The red carpet was rolled out once again this week as further education celebrated its finest people at the STAR Awards 2006.
Winners and runners-up across 18 categories were announced during a glittering ceremony at Battersea Evolution centre in London. Those shortlisted were selected for the difference they have made to the lives of students and colleagues.
Winners took home a pound;2,000 prize, and an engraved vase made for the event by students at Glasshouse College, in Stourbridge. There was a pound;5,000 award for winning teams.
There were more than 1,300 award nominations - and 402 were nominated by students, the highest figure since the awards began three years ago.
Nominations were boosted this year with the introduction of a new category, the Learners' Choice Award, won by Abdellatif Erraoui, a lecturer in French and Arabic with Birmingham adult education service. It was Mr Erraoui's second appearance at the awards - he was commended at the first ceremony in 2004.
Another new category, the Equality and Diversity Special Recognition award, was won by Shamsol Hoque of Tower Hamlets College, east London, who works closely with the Metropolitan police to help improve ethnic minority recruitment to the force.
The awards were launched by then education secretary Charles Clarke in 2003 to boost morale in the sector. Last April it was taken over by the newly-created Quality Improvement Agency.
William Lewis, programme manager at the QIA, said: "This year, we've introduced a category specifically for learners themselves to nominate those who have really helped and inspired them.
"Through learners' nominations, QIA STAR Awards are authentically able to celebrate those who make a difference to learners' lives - the unsung heroes of the sector."
Outstanding FE Practitioner sponsored by Lifelong Learning UK Maria Rounding, East Riding College
She goes the extra mile for all of her students and colleagues at the college. Three GCSE Spanish students have been recognised as being in the top five nationally over the past two years. There have been outstanding retention and achievement rates.
Outstanding Volunteer, sponsored by Tribal Group. Gary Axford, Riverside Centre
He is sensitive to the needs of students, ensuring the pace of learning meets the individual's needs. More than 200 students have gained new skills and achieved positive results, including academic success and employment.
Outstanding Subject Learning Coach, sponsored by the Learning and Skills Network. Dr Richard Spencer, Bede College
An innovative teacher who really knows how to make difficult concepts easy to understand. He has been instrumental in the development of a strong support mechanism across the college, where the sharing of good practice through the use of new standards unit coaches, peer observation and themed staff development is commonplace.
Outstanding Member of Support Staff sponsored by Unison Pam Harland, City College, Manchester
She has encouraged her staff to take further qualifications and attain lecturing posts. She has co-ordinated and liaised with architects and senior management for laboratory moves and refurbishments, as well as providing faultless practical support for all the science courses and examinations.
Outstanding Support Team, sponsored by the Learning and Skills Council.
Bury Adult Education Centre Homelessness Project
They have developed a project that is responsive, flexible and focuses on the goals and aspirations of people who are homeless and vulnerable. They have the respect of not only the participants themselves but also of professional colleagues working in the field.
Outstanding Leadership, sponsored by Centre for Excellence in Leadership. Graham Verrall
Graham has initiated numerous projects which have produced highly significant and lasting improvements for learners, enabling them to leave prison with employable qualifications, and each time he has succeeded where others have tried but failed. HM Prison Dartmoor would not be the high-performing prison it is today if it were not for Graham.
Learner's Choice Abdellatif Erraoui, French and Arabic Tutor, Birmingham Adult Education Service
Abdellatif ensures that lessons are engaging and enjoyable through his attentive and encouraging attitude. He makes the subject assessable by really understanding his students and adapting his teaching style and content accordingly.
Outstanding E-Learning Practitioner, sponsored by Microsoft. Chris Liddell of Clarkson Evans
One particularly successful project he has worked on is developing specialist software for teaching electrical installation to electrical apprentices, which allows learners to create virtual circuits safely.
Outstanding Work-Based Learning Practitioner Steve Murphy, training officer, Plymouth College of Further Education
Steve provides a stimulating, innovative training environment and has trained students on canal barges, in caves or while enjoying a barbecue on the beach. All of Steve's teams have 100 per cent retention.
Outstanding Adult and Community Learning Practitioner Robert Randall, Adult Education in Gloucester
Robert works in schools in early years and community settings in the most disadvantaged or isolated wards in the country. His dynamic and inclusive teaching ensures that all his students achieve, and parents gain the skills and confidence they need to improve their own and their children's learning.
Outstanding Work with Learners with Learning Difficulties andor Disabilities, sponsored by Remploy Rob Bates, West Nottinghamshire College
Rob initiated the setting up of BAY6, a shopping centre open to the public, housing, amongst other services, an exclusive coffee lounge, craft company, car wash service, picture rental and mural painting service, all of which are run exclusively by learners with learning difficulties and disabilities, under a team of staff.
Lifetime Achievement, sponsored by the Institute for Learning Libby James, Worcester Sixth Form College
Libby was head of student services for 22 years and retired earlier this year after 38 years in teaching. Her department in 2001 and 2005 was graded 1 and described as outstanding by inspectors. She arranged more than 800 work placements each year and managed her team with exceptional energy.
Outstanding Basic Skills Practitioner sponsored by Protocol Training. Patricia Barr, Manchester Prison
Patricia has had responsibility for the Link-UP Project in Manchester, through which more than 100 prisoners have gained Unit One of the Adult Supporter's Certificate and gained part one of the Basic Skills Teaching Qualification.
Outstanding Support to Learners sponsored by learndirect. Connie Brown, Ashton Sixth Form College
Connie is the course leader for entry level courses and has supported many learners who would not have been given a second chance in other colleges.
She has integrated charity projects into the courses so that the students feel the work they are doing has value to others.
Outstanding work with an Employer sponsored by the Learning and Skills Council Maggie Unwin, Work Solutions
Maggie has developed links with a range of employers including Manchester City Council, the NHS, Greater Manchester Police and Tesco. Her innovative pre-recruitment programmes are used by both public and private-sector employers to help address skills shortages and target specific disadvantaged groups.
Special Recognition for Equality and Diversity Shamsol Hoque, Tower Hamlets College
Shamsol has developed an outstanding relationship with the Metropolitan Police Service in order to increase ethnic-minority recruitment from local communities within east London. Many officers now work alongside Shamsol to help deliver the programme, motivating and acting as role models.
Outstanding work with Offenders, sponsored by the Association of Colleges Steve Perkins, Blakenhurst Prison
He has worked in the PE department since 1993. He has also developed a student feedback system which has been made available nationally.
Outstanding Innovation and Inspiration, sponsored by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. Bridget Ely, City of Bristol College
She uses nature and cultivation to build the confidence of previously institutionalised students and has taught them to harvest plants from woodland, recycle resources and plant and build.