominees come from further education colleges, while the remainder are from adult and community learning, work-based learning, prison education and the voluntary sector.

Judith Norrington, the Association of Colleges' director of curriculum and quality who chaired the judging panel, said: "It was difficult to choose between a large number of people who have obviously done important and worthwhile things within each of their institutions."

The Star Awards were launched in November last year by Charles Clarke, Education Secretary . Their aim, he said, was to create a "feelgood factor" for those working in the learning and skills sector and to raise its profile, making it a more attractive area to work.

From the beginning the awards were seen as very different to the teaching awards for schools, ministers realised that their scope must be much broader than the classroom and that much of the work of the sector's staff goes unnoticed.

The awards have been co-organised by the AoC and Geronimo public relations, and are backed by the Department for Education and Skills. The steering group has representation from across the sector, including unions, work-based learning, and adult education.

So will the Star Awards succeed in lifting the spirits of FE staff? Dan Taubman, national education official with the lecturers' union Natfhe said:

"It won't do any harm.

"As far as I'm concerned the thing that would put the most feelgood factor into the sector is colleges moving forward on the two-year pay settlement, and lecturers receiving parity of pay with school teachers.

"Having said that we have supported the Star Awards. I think anything that celebrates the commitment of all staff - who are often working against quite severe odds - has to be a good thing."

He said he was disappointed with the low number of nominations from the adult and community learning sector - there were 16 out of 130 shortlisted nominations. "But we have every hope that the Star Awards will continue to grow and continue to be recognised by the wider public."

Rachel Thomson, senior campaigns office with the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace) said: "I do think it takes a while for things to build up.

"Our experience of co-ordinating adult learners' week awards for the past 13 years tells us that the key to generating nominations is about widespread positive publicity, celebrating the achievements of nominees and winners."

Peter Pendle, chief executive and general secretary of the Association for College Management, said a huge amount of work has gone into launching the Star Awards.

"It doesn't deal with the underlying issues in the sector, but I think a night showcasing success and excellence is something that should be celebrated."


E-learning Worker of the Year

Sponsored by Microsoft

Askander Akram, project worker with UK Online Centre, Rotherham Library Service, helps learners with their computer needs at Rotherham Library. His clear delivery, sense of humour and extensive IT knowledge have led to high pass rates.

Adult and Community Learning

Tutor of the Year

Sponsored by Niace

Geraldine Wriglesworth, senior health and fitness tutor, Wakefield Community-based Centres, has developed a very successful approach to family learning, engaging young parents and their children in health and fitness programmes.

Offender Tutor of the Year

Sponsored by AoC

Benedict Butler, English and Maths lecturer at Her Majesty's Prison Norwich, has affected hundreds of prisoners' lives, helping ex-offenders to gain employment and encouraging prison officers to recognise their own skill gaps.

Key Skills Tutor of the Year

Sponsored by Protocol Training

Carola Perales, basic education tutor with The Elfrida Society, teaches basic skills and IT to adults with learning difficulties. With infectious enthusiasm and commitment she encourages learners to develop confidence and skills and supports them outside the classroom.

FE Tutor of the Year

Sponsored by FENTO

Richard Spencer, biology teacher at Bede College, Billingham, is described as "biology teacher extraordinaire" by his principal Miriam Stanton. His retention and pass rates are significantly above average and he uses creative ways to engage learners, including bingo and snakes and ladders.

Award for Outstanding Management of Learning

Sponsored by Centre for Excellence in Leadership

Anne Morahan, education manager, Dover Immigration Removal Centre, works with detainees of more than 61 nationalities. She has developed an innovative and flexible approach, using learner surveys to identify needs and poster campaigns in different languages to promote courses.

Award for Outstanding Learning Support

Sponsored by learndirect

William Bode, volunteer centre co-ordinator, the Drum Community Media Centre, Sheffield, gives up three days a week to support refugees and disengaged youths. He teaches IT, manages reception and has devised new systems.

Award for Cross Sector Good Practice

Sponsored by Institute for Learning

Wendy Moss, programme manager professional development and training at City Lit, has led groundbreaking work in developing basic skills training for teachers across London, and has written crucial guidelines for post-16 language, literacy and numeracy learning.

Award for Outstanding Support other than Learning

Sponsored by UNISON

Alex Richards, registrar at Totton College, Southampton, is described as hard-working, modest and dignified. A lifelong learner striving to improve services for students and colleagues, he has devised a system for students which enables them to text the college when unable to attend.

Award for Outstanding Leadership

Sponsored by Centre for Excellence in Leadership

Daniel Khan, principal and chief executive of Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education, is described as a visionary leader and charismatic and effective networker who has steered the college to success in recent Ofsted and QAA inspections.

Award for Outstanding Achievement

Sponsored by LSDA

Richard Trevarthen, head of engineering, Brooksby Melton College, Melton Mowbray, has a can-do attitude to teaching as well as boundless energy and enthusiasm. He has worked as a lecturer at the college since 1969 and has inspired hundreds of engineers.

Work-based Learning Trainer of the Year

Sponsored by the ALP

Alan Davies, a training consultant with ProCo NW Ltd, a training provider in Wigan, works with motor vehicle trainees and has made a difference to the lives of many learners, many of whom left school with no qualifications.

Skill Award for Staff Supporting Students with Learning Difficulties andor Disabilities

Sponsored by Sight Sound

Joy Mosley, head of department for foundation studies, Exeter College, has made a major contribution to the development of vocational education for students with learning difficulties and disabilities, overseeing a rise in student numbers since she became head of department four years ago.

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