Staff and students at Weston College are celebrating their arrival on the "national stage" after the institution was named overall further education provider of the year at the TES FE Awards.
The Somerset college took home the top prize at a ceremony attended by more than 500 people in London last week. It also received the college of the year title.
The judges commended Weston's focus on staff development, its strong links with employers and its emphasis on the well-being of learners. In 2013 the institution recorded the best 16-18 success rates of all FE colleges in the country, and it was rated outstanding by Ofsted last year. Principal Paul Phillips told TES that he and his staff felt "shocked and emotional" after winning the two awards.
"This will put the college on the national stage for our high-quality delivery of learning," he said. "The college has been recognised locally but being recognised nationally is very exciting. It is satisfying for staff to see what their hard work has contributed to. Hopefully it can be a catalyst and make them want to go on and excel further.
"Working for Weston College and winning is a privilege, but I will never forget this spectacular evening and the immense pride that we all felt as a learning community. Our feet are firmly on the ground, but for a short while we flew."
The college competed for the top award against fellow West Country provider Lifetime Training, which was named training provider of the year.
The Bristol-based organisation has been rated good by Ofsted in four consecutive inspections, and has consistently recorded success rates above the national average. The judging panel said Lifetime had displayed "reach and diversity" and was a deserving first winner of the new award.
Di Layzelle, head of student life at Croydon College, won the Lifetime Achievement Award for her tireless efforts fostering a culture of volunteering. In 2014, the college became the first FE institution to receive the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service after learners clocked up 18,000 hours of community work in one academic year.
The judges described Ms Layzelle as a "force of nature." She told TES that she was "overwhelmed" to have won the award, which she said would not have been possible without the "hard work and dedication" of the students.
Among the other winners at the Grosvenor House hotel ceremony was Heart of Worcestershire College, which took home the award for outstanding use of technology in FE.
The panel was impressed with Heart of Worcestershire's pioneering online learning and assessment model. Information and learning technologies director Peter Kilcoyne said his team was "thrilled" to have won.
"It's great recognition for all their hard work in supporting the use of online learning both in the college and in the wider sector," he added.
David Russell, chief executive of the Education and Training Foundation, which sponsored the awards, said they were a "great testament to the excellence that can be found across hundreds of colleges and training organisations".
He added: "Through my involvement in the judging, I never cease to be amazed and inspired by the dedication and imagination shown by the people who make our sector what it is today - a great place to work, our social and economic lifeblood, and a source of great pride."
- Lifetime achievement Di Layzelle, Croydon College, London
- Support for students Canterbury College, Kent
- Contribution to the local community Havering College of Further and Higher Education, London
- Best teaching and learning initiative Chichester College, West Sussex
- Outstanding contribution to a subject or vocational area Bradford College, West Yorkshire
- Outstanding use of technology in FE Heart of Worcestershire College
- Marketingcommunications campaign of the year Wakefield College, West Yorkshire
- Employer engagement Belfast Metropolitan College, Northern Ireland
- Training provider of the year Lifetime Training, Bristol
- College of the year Weston College, Somerset
- Teacher of the year Peter Wright, the Blackpool Sixth Form College, Lancashire
- FE leader of the year Mhairi Harrington, West Lothian College, Scotland
- Overall FE provider of the year Weston College