The winners of the Yorkshire and Humber Adult Learners’ Awards 2013 (1) are announced today (7/05/2013).

The awards recognise the achievements of outstanding individuals and innovative learning projects and will be celebrated at a ceremony organised by Involve Yorkshire & Humber (2) on Tuesday 22 May.

The winners include a mum who has overcome a former nurse who after a major accident had to relearn even basic skills such as washing and dressing, but has still gone on to complete computer courses and become a valued volunteer, an innovative rugby scheme where able and disabled players can play alongside each other, and a mum who overcame a debilitating condition to go back to university to retrain and get back into work.

The awards ceremony will be held at Forsters Bistro and Deli in Bradford, a social enterprise that gifts all profits to Forster Community College’s charitable work. Two awards are being sponsored.

Adult Learners’ Awards are part of the wider Adult Learners’ Week, running across the country and in Yorkshire and Humber. Taster sessions and other informal learning activities will be run across the region for people who want to dip their toes into learning (3).

Chief Executive of Involve Yorkshire & Humber Judy Robinson said: “It is humbling and inspiration to hear the stories of these learners who have each overcome barriers to transform their own lives and others.

“In many cases they have done this with the support of the whole community – family, friends, colleges, the voluntary sector and business. And it’s the whole community that reaps the benefit of such learning.

“I think the message from these stories is that you are never too old or nervous or lacking in success or confidence or isolated to learn. You can do it and it can change your life.”

Full list of awards

Individual winners (in no particular order)

Dawn Needle: When Nicola, a nurse from Hull woke up two years ago she was unconscious on the floor, having collapsed eight days previously. Paralysed from the neck down, she also needed relearn essential tasks such as how to wash, dress and feed herself and even how to walk. Not only did she do this, she even re-taught herself to use a computer and enrolled on IT courses at Preston road Adult Education Centre in Hull. Nicola, now 55, is not able to return to her former career as a nurse, but has become a valued volunteer at her local Citizens Advice Bureau and is hoping she might eventually return to employment. Her tutor says of her: “Dawn’s learning journey is remarkable in that she never feels sorry for herself, she puts aside her health problems and focuses on her learning and achieving through hard work and determination. She has helped and motivated others in her class.”

Rebecca Holdcroft: Rebecca, 33, from Leeds had suffered with physical and mental health problems for several years, which had led her to losing her job and left her feeling isolated and lacking in confidence. She had earlier dropped out of university to care for her mother, who later died. Getting back into education and enrolling on the inc.workshop in Leeds was a turning point. She rediscovered forgotten skills, rebuilt confidence and is now planning to set up her own creative business. Of inc.workshop she said: “It really has been an amazing experience. What started as a six week course is turning into the rest of my life, and it’s great.”

HEART Raising Aspirations individual winner (4)

Sarah Reynolds: Sarah, 39, from Bradford, has been honoured for commitment to learning even through some very turbulent years. Mother to a four-year-old daughter, in the last three years she has been diagnosed with a chronic pain condition, had to give up her civil servant position of 12 years due to her health problems, suffered a another major injury and divorced from her husband. In spite of this Sarah has pursued her studies in Leadership and Management at the University of Bradford, never missing a deadline and achieving excellent grades, focused on the end goal of getting back into work. She says: “I am lucky to have the support for family and friends who help, especially in the morning when my condition is at its worst. By attending university it has broadened my horizons and outlook.”

HEART Raising Aspirations, individual highly commended (4)

Lisa Horsley: Lisa, 36, from Leeds, did not enjoy school and left at 16 with few qualifications and became a mother at an early age. She loved being at home with her children, but when the youngest of four started school she felt “empty”. With the encouragement of her husband, children and family learning support at Leeds City College, she has now become a qualified teaching assistant and is working at her local primary school. “Here I was being offered my second chance in life, that does not always come around,” she says. “I have grabbed it and not let go. The journey I have taken has not been an easy one, but it has been amazing, so fulfilling and totally worth every second.”

Young adult learner of the year

Joshua Denney: Joshua, 19, from Sheffield, has overcome a very difficult family background, depression and dropping out of school. “Until about 18 months ago I thought my life was worthless,” he says. “Now I am on my way up.” With the support of his dad, girlfriend and her family, he has successfully completed a fitness instructor qualification at Lifetime, a training and apprenticeship provider in Sheffield. Joshua now has a full-time job, gets fantastic feedback from the clients he teaches and dreams of opening his own gym. “But also, I want to help alongside charities that support children that are going through what I went through,” he says.

