The Festival of Learning award winners for 2021 have been announced by Learning and Work Institute. The 12 winners, revealed at an online awards ceremony, include inspiring stories of adult learners, as well as outstanding adult learning provision, tutors and employers.

Festival of Learning has been England’s biggest celebration of lifelong learning for almost 30 years. It is supported by Department for Education, NOCN, The Education and Training Foundation, Skills and Education Group, City Lit and The WEA. The Patron’s Award winner is chosen by Learning and Work Institute’s Patron, HRH The Princess Royal. All of this year’s winners show the power of learning to transform and enrich people’s lives.

The winners are:

Matthew Turner, an inspirational young man from Bradford who, having been held back by his autism, has been selected by HRH The Princess Royal to receive the Patron’s Award. He progressed in learning from Level 1 to Level 3, helping to create a better future for himself.

CARAS ESOL, an innovative and holistic project led by a south London charity working with young people and adults who are either seeking asylum or have a refugee background to progress in learning, has been awarded the President’s Award.

Rosie Wainwright has been awarded the Outstanding Individual Award. Rosie had a tumultuous start in life but has shown great tenacity in carrying on regardless of any barriers in the way. Going back to learning has transformed Rosie’s life and her academic and career prospects.

Salts Healthcare Ltd, has been recognised with the Employer Award, supported by NOCN. The several career pathways they offer their workers and their partnership with Birmingham Metropolitan College to deliver training has promoted growth and productivity; aided retention within the business; and supported their staff to overcome personal and professional barriers.

Jose Aguiar, from London, has won the Tutor Award, supported by Education and Training Foundation. Supporting learners within the criminal justice system to unlock their potential, Jose’s innovative and creative approach has played a huge role in the mental health and wellbeing of prisoners throughout lockdown.

Naomi-Louize, a young mother from Bolton, received the Learning for Work Award, supported by NOCN. After witnessing her son struggling to have his hair cut, Naomi decided to take matters into her own hands. She has now gone on to complete Level 3 in barbering and is self-employed, working with young children who have learning difficulties or special needs.

Nikki-Ann Wyatt (pictured below), from Salford, lost her successful career as a pastry chef following a serious motorbike accident. She has won the New Directions Award, supported by Skills and Education Group, after returning to learning at Trafford College Group and discovering her passion for engineering. Nikki is now embarking on a new journey at university, studying for a degree in civil engineering.

Paul Ackroyd, a bus driver from Yorkshire, has been awarded the Learning for Health Award, supported by the WEA. Following a diagnosis with a life-changing condition, Paul started a variety of Level 2 courses to gain a better understanding of his condition.

Hasan Jasim, from North Yorkshire, has won the English Language Learning Award. Motivated by a desire to support his family and create a better future for them after leaving Iraq, Hasan enrolled at the local Adult and Community Education Centre to learn English. He is now undertaking additional studies so he can find work as a tiler, his previous trade.

Positive Progressions, a project delivered by Craven College, has received the Learning Provision Award. It is an employability project that engages with pre-troubled families who are furthest from the employment market, and aims to increase learners’ opportunities, helping to access training so they can gain employment and provide for their families.

Kirsty Young, from East Riding, has won the Return to Learning Award, supported by City Lit. From a young age, Kirsty faced domestic abuse and was isolated from the outside world. Kirsty was encouraged by her mum to join East Riding College and was able to start a new life for herself and her three children.

Daya Mohindra, whose learning journey started as she approached her 80s, has been awarded the Online Learning Award. When Daya joined a health and wellbeing course organised for people with disabilities, she didn’t know she would go on to complete several online art courses using her lockdown time to develop herself into a more confident artist.

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute, said:

“Learning something new has been a lifeline for many during the pandemic, and adult education will be critical to our recovery too. Lifelong learning can help people find a new job or retrain for a new career. But it can also help you make new friends, be active in your community, and improve your health and wellbeing. That’s why we must make the next ten years the lifelong learning decade, offering everyone the chance to experience the difference learning at any age can bring.

“Our award winners show just how powerful learning can be and the difference that great tutors and learning providers can make. I hope their stories help to inspire others to go into learning, and make the case for a renewed commitment to – and investment in – lifelong learning.”

Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, said:

“I’d like to congratulate all of this year’s Festival of Learning award winners and finalists. These awards shine a light on the power of education to change people’s lives.  I hope the inspirational stories of the outstanding adult learners motivate others to fire up their own learning journeys.

“We have put skills at the heart of our plans to build back from the pandemic. Our Lifetime Skills Guarantee and Plan for Jobs will make sure everyone has the opportunity to learn and develop the skills they need to succeed at any age. As part of this, our Free Courses for Jobs offers almost 400 free courses to adults without a full level 3 qualification in a range of sectors including engineering, health and digital, to help even more people get good jobs”.

Paul Eeles, Chief Executive of Skills and Education Group, said:

“Congratulations to this year’s Festival of Learning award winners and finalists from all of us at the Skills and Education Group. As always, the winners’ stories provide fantastic examples of the power of lifelong learning. I hope that the awards will inspire many others to learn something new and transform their own lives through education.

“I would also like to offer a special congratulations to Nikki-Ann Wyatt, winner of the New Directions Award which we have sponsored again this year. Nikki-Ann’s story of how she recovered from the loss of her successful career as a pastry chef to discover a new passion for engineering is an inspiration to us all, and shows how learning can enable individuals to reinvent themselves. Well done, Nikki-Ann, you are a worthy winner of this award and I wish you all the best for your studies in engineering.”

To read Nikki-Ann’s story, click here. You can also read the stories of all of the 2021 award winners here.

Thank you to the Learning and Work Institute for this news story. If you would like to share a news story from your organisation, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at

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