Outstanding Learner Awards 2018

Last Tuesday Birmingham City Council House was the prestigious venue for our most important event of the year – the BAES Outstanding Learner Awards 2018. This year we were proud to be celebrating the amazing achievements of 28 of our inspirational learners!

Tears and smiles were in full flow, and thunderous applause boomed around the venue as story after story reinforced the tremendous grace, resilience and courage of our learners.

The evening kicked off with Cllr Jayne Francis. Cabinet Member for Education, Skills & Culture, recalling her own delayed and unplanned learning journey. Her story mirrored that of many of the learners in the room, that often our true learning path is patiently waiting for us to be ready to find it.

Interim Principal Maria Gilling then led proceedings, firstly acknowledging the sacrifices made by learners and their loved ones. She introduced the stars of the evening, accompanied by their tutors, with their tales of determined attainments and triumphs over difficulties, dazzling successes and gritty accomplishments.

Samina quietly took in the grand surroundings of the Banqueting Suite - "It's very posh and relaxing" – as she reflected with satisfaction on the sheer hard work and dedication needed to succeed on her GCSE Maths and Level 2 English courses at Saltley. As she sets her sights on a career as a Maths tutor in the future, Samina's advice for her 12 year old daughter rings true for all of us: "Short cuts don't work; aim for small steps, bit by bit, you will get there".

There was Chantelle, just 16 but already with her sights on University after rocketing through GCSE Maths and Level 2 English, who was accompanied by her proud parents. Gazing at the grand surroundings, she spoke of her battle to overcome challenges including dyspraxia and anxiety, and how helpful it had been learning with older students in her class.

Stephen's story left the audience shaking their heads with admiration as his award nominator revealed his astonishing transformation from a 25 stones disheartened young man. A few years later and Stephen is not only aiming for GCSE Maths but is in fantastic physical condition, having run 20 competitive races this year, including the recent Manchester half-marathon! His efforts have raised almost £10,000 for charity to date.

Then there was Stephanie who is excelling at Maths in her first year at Trittiford Centre. Praising her tutor Neville she said: "I'm nervous but happy to be here – it's a great opportunity to dress up!" Her support worker Kerry added that Stephanie's progress was aided by having the best organised folder in class.

Shagufta spoke movingly of how the death of her husband had seemed like the end of the world. Supported by friends and tutors, her experience of starting ESOL classes at Sparkhill and developing a beauty therapy business had given her new confidence, as a mother and a woman.

If it was possible, the evening was further lifted up by the inspirational story told by our Guest Speaker James, Winner of Pride of Birmingham 2015: Volunteer of the Year Award, and his guide dog Vince. He spoke movingly about how seventeen years ago his life fell apart after a violent assault at work which left him with very little sight. He told how he slowly rebuilt his life- and now life is good again.

On an emotion-packed evening the closing words of one of another of our learners, Mona, summed up the feelings of everyone in the room: "We used to have dreams; now those dreams are becoming real."

There are too many stories to share or to do justice to in this post. We will be posting more of our learner's fantastic and inspiring stories over the next few months. Keep an eye out for them.