From the red carpet to the big screen showing film clips of winners'
achievements, the first TES-sponsored Star Awards had all the trappings of an Oscar ceremony. Spotlit winners met waves of applause as the sector honoured its unsung heroes. Five hundred people attended the gala dinner and awards ceremony at The Brewery, in London.
The event, attended by Education Secretary Charles Clarke and minister for lifelong learning Kim Howells, also highlighted the talents nurtured by further education.
Guests heard a string quartet from Taunton sixth form college, watched a fashion show by Croydon college students and perused art work by students from Feltham young offenders institute. Even the floral displays came from FE students.
Mr Howells told nominees and winners: "Spread the word - you are among the most valuable citizens. Without you, this education system wouldn't function. Without you, we wouldn't have the skills so essential to our economy."
Winners were announced in 13 categories, chosen from 130 nominations. Each was presented with a trophy, a certificate and pound;1,000 prize by BBC Breakfast presenter Dermot Murnaghan.
Alex Richards, a registrar from Totton college, Southampton, won the award for "outstanding support other than learning". He said: "Personally it's a tremendous accolade, although it's a tribute to all the people I work with."
Another winner was Richard Trevarthen, head of engineering at Brooksby Melton college, who received an award for outstanding achievement.
"To see all these people going up tonight to win awards is tremendous," he said. "Further education needs to be given a pat on the back."
Charles Clarke launched the Star Awards last year to boost morale in the post-16 sector. Mr Howells told FE Focus: "The reaction has been absolutely sensational. We want it to be much, much bigger. We want to hear from many more colleges and many more people."