SQA Stars light up the sky

Monday 18 November

SQA Pride o' Worth winner Dean Clark is presented with his award by Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP, joined by lecturers Amanda Muir, and David Cochrane

The skies above Glasgow’s stunning Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum were illuminated by the outstanding achievements of the winners of this year’s SQA Star Awards.

The SQA Star Awards recognise the successes of individuals working towards SQA qualifications as well as the centres – the schools, colleges, training providers, and employers – that deliver SQA qualifications and enable learners to achieve their ambitions.

Inspiring stories from colleges from across the country led the way at this year’s ceremony. 

A partnership between Dumfries and Galloway College, and The Usual Place – a social enterprise café in the heart of Dumfries that provides young people with additional support needs the chance to secure relevant work-based qualifications – lifted the prestigious Pride o’ Worth for Centres award.

The team from Dumfries and Galloway College, and The Usual Place are presented with their SQA Pride o' Worth Award by Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP. L-R: Tony Budde, Heather Hall, John Swinney MSP, Liz Budde, and Craig McEwen

SQA chair David Middleton CBE presented SQA’s highest award, the SQA Fellowship, to Dr Paul Thomson, Rector of Jordanhill School in Glasgow in recognition of his dedicated service to Scotland’s education and qualifications system.

Fiona Robertson, SQA Chief Executive, and David Middleton CBE, SQA Chair, present Dr Paul Thomson with the SQA Fellowship

Meanwhile College Candidate of the Year winner Dean Clark received the individual Pride o’ Worth award for his outstanding work setting up Edinburgh College’s first student-led shop. The shop, on the college’s Sighthill campus, was set-up by former HND Retail Management student Dean in an effort to give fellow students first-hand experience of setting up and running a new small business, and offering local people who were out of work the chance to develop their employability skills.

Other winners on the night included Declan Shafi, a former pupil of St Paul’s RC Academy in Dundee, who was named School Candidate of the Year. Declan, who is now studying Mathematics at Cambridge University, was recognised for using his academic ability to support and inspire younger pupils at the school. 

Fathima Irshad – who was presented with the award for Lifelong Learning Candidate of the Year – first enrolled as a student at Glasgow Clyde College while she was seeking asylum in the city. Fathima rapidly progressed onto SQA’s Professional Cookery, and Cake Decoration courses, and now uses the skills she has learned to help others; creating cakes for her lecturers and classmates, and as a volunteer chef at Toryglen Community Meal.

Catherine Schlag from Castle Douglas was named the Training Organisation Candidate of the Year award. Catherine – who is studying for a Professional Development Award in Childhood Practice – started a successful learning programme in which nursery children took part in weekly visits to the residents of a local elderly care home, resulting in positive experiences for the youngsters and the care home residents alike. 

Staff and students from Dundee International Women’s Centre received the Promoting Inclusion award. The judging panel were impressed with the approach the centre took, offering the service users the chance to work towards a SQA National Progression Award in Playwork and Childcare, which had the dual benefit of providing the centre with an in-house nursery. As a result, service users are able to pursue further SQA qualifications, including the SQA Employability Award, whilst gaining skills through the centre’s existing Employment Project.

An innovative project between beauty students at Glasgow Clyde College, and the local Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice, was recognised in the Innovation of the Year category. Students from the college set-up Beauty with a Conscience, a social enterprise beauty salon that provides real work-based learning opportunities for the students, and pledges any profits to the nearby hospice.

Also recognised on the night were Lee Suddaby, a former pupil from Queen Anne High School in Dunfermline, who was presented with the Academic Excellence award, while Alan Deans, from Inverclyde Council’s Community Learning and Development team, was named SQA Champion, recognising his commitment to promoting learning and training across his community. Former English teacher Joan Duncan was named SQA Appointee of the Year in recognition of her work leading the SQA Advanced Higher English team.

Further afield Castle Rushden High School on the Isle of Man was named Centre of the Year in the UK and Ireland after it took the decision to offer its pupils a selection of SQA vocational qualifications. The Foundation for Social Improvement, a London-based charity, received the Lifelong Learning Centre award, for its work developing new qualifications in Fundraising Practice. Dimensions International College in Singapore was named as the winner of the International award.

SQA Chief Executive, Fiona Robertson, said: “The SQA Star Awards are a fantastic celebration of the commitment, and talent of young people from across Scotland, and the dedication of the teams at SQA centres that deliver our courses and qualifications here in Scotland, across the rest of the UK, and around the world. I have been inspired by the stories that I have heard tonight, especially the entrepreneurial spirit shown by our two Pride o’ Worth winners. It has been a pleasure to meet with all of our finalists this evening, and I congratulate every single person here on their outstanding achievements.”

Education Secretary John Swinney said: “All those receiving awards and commendation have shown an outstanding drive and devotion to learning in their chosen field. My congratulations to the winners and finalists for their achievements. The variety of routes taken by the learners across the categories demonstrates the immense diversity of their ambitions, and I am grateful to the SQA for its work in creating and expanding the options available.”

The SQA Star Awards were hosted by TV and radio presenter Carole Smillie and are supported by a number of sponsors, including the General Teaching Council for Scotland, Skills Development Scotland, and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership.

For more information on all our Star Awards winners, and Highly Commended finalists, check out the SQA Star Awards mini-site. For images, video and updates from the ceremony, follow #SQAStarAwards on Twitter and Instagram.