One of my favourite moments of 2018 took place on 12 June at the RSA in London, watching Tracey Everitt make her way to the stage to accept her Festival of Learning 2018 Learning for Work award.
Tracey left school without any qualifications and had reached a point in her life where she felt she was at rock bottom. She desperately wanted to build a new future for herself and her children and so in January 2017 decided to return to learning in order to pursue her goal of becoming a registered childminder. She signed up for several courses at Islington’s Adult and Community Learning service including English, maths, Basic Food Hygiene and Introduction to Working in Care. Fast forward just a year and Tracey was already running her own Ofsted approved childminding business and supporting her daughter and sister on their own learning journeys.
On stage at the Festival of Learning Awards Ceremony when asked what difference her learning journey has made to her family, Tracey answered “it’s given us a future, there’s doors that opened that I never thought could open for us with our difficulties, from me being my own boss to having my own daughter working with me – I’m just so proud… It’s actually given us a bigger and brighter future that we never had before.” This moment was incredibly moving and somewhat overwhelming – for Tracey, her daughter, and for the rest of the audience; I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room! It was a privilege to listen to Tracey speak, to share that moment with her, and to applaud her achievements.
It is Tracey’s hard work and commitment to learning that turned her life around in such a positive way – but it is thanks to her tutor, Colin Gardiner, that we know about Tracey and everything she has accomplished. Colin saw in Tracey someone whose achievements should be celebrated and who could inspire others to give learning a go, so he took the time to share her story by nominating her for a Festival of Learning award.
Writing Tracey’s nomination was time well spent – not only has it brought Tracey the recognition she deserves but as Colin recently told us, “When one of your learners is recognised in this way it reverberates around the whole organisation so that teachers and staff are inspired anew to celebrate collective achievements… Colleagues are playing Tracey’s video in their classes and the reaction is amazing. I am confident that it will inspire many more to take that first step into joining a class that could change their lives.”
Whether or not your nominee is chosen as a national winner, the sheer act of nominating them for an award is a powerful way to recognise and celebrate their commitment to learning. Every nominee receives a Certificate of Achievement and indeed many organisations arrange local presentations of these to celebrate their nominees’ successes.
So, what are you waiting for?! Nominations for Festival of Learning Awards 2019 are open now and will remain open until 12 February. I hope that this year you will tell us about the learners, tutors, projects and employers that have been inspiring you and maybe next time it will be your nominee going up to the stage at the national awards ceremony to accept a Festival of Learning award!