Former college learners who have gone on to shine in their chosen profession were celebrated the Association of Colleges (AoC) gold awards ceremony at the Houses of Parliament.

A world renowned designer, a Turner prize-winning artist and a former international football referee were among those who received awards, along with the colleges that taught them.

The awards were presented last night by AoC charitable trust chair Lord Willis of Knaresborough.

Lord Willis said: “So often we do not celebrate what is really brilliant about the FE sector.

“I do get awfully fed up of universities constantly telling ups what brilliant alumni they have and celebrating the people with great successes and it’s wonderful to see the FE sector doing exactly the same.”

Those being celebrated included designer and former Croydon College student John Rocha, artist and former Luton Sixth Form College learner Elizabeth Price, ex-referee and Rotherham College alumnus Howard Webb and Labour and co-operative MP Lucy Powell, who went to Xaverian College.

Also receiving an award were Muslim hair and beauty salon owner Mary Al-Khudri, from Barnet & Southgate College, University of the West of Scotland Professor and former Coleg y Cymoedd student Julien Baker, Carl Lygo, Vice-Chancellor of BPP University, who went to Doncaster College and Leeds Rhino rugby captain  Kevin Sinfield, who attended Oldham Sixth Form College.

Lord Willis said the “raft of talent” on show at the awards would leave audience members asking ‘is that really what’s happening in the FE sector? Is that really what we can achieve?’

“And the answer is, yes it is,” he said.

On receiving his award, Mr Rocha urged young people to copy his example and “follow your dreams”.

He said: “I have been lucky throughout my career, to do something I love, and to be successful at it, to have this work acknowledged in this way is a very real honour.

“Needless to say without the foundation of my education and experience in Croydon, I would not where I am today. It really was a wonderful experience and a really enjoyable time in my life.”

Alongside the award winners, each of the colleges and their alumni nominated a future star — someone in the same field as their college’s winner who had shown the talent and the determination to follow in their footsteps.

Barnet and Southgate College  nominated level two hairdressing student Brishna Safi, aged 35,  Coleg y Cymoedd nominated A Level biology, maths and physics student Calum Haggett, 18, Croydon College put forward fashion diploma student Morgan Coghlan, 16, while Doncaster’s future star was business and administration student Nathan Forster, 21.

Olivia Cummins, 18 ,  a Luton Sixth Form College BTec Level three diplomas in art, design and graphic design student was also nominated, while Amy Clinton, an A level PE, maths and biology student was Oldham Sixth Form College’s nominee, Rotherham College put forward HNC level four media production student Alisia Angel,19, and Xaverian College put forward Maryam Watson, an AS Level in government and politics, maths, history and photography student.

Main pic, from left: Mary Al-Khudri, Carl Lygo, Lucy Powell MP, Julien Baker, Elizabeth Price and John Rocha

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