Further education minister Bill Rammell has given his backing to the "Oscars" of further education following fears that the national awards event is under threat from cutbacks.
FE Focus reported last month on proposals by the Quality Improvement Agency to cut the annual Star Awards' budget, make the awards a regional event and to use the programme for quality improvement and disseminating good practice.
Speaking at the awards ceremony this week, Mr Rammell spoke up for the event. "I have to say that, if I have anything to do with it, if the department has anything to do with it, and I'm sure this is the view shared by the QIA and others, these awards should continue," he said. "They really are important in celebrating what is best in the sector."
It was the third Star Awards ceremony since the initiative was launched in 2003 by former education secretary Charles Clarke to raise morale and celebrate FE's unsung heroes. Eighteen winners stepped up to receive their awards from the hosts, Channel 4 news presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Olympic double gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes.
More than 600 guests attended the gala dinner event at Battersea Evolution Centre in London.
The event also revealed the variety of students' work, including music and dance from Weston College, mosaics from Redbridge institute of adult education, the work of HMP Manchester's education department and casino skills from Blackpool and the Fylde College.
One winner, biology teacher Dr Richard Spencer, from Bede College, notched up his second Star Awards win, winning the Outstanding Subject Learning Coach. In 2004 he won the award for FE Tutor of the Year. "It's a total shock," he said. "I came along tonight just to enjoy the event."
Libby James, who recently retired as head of student services after 22 years at Worcester Sixth Form College, won the Lifetime Achievement award.
"I'm absolutely thrilled," she said. "It's wonderful that people who work day in, day out to help others to grow and develop are recognised."
Star Award winners, 2