Revealed: The Festival of Learning award winners

A 100-year-old beacon for lifelong learning and the man who created Coos are honoured in 2019's Festival of Learning

The winners at this year's Learning and Work Institute Festival of Learning have been revealed

Adult education provider City Lit and Community Open Online Courses (Coocs) creator Dr Peter Shukie are among the winners at this year’s Learning and Work Institute’s Festival of Learning. 

The festival is a national celebration of lifelong learning, and has been running for nearly 30 years. 

City Lit, which celebrates its 100th birthday this year, was awarded the president’s award for being a "beacon for lifelong learning for the last century". When it opened in 1919, the institute taught sign language to returning soldiers who had been harmed by shell fire. Today, it has helped more than one million Londoners develop their skills and pursue their passions. 


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Dr Peter Shukie won the Social Impact Award for creating Coocs (Community Open Online Courses), a non-profit community that supports people accessing community learning. 

Coocs has been heralded as an alternative vision for the future of learning in the digital age. 

Last year, Shukie told Tes that Coocs was born out of a frustration with massive open online courses (Moocs). Today, there are dozens of Coocs courses online, from special educational needs resources for teachers, to a parents’ guide to literacy skills for key stage 2, and learning anarchy through practice.

Other Festival of Learning winners include Fiona Pickett, who walked away with the Tutor Award. Having lost her hearing, she thought wouldn’t teach again – but she became a lipreading tutor, who has trained 70 other tutors and transformed the lives of hundreds of people. 

And Somerset-based horticultural project Nurturing Recovery, run with Bridgewater and Taunton College and North Somerset Council, received the Project Award in recognition of its work with people recovering from addictions and mental ill-health. 

'Adult learning has never been more important'

Learning and Work Institute chief executive Stephen Evans said that he hoped the winners’ stories would inspire others to go into learning and help to persuade policymakers of the importance of a renewed commitment to investment in lifelong learning. 

“Adult learning has never been more important. Learning can help people into work or climb the career ladder. It can help you make new friends or be active in your community. Learning can improve health and wellbeing," he said. 

"'However, the number of adults in learning has fallen over the last decade and our research shows stark and persistent inequalities, with some groups far less likely to participate."

Skills and apprenticeships minister Anne Milton said: “We want everyone to have the skills they need for life and work, and Learning and Work Institute is doing some amazing work. It’s so important that we recognise the achievements of those that follow this path and make sure they get the recognition they wholeheartedly deserve.

“I congratulate all of the 12 winners and I look forward to hearing more about the progress they make." 

The Festival of Learning winners

  • Patron’s Award (selected by HRH The Princess Royal): Michael Shakil
  • President’s Award: City Lit
  • Outstanding Individual Award: Diana Omokore
  • Learning for Health Award: Marie Smith
  • Employer Award: Keoghs LLP
  • Tutor Award: Fiona Pickett
  • Learning for Work Award: Emma Searle
  • New Directions Awards: Vicky Seagars 
  • English Language Learning Award: Seong Ngoh Chua
  • Project Award: Nurturing Recovery
  • Return to Learning Award: Stuart Ferris
  • Social Impact Award: Dr Peter Shukie

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