Adult Education Week is a perfect showcase for the transformative power of education later in life and often against the odds, says Christine Bullock

Apt awards is delighted to be sponsoring the FE Week supplement in celebration of Adult Learners’ Week. Adult learning is at the heart of what we do and this week is the perfect opportunity to explore the many types of learning available to adults from all walks of life.

It is a showcase for adult students for whom education can be transformative. It is always really positive to hear how life changing it can be, not only for the student concerned, but often for his or her family, friends and tutors.

In recognition of this, we introduced the Keith Fletcher memorial award for the most outstanding access to higher education tutor in the South West. The award is in memory of former director, Keith Fletcher, who worked enthusiastically throughout his career to promote widening participation, adult learning and, in particular, access to higher education.

Gillian Wilmot won the award last year. Recently retired, she had worked at Weston College since 1976, and was presented with the award at the college’s annual governors’ Christmas dinner in December. Gill said at the time: “My job has given me an enormous amount of enjoyment. There can be no greater honour than . . .  seeing students achieve their dreams.”

This award highlights the role that tutors play in the success of adult learners, many of them performing miracles in the face of diminishing resources. Families also play an important role in supporting adults in overcoming often multiple barriers to success.

We like to think that we play our part too. Previously trading as Open College Network South West (OCNSWR), apt awards has more than 30 years’ experience in developing flexible, credit-based, nationally recognised qualifications that offer bite-sized learning. Our development and growth will always be underpinned by the key aim of widening access to educational opportunities, particularly for adults, that promote social inclusion and community transformation.

We are proud of our access to higher education provision and how it opens doors and opportunities for learners. When we decided to change our name, we wanted to ensure that our new name reflected the type of learners we celebrate and how important access to higher education learners are to us. ‘Apt’ shows our qualifications are appropriate for our centres and learners but also stands for access, progression and transform.

We provide the tools, but it is the learner who achieves. Therefore, as well as celebrating the success of individual tutors, we are proud to be the headline sponsor for the South West Adult Learners’ Week awards ceremony.

I was very moved by last year’s event and was inspired by the stories of the adult learners who overcame adversity and multiple barriers. It reminded me of how proud I was of this often under-appreciated sector.

It also enhanced my view of what wonderful support that we, as an awarding organisation, can and do give. I see it as my role and that of my staff to do everything we can to enable access to learning, and the consequent transformation of lives and celebration of success.

We are also a social enterprise and, unusually for an awarding organisation, give not just awards but grants to centres to enable them to invest in much needed resources. This reflects our total commitment to our learners.

I want to offer my personal congratulations to every single adult learner who has achieved success; they are all prizewinners.

Christine Bullock, chief executive of apt awards

Featured image caption: Christine Bullock, left, with Cheryl Baker, ex Bucks Fizz, at an awards ceremony last year