The 2020 Festival of Learning awards are open for nominations from today for colleges and training providers.

There are four award categories to recognise the achievements of adult learners, tutors, employers and learning projects.

The annual awards, which began in 1992 and are run by the Learning and Work Institute, received more than 250 nominations last year.

Stephen Evans, chief executive at Learning and Work Institute, said: “Adult learning makes a real difference to people, to our economy and to our society. It is important that we recognise that contribution.

“While lifelong learning has never been more important, participation has been falling. That’s why we need to celebrate the transformative impact of adult learning and encourage more adults to give learning a try.”

He encouraged those inspired by an adult learner, tutor, learning project or an employer’s workplace learning provision to share their story by nominating them for an award.

Award winners will include individuals who have transformed their own lives and the lives of their families, friends, communities and the places they work.

Tutors who have contributed to adult learning and the impact they have had on their learners form another category.

Innovative and transformational learning projects or provision that could be replicated or adapted by other learning providers will also be recognised as well as employers that have invested in their workforce to improve productivity, increase staff retention and enhance business performance.

David Hughes, chief executive of Association of Colleges, said: “The Festival of Learning awards are not only a brilliant way to celebrate adult learners who have made great achievements but also an inspiration to others to think about and explore the opportunities learning can provide.

“Colleges and learning providers will want to nominate teachers and learners who make a special contribution to education because the personal stories really show the transformative impact of learning at all stages in life.”

Data from Learning and Work Institute’s annual adult participation survey showed that participation in lifelong learning is at its lowest for more than 20 years.

The survey found that the reasons adults do not engage in learning include a lack of time, feeling too old, a lack of confidence, caring responsibilities and having a disability.

In 2019 a man who left school without being able to read or write and a woman who went from staying in a care home to studying for the operating theatre were among 12 winners of the awards, who received their prize at a ceremony held in London.

Marie Smith won the Learning for Health award: she is a survivor of sexual abuse, which caused her to leave school with no qualifications, but after a referral to Adult Education Wolverhampton’s Like Minds pottery course, she started studying for a degree in glass and ceramics at Wolverhampton University.

The 2019 Return to Learning award winner Stuart Ferriss, who never learned to read or write at school, had enrolled on a dyslexia study skills class run by Oldham Lifelong Learning Service and on a functional skills English course with the support of his employer.

Nominations for next year’s Festival of Learning awards will close on 11 February 2020.

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