A festival that promotes lifelong learning in adults has been celebrating individuals and organisations who have gone above and beyond in their learning.
Durham County Council’s Adult Learning and Skills Service (ALSS) hosts an annual awards ceremony to recognise those who have used the service to make a difference to their own lives or the lives of others.
The Festival of Learning took place remotely this year due to the coronavirus outbreak, with Linda Bailey, Strategic Manager for Progression and Learning, and David Lee, Delivery and Performance Manager, from ALSS, calling winners to inform them they had won. The winners, highly commended learners, tutors, and groups of learners all received calls, as well as trophies and certificates in the post.
Each year the awards feature a number of categories that recognise the hard work of learners, tutors, and organisations, with accolades such as Inspiration Learner of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, and Outstanding Service to Learners.
Winner of the unsung hero award was course participant Michelle Young, from Newton Aycliffe, who, during the coronavirus outbreak, was quick to volunteer for a local support group and has been delivering food parcels to the vulnerable.
She said: “The ALSS courses help build your confidence. My tutor gave me compliments which I didn’t expect, and it boosted my self-esteem so much. I just felt so happy and smiled and I accepted the compliment which I wouldn’t normally do.
“I would definitely recommend these courses and the tutors are really supportive. It’s also good to know you can do further education without being in a school environment.”
East Durham Trust was recognised with two awards for its dedication to supporting learners on the course and was the winner in the Outstanding Service to Learners category and the overall winner of the Festival of Learning award.
Graham Easterlow, the new CEO of East Durham Trust, said: “The trust has a really active adult learning programme and during the coronavirus outbreak the trust did not furlough any staff. We continued to deliver a range of vital services, including our adult learning programme. Using innovative approaches, the team were able to reach out and connect with learners across East Durham.
“Winning this award is an incredible testament to the hard work and dedication of East Durham Trust’s Adult Learning team. We have an incredible team here and awards like this demonstrate and reward the real impact made in the communities we serve.”
The categories and winners in the Festival of Learning are as follows:
• Cultural Learning Award – Winner, Future Focus North
• Inspirational Learner of the Year – Winner, Laura Waddingham; Highly Commended, Freya McGlone and Melinda Christopher
• Inspirational Tutor – Winner, Val Kilner (Aspire); Highly Commended, Barbara Latcham (Communicators)
• Outstanding Service to Learners – Winner, East Durham Trust; Highly Commended, Kirsty Cummings (ALSS) and Stanley Events Ltd
• Learning Project of the Year – Winner, Communicators; Highly Commended, Health Care and Education Team (ALSS)
• Outstanding Apprentice – Winner, Emma Glenister (ALSS); Highly Commended, Paige Huntington (DCC)
• Unsung Hero – Winner, Michelle Young; Highly Commended, Emma Sewell
• Volunteer of the Year – Winner, Merchai Pringle; Highly Commended, Margaret Kelly
• Learning in the Digital Age – Winner, Chelsea Myers (ALSS); Sophie Conley (ALSS)
• Festival of Learning Award – Winner, East Durham Trust
Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “The Festival of Learning is the biggest celebration of lifelong learning in England and this year’s winners and nominees have all gone above and beyond in what they have achieved, despite any challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our mission is to highlight the benefits of learning, celebrate the achievements of adults who have used learning to transform their lives, and to encourage everyone to embrace lifelong learning.”
Adult learning courses for Autumn 2020 are now live and are accepting applicants. For more information visit www.durham.gov.uk/adultlearning