Adult Learners’ Week Awards

England’s Adult Learners’ Week began yesterday with the national awards ceremony in the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London. Other national and regional ceremonies are taking place across the UK, including one in Stormont in Northern Ireland today.

Yesterday’s event was inspirational, uplifting and moving. It was a privilege to be there.

Short films were shown about individual award winners. Each one was a celebration of people’s resilience and capacity to turn their lives around, often against almost overwhelming odds, when they made the most of adult education opportunities. Winners talked about their experiences of dealing with all sorts of problems such as alcohol and drug dependency, criminal behaviour, abusive relationships, homelessness, disability and difficulties with reading and writing.

Some winners talked about being ‘reborn’ and most wanted to give ‘something back’.  All had the confidence to be interviewed live on stage in a packed auditorium, which is no mean feat in itself.

It was a real pleasure to share a table with the North East’s Outstanding Learner of the year, Naseem Bashir, and her family and friends from the Angelou Centre in Newcastle as well as Joy Nancarrow from the WEA who nominated Naseem for an award.


Naseem came to the UK in 1996 with little understanding of English but became involved with the Angelou Centre and the WEA, joining courses including Civic Volunteering, Parenting Champions and Tackling Race Inequality as well as improving her English. She is now a Community Learning Champion, a role model in her community and a part-time crèche worker.  Naseem didn’t stop smiling during the event and it was wonderful to watch her young (and impeccably behaved) daughter photographing her with obvious pride while she was receiving her award on stage. Naseem’s MP, Chi Onwurah, added to the occasion by discreetly slipping into the event from the nearby House of Commons to offer her personal congratulations.

The Digital Activist Inclusion Network (DAIN) from the East Midlands was another worthy winner from the WEA, nominated by Andria Birch. The project won the ESF Inspiring Learning Project Award, having trained 105 volunteer Digital Activists who have supported over 1,200 adults to improve their digital skills. You can find out more about WEA award winners including Julie Harrison from Doncaster and Kristine Michael from Brighton on the WEA’s website at:

All the award winners had made the most of the opportunities that were available to them and it was very noticeable how much of the background support had come from community partnerships. DAIN is a partnership project. Naseem has been supported by a partnership between the WEA and the Angelou Centre. Castleford Community Learning Centre, winner of an Inspiring Learning Project Award mentioned the WEA and other partners. The whole concept of Adult Learners’ Week is a partnership project, wonderfully managed and coordinated by NIACE, the National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education.

The biodiversity of community partnerships at local, regional and national levels is a vital support network.  The cost of weakening the safety net is the cost to society of the problems that many of yesterday’s national award winners overcame with their perseverance and the hope that comes with great adult learning.

About Ann Walker
Adult education and lifelong learning specialist and campaigner. LinkedIn:

10 Responses to Adult Learners’ Week Awards

  1. Alan Carter-Davies says:

    Hi Ann,
    this sounds life it was an affirming event to attend. Reading your account is a solid reminder of why the WEA exists and what it does very well. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Rose Farrar says:

    Hi Ann, I was at the Kirklees Adult and Community Learning Awards in Huddersfield Town Hall last night, where WEA learners won 2 awards: 1 was for Skills for Life Group and 1 was for Individual Skills for Life Learner. 5 women from the group based at Bately Children’s Centre attended and were thrilled (though nervous!) to stand on stage to receive their awards. We heard inspirational stories of learners journeys, progress and acheivement. It was very emotional and I felt so proud to be there representing the WEA. Photos to follow!

  3. gogwit says:

    Reblogged this on Gogwit's Blog and commented:
    As an adult learner and as an administrator involved in 14-19 education I support the aim of lifelong learning, a phrase hackneyed to death by politicians but as yet little more than a phrase. Thanks, Ann, for showcasing again the value to individuals and, by extension, their communities of access via NIACE, the WEA and partner organisations.

  4. Ann Walker says:

    Thanks to Alan and Gogwit and to people who emailed me directly about the blog. Some very inspiring short films of Adult Learners’ Week award winners are available online now at

  5. Kathy Keeley says:

    Glad to hear things seem to be going well

    Kathy Keeley

  6. sally wakefield says:

    it was a joy to read of the adult learners week award. winners. i have taken great pleasure out of naseem and her involvement within the community and how she has used all opportunities in learning and developing. herself hope she continues to grow and progress

    • Ann Walker says:

      Thanks for your comment Kathy and for supporting Naseem.

      I met her again at a ‘Bridges to Learning’ event celebrating people’s achievements in a partnership project between the WEA, Unison and the Open University. Once again she was a great advocate for adult learning and keen to encourage others in her role as a Community Learning Champion. I’m sure she appreciates your encouragement.

  7. Judith Boardman says:

    Rose, I was thrilled to read your comment. Well done!!!!

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