Aspiration Awards 2022 - Support Staff of the Year: Denise Haney | NCFE

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Aspiration Awards 2022 - Support Staff of the Year Winner: Denise Haney

A new category for this year's Aspiration Awards is Support Staff of the Year, which aims to recognise and honour a member of the behind-the-scenes staff who has gone above and beyond to help learners or their colleagues. This year’s winner is Denise Haney, Head of Student Services at Newcastle & Stafford Colleges Group (NSCG), who always aspires for the students to have the best experience at college.  

Inclusivity at the heart  

Denise has been described by her team as a “true all-rounder" who strives to ensure all students can achieve the best possible outcomes despite their starting point, putting inclusivity at the heart of everything that she does. She works tirelessly to make sure that the students have an outstanding college experience, working with her own staff team and forging meaningful relationships and partnerships with external agencies, to provide wide-reaching support for all students. 

Denise responded and listened to the changing support needs of the students over the last 18 months and recognised how she could change working practices and processes to provide more flexible and responsive solutions to the needs of the students. At NSCG, student feedback is very important, and Denise and her team organised the annual Student Conference and themed the conference around current areas of concerns for young people who have just experienced an unprecedented time during the pandemic. This included mental health, examinations and assessments. 

A team player  

The information received from the students during the Student Conference helped to shape Denise’s strategic thinking on what the college could improve on to support these young people whilst at college, and for the next steps in their future careers. 

Denise's work in supporting her colleagues to understand and make these required changes for the benefit of the students was “exceptional.” She provided guidance and relevant information to help staff to understand the need for change.  

Lesley Morrey, Director of Student Engagement & Partnerships, said: “Denise always goes above and beyond for both colleagues and students and she is truly deserving of recognition for this. I can’t think of anyone who deserves this award more.” 

Denise commented: “I’m so proud to win this award. During my 19-year tenure at Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group, I’ve had the privilege of serving my local community and working with thousands of wonderful young people from many different walks of life. 

"I’m a firm believer in the transformative nature of further education and passionate about understanding the needs of learners, championing their rights, and ensuring that their voice is heard. I feel lucky to work with a fantastic team and supportive senior managers, who genuinely place students’ interests at the heart of everything they do.” 

Karen Dobson OBE, Principal of the Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group, said: “There couldn’t be a more worthy winner of this award. Denise’s leadership and expertise in this area is truly outstanding. Together with her team, she ensures we provide just the right amount of support for a student to be successful, alongside building up their confidence, self-esteem and independence. I’ve seen the impact of this approach over many years – students who have made substantial progress, often with the odds stacked against them, but leaving us better able to face the challenges ahead whatever they might be.

"Thank you NCFE, for recognizing the substantial contribution Denise has made to the lives of learners.”        

Brian Queen, Head of Customer Service at NCFE, said: “It was really inspiring reading all of the nominations for ‘Support Staff of the Year’. It’s great to see so many talented and inspirational people out there who are going above and beyond the call of duty to support their colleagues and the learners.  

“The consequence of this was that it was incredibly difficult to choose a winner. However, reading Denise’s nomination about how she was so passionate about enduring positive outcomes for the students from different starting points, and how she has changed processes to introduce more support around mental health. What really came across was how the students were 100% at the heart of what Denise does, day in, day out to help them with their next steps following college.  

“A well-deserving winner. Well done Denise and keep up the fantastic work you are doing to promote and advance learning.” 


Our Support Staff of the Year 2022 Winner: Denise Haney of Newcastle & Stafford Colleges Group

Denise always goes above and beyond for both colleagues and students and she is truly deserving of recognition for this. I can’t think of anyone who deserves this award more.

Lesley Morrey, Director of Student Engagement & Partnerships at NSCG