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Inspiring list of finalists announced for upcoming national education awards

The educational charity NCFE has announced its shortlist of finalists across six categories for its upcoming Aspiration Awards. 

Launched by the leader in vocational and technical education in 2018, the awards honour the success of learners, apprentices, educators, support staff and educational organisations across the UK. 

Following the submission of hundreds of impressive nominations, the shortlist was selected by a panel of 24 judges who play key roles across the sector and help to inspire exceptional work in education. 

Congratulations to the finalists of the Aspiration Awards 2024, who have been listed below. Winners of the Aspiration Awards are due to be announced in late June. 

Against All Odds 

This category recognises a learner who has overcome difficult personal circumstances to achieve success. The finalists are: 

  • Sasha Blight, Truro & Penwith College 
  • Leah Gillon, APeducation Online 
  • Mia James, North Kent College 
  • Jacob Johnson, Barnsley College 
  • Isabelle Melville, Exeter College 
  • Gemma Pearce, Learning Curve Group 
  • Mollie Pritchard Williams, Franklin College 
  • Joanne Smith, Oldham Lifelong Learning Service 
  • Libby Smith, Total People 
  • Michael Wells, Serco Skills & Training 
  • Cassidy Westlake, South Gloucestershire and Stroud College - Filton Campus. 

Our 2024 judging panel for this category consists of Gavin O’Meara (CEO and Founder, FE News), Kim Taylor (Director of Brand, Comms and Partnerships, NCFE), Olly Newton (Exec Director, Edge Foundation) and Lamide Odanye (Co-Founder of LIVE – Learn, Inspire, Visualise, Elevate). 

Learner of the Year 

This category recognises an exceptional learner for their work, either within their qualification or in relation to a particular project related to their studies. The finalists are: 

  • Ava, Southern Regional College 
  • Cameron Bagley, Solihull College and University Centre 
  • Rebecca Blacker, Bredon School 
  • Shanice Bray, Exeter College 
  • Meg Cocklin, USP College 
  • Tia Earl, Blackpool and the Fylde College 
  • Bethany Hands, Loughborough College 
  • Jake Hicks, South Essex College 
  • Andree Illand, Professional Training Solutions Ltd 
  • Gary-Ann Jolly, Newham College of Further Education 
  • Saman Kaur, Sandwell College 
  • Erin Knock, NSCG Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group 
  • Ella Martyn-Brierly, Mid Kent College 
  • Matthew McGrotty, North West Regional College 
  • Wayne Peers, Norfolk Adult Learning 
  • Gabrielle Rubery, Bradford College 
  • Ethan Valero, Halesowen College 
  • Reagan Webber, Derwentside College 
  • Cameron Wood, Halesowen College. 

Our 2024 judging panel for this category consists of Rachel Johnson (CEO, PiXL), David Gallagher (Chief Exec, NCFE), Catherine Sezen (Interim Director of Education Policy, Association of Colleges), Ben Rowland (CEO, AELP). 

Apprentice of the Year 

The category recongises an exceptional apprentice for their work, either within their apprenticeship workplace or in relation to their classroom-based learning. The finalists are: 

  • Kerry Adaway, Hampshire Achieves 
  • Ellie Burke, Rochdale Training 
  • Summer Estill, Learning Curve Group 
  • Tanita Gray, Belfast Metropolitan College 
  • Jessica Kirby, Activate Learning 
  • Rae Markham, Derwentside College 
  • Erin Mayhew, Hampshire Achieves 
  • Alfred Oki, Professional Training Solutions Ltd 
  • Samantha Sanderson, Professional Training Solutions Ltd. 

Our 2024 judging panel for this category consists of Joseph Lennox (Senior Policy Advisor, HMRC), Leanne Poole (Head of EPA Operations, NCFE), Kasim Choudhry (Exec Director, Pathway Group), and Emily Rock (CEO, Association of Apprentices). 

Centre of the Year 

This category recognises a school, college or training provider that has gone above and beyond to help their learners. The finalists are: 

  • Blackburn College - Foundation Learning 
  • Blackpool and the Fylde College - Health, Education and Science 
  • Fircroft College of Adult Education 
  • Hull College 
  • JEP Youth Engagement Service 
  • Land & Wave Ltd 
  • Rochdale Training 
  • South West College - Department of Health, Life, and Personal Sciences 
  • Southern Regional College - Early Years Team 
  • The Team at Professional Training Solutions 
  • Technology Triumphs Ltd 
  • Uxbridge College - Travel, Tourism and Uniformed Services. 

Our 2024 judging panel for this category consists of Mahreen Ferdous (Project and Partnerships Manager, Ufi VocTech Trust), Julie Hyde (Director of External and Regulatory Affairs, NCFE), Julie Lappin (Greater Manchester Learning Provider Network) and Sarah Waite (CEO, Get Further). 

Educator of the Year 

This category recognises an educator who has gone above and beyond to support their learners. The finalists are: 

  • Julie Dixon, Professional Training Solutions Ltd 
  • Angela Fiore, South Essex College 
  • Janis Gadd, Making Theatre Gaining Skills CIC 
  • Francesca Hamilton, East Sussex College Group 
  • Olivia Johansson, Hounslow Adult and Community Education 
  • Caroline Kerr, Southern Regional College 
  • Fatima Maldonado Buitrago, SupaJam Education in Music and Media 
  • Chloe Pereira, Programme Lead, HSDC Alton Campus 
  • Pindra Sefton, North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College 
  • Deborah Spiers, Loughborough College 
  • Pauline Strong, Herefordshire, Ludlow and North Shropshire College 
  • Maria Thorne, Basingstoke College of Technology.

Our 2024 judging panel for this category consists of Shane Chowen (Editor, FE Week), Sacha Finkle (Director of Delivery, NCFE), Dr Katarina Kolyva (CEO, Education Training Foundation) and Parisa Shirazi (Director of Standards, WorldSkills UK). 

Support Staff of the Year 

This award recognises a member of behind-the-scenes staff who has gone above and beyond to help learners or their college. The finalists include: 

  • Jaleel Akhtar, Blackburn College 
  • Jo Austin, Technology Triumphs Ltd 
  • Sara Baistrocchi, Cornwall Adult Education 
  • Diana Birzila, Hereford, Ludlow and North Shropshire College 
  • Matthew Blowman, Hull College 
  • Rebecca Cunningham and Amna Tayyab, Hopwood Hall College 
  • Dannii Donovan, Loughborough College 
  • Clare Gray, Suffolk New College 
  • Amy Maloney, United Colleges Group, London 
  • Lydia Muzoora Isoke, Limm Skills Academy 
  • Simon Sharratt, The Sheffield College 
  • Stacy Smith, West Nottinghamshire College 
  • Nathan Smith, Professional Training Solutions Ltd 
  • Poppy Tolson, CT Skills 
  • Helen Toulouse, North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College. 

Our 2024 judging panel for this category consists of Jacqui Jones (Head of Operations & Governance, The Exams Office), Brian Queen (Head of Customer Service, NCFE), Nicholas Robert (CEO, Learning Vault), and Lucy Dunleavy (CEO and Founder, Learnbox). 

To learn more about NCFE’s Aspiration Awards visit our Aspiration Awards homepage.


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