Leeds City College senior learner of the year (5)

Glennis Smith: Glennis, 61, from Doncaster, has been applauded for her determination to get to grips with computers, even though she used to be “scared to death” of them. She went onto to become the first person to complete the Online Basics course at BMEED, a Doncaster organisation which supports people to improve their life chances. She also is now a learning ambassador for the organisation, helping others to make the same journey. BMEED say of her “We are very proud and pleased with her progress and feel it is a shining example for others.”

Highly commended individuals (in no particular order)

Cathie Dunn: Cathie, 56, from Halifax, has seen her life take an entirely new direction since her decision after redundancy to learn British Sign Language. It has enabled her to follow her dream of working with young people with learning disabilities and, in turn, transform their lives. Her tutor says: “As Cathie was learning she came to me with stories of how she had been teamed up with severely autistic children who had never spoken a word before…I found this amazing.”

Learning for Health highly commended

Linda Bodenham: Linda, 56, from Rotherham has experienced enough violence and health problems in her past to know how much support people can need to get through trauma. Since starting her learning journey at Northern College Barnsley, she has set her sights on becoming a counsellor “so that I could help people that have been in the dark places I have been.” Her tutor says: “She inspires people to face their difficulties too and she helps and supports those who need her. She has transformed her life…”

Project awards


Learning Zone: An innovative partnership between a union and employer has seen workers enabled to take part in affordable and accessible learning in their workplaces. Launched in 2009, Castleford Learning Zone is the combined effort of union USDAW and businesses DHL. Learners can get involved in informal activities, such as the challenge to read six books, gain workplace qualifications, or develop their maths, English and computing skills. The demand as been so great, that DHL have agreed to move the learning centre to a more prominent location at the front of the site.

Highly commended

Bumble Bees Barbarians: The Bumble Bees Barbarians is England’s only rugby team where players with and without learning and physical disabilities play contact Rugby Union alongside each other. The original idea for the team came from rugby enthusiast Anthony Brooke. He has a learning disability and cerebral palsy, but didn’t want to play just the tag rugby on offer to him back then. He worked with his tutor at the Workers’ Educational Trust to contact local rugby clubs and the RFU to get the project off the ground. The team is open to anyone and provides opportunities to play inclusive Rugby Union without boundaries to adults of all abilities. It also aims to remove the ‘fear factor’ felt by some of playing sport with people with disabilities and to promote the acceptance of adults with learning disabilities in society.

Learning for Health project award, highly commended

Altogether Better: Wakefield’s Altogether Better has trained 17,000 individuals to become volunteer Community Health Champions since it started in 2008. The champions come from all background and help fellow members of the community to lead healthier lives. Strategy and Partnerships Manager at the project Rhian Harding said: “The most remarkable achievements have been the transformations in people’s lives and their perception of their own skills and abilities.”


Media contacts

For more information about the awards ceremony or Involve Yorkshire & Humber contact Sarah Janicwicz at Involve Yorkshire & Humber on 0113 394 2300 or email

Some winners have their own media contacts, listed below. In the absence of a media contact for a particular winner, contact Involve using the details above.

Dawn Needle: Jacky Jordan or 01482 331 686

Joshua Denney: Herbi Jassi or 0117 314 3025

Rebecca Holdcroft: Martin Dickson or 0113 216 2640

Sarah Reynolds: Charlotte Renwick or 01274 236 844

Learning Zone: Gary Arthurs or 0161 224 2804

Altogether Better: Rhian Harding or 01924 398 428

Linda Bodenham: Sarah Taylor or 01226 667 000

Notes to editors

(1)   Adult Learners' Awards recognise the achievements of outstanding individuals and innovative learning projects across England and are part of Adult Learners’ Week. Adult Learners’ Week is a national celebration of the benefits of lifelong learning and is the perfect opportunity to explore the many types of learning available to adults from all walks of life. Adult Learners’ Week 2013 runs from 18 - 24 May 2013.

(2)    Involve Yorkshire & Humber supports the voluntary and community sector to create a strong society and fair communities, with opportunities for all, throughout Yorkshire and the Humber.

(3)   The events programme is being organised by the Workers’ Educational Association. See their website for details

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