When Ros Morpeth was named leader of the year in the 2014 TES FE Awards, it set the seal on the remarkable revival of the National Extension College's fortunes.
The distance-learning provider and forerunner of the Open University had appeared doomed when its parent body, the Learning and Skills Network, went into administration, putting the fate of 7,000 learners and 26 members of staff in jeopardy.
But eight years after retiring as the college's chief executive, Dr Morpeth returned to lead a rescue bid that secured its future and allowed all its learners to complete their studies.
"It was incredibly difficult to get the NEC up and running again and there were times when it was touch and go," Dr Morpeth said. "We had been through a really difficult time and all the staff and our trustees and friends had pulled together to support us.
"The TES award was a public acknowledgement of that. I didn't feel it was a personal award; I felt it was an award for all the hard work everybody had done to get the NEC back on its feet and doing what it was set up to do."
This week, TES opens nominations for next year's FE awards. We want to hear about the best colleges, training providers, lecturers and leaders so that their hard work can be recognised and celebrated.
Being named leader of the year did not just bring Dr Morpeth extra kudos. She also believes it was instrumental in making sure that now, almost three years after coming out of administration, the college is once more in rude health.
"We have had to go out and raise funding, and one of the first things any funder will look for is evidence of good governance," she said. "This award has really, really helped. It was very special to be recognised by TES."
Entries for the 2015 awards are open to anyone working in the learning and skills sector in an organisation funded by the Skills Funding Agency, the Scottish Funding Council or the Young People's Learning Agency.
Walsall College was named provider of the year in the 2014 awards. Assistant principal Jayne Holt said that since receiving the accolade, the college had been visited by providers from across the UK and staff had been delighted to share best practice.
"It was an honour to receive this national award, as well as a testament to the college's holistic passion and approach to high-quality teaching, learning and assessment, where both staff and students share a desire to achieve and succeed," she said.
This year, TES is introducing three new awards. The award for outstanding contribution to a subject or vocational area will go to the teacher who has demonstrated the most imaginative and innovative approach to their area of expertise.
In addition, separate awards will recognise the training provider of the year and college of the year. One of the winners will then be selected as overall FE provider of the year.
Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said he was delighted at the national recognition for training providers the new category represented. "We warmly welcome the special recognition that the TES award will confer on one of these providers and the enhancement to the winner's profile that it will bring," he said.
Ann Mroz, editor of TES, said: "FE is a hotbed of inspiration, dedication and sheer talent, and we are delighted to be able to support the sector by celebrating some of the amazing things going on day in, day out in colleges and training providers.
"They are often educational heroes, sometimes overshadowed by schools and universities, but we are determined to show that FE deserves its place in the limelight every bit as much as anybody else."
Categories for 2015
- Lifetime achievement
- Contribution to the local community
- Outstanding use of technology in FE
- Teacher of the year
- Support for students
- Employer engagement
- Teaching and learning initiative
- Marketingcommunications campaign of the year
- FE leader of the year
- Outstanding contribution to a subject or vocational area
- Training provider of the year
- College of the year