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NCFE Aspiration Awards – a past winner looks back on achievements

Danielle McCullough Marketing Executive

Each year, we enlist your help in recognising and awarding the many educators and learners who are going above and beyond in our sector, with our Aspiration Awards. As nominations start rolling in for 2021, it’s a great time to look back at the previous winners and catch up with them to see where they are now.

Emma Owen, a learner at Everton Free School, was awarded Pupil of the Year in our 2018 awards. We were delighted to announce Emma as our winner, after a tough start and expulsions from previous schools, she had re-engaged with education to reach her potential. Her resilient and determined nature set her on course for a bright future.

Fast-forward three years and Emma has accomplished an impressive amount. Now in her third and final year of college, she has received offers for all three universities she applied to and is aspiring to begin a degree apprenticeship later this year.

We caught up with Emma to find out more about what she has been doing since winning Pupil of the Year.

Positive learning experience

Emma said: “Education wasn’t really something I enjoyed prior to studying at Everton Free School. I would find myself caught up in work that I had no intention of completing, purely because of demotivation. The whole ‘mainstream’ type of learning was a challenge for me, and I often resorted to bad behaviour as a way of making school less boring. I never really believed that I could achieve anything based on how little I enjoyed going to school, until I was relocated to Everton! 

“At first, I was worried about the long commute to the school every day, but that soon changed when I realised how much I loved going. With the different approach to learning, the excellent teachers and small classes, learners really get a person-centred education.

“Every teacher, employee and senior management member provide learners with an environment filled with laughter, resilience and livelihood, all of which I believe creates an extremely positive place to learn. Whilst they understand the importance of managing challenging behaviour, they also ensure that meaningful, trust-worthy relationships are built with learners in an attempt to make their learning more enjoyable; I know I certainly enjoyed every minute I was there because of this.”

Making a difference to learners

Emma continued: “The V Cert qualification from NCFE was fantastic and really made a positive difference to my life. It helped build my relationship with my mum and I have involved her in my learning, improving my studies and my home life.

“Currently I am in my third and final year at college where I am studying Law, Psychology and Health and Social Care. After applying for three universities, I have received offers back for all of them to study Law. I’m hoping to complete a Solicitor Degree Apprenticeship over the next few years.

“Without the variety of skills that I gained at Everton and through completing the NCFE qualification, I wouldn’t have believed in myself enough to go on to university. I am forever grateful for the opportunities I was given there and winning the Pupil of the Year award was one of the many highlights.”


To find out more about the 2021 Aspiration Awards and to submit your nominations, visit our website.