The very best of our county’s education sector have been recognised as the finalists of the East Anglian Daily Times Suffolk Education Awards 2023.

From support staff to the students themselves, the finalists are fantastic examples of our county’s education sector.

It was a tough job for our judges to narrow entries down to four finalists per category, and the winners will be announced at the celebration event at Venue 16, Ipswich on Thursday, November 9, 2023.

We would like to say a big thank you to our headline sponsor University of Suffolk, all the category sponsors and the drinks reception sponsor, Framlingham College – we wouldn’t be able to give our education sector the recognition it deserves without them.

East Anglian Daily Times: Inspire is one of the finalists for the Outstanding Support for Students awardInspire is one of the finalists for the Outstanding Support for Students award (Image: Inspire)
Here we hear from the finalists and find out what it means to have been recognised:

Apprentice of the Year

Sponsored by Apprenticeships Suffolk

Adam Wilson, apprentice greenkeeper, Suffolk New College and Barnham Broom Hotel and Country Club

“I’m very proud and pleased of my accomplishments and very much looking forward to the awards evening,” said Adam.

Jane Thorp, apprentice electrician, Suffolk Rural College and Fellowes Electrical

“I wasn’t expecting this but it’s amazing. I’m really looking forward to it [the awards evening],” said Jane.

Nila Esteller, business support apprentice, Suffolk County Council’s Apprenticeships Suffolk

“It feels a massive honor to be nominated for this award but a shock too,” said Nila. 

“My team have so much faith in me and I am forever grateful to them for supporting me and pushing me out of my comfort zone in order to push on and complete my apprenticeship 
with top marks, despite the roadblocks I encountered along the way.” 

Rhys Mower, engineering apprentice, West Suffolk College and Optimise Heat and Steam

“I feel extremely proud to be a finalist in the Suffolk Education Awards, this has come as a very welcomed surprise,” said Rhys. 

“I am very grateful to both West Suffolk College and also to all my colleagues at Optimise Heat and Steam, who have both given me a great platform to build on during the course of my apprenticeship.”

Early Years Provider of the Year

Sponsored by Suffolk County Council

Castle Fields Pre-school

“We are thrilled that our hard work has been recognised by not only the families in our area, but also members of our wider community,” said manager Charis Goulding.

“Quite often early years is not recognised for the challenges we face and the support we provide to others associated with our pre-school. 

“We feel very proud our dedicated team can celebrate their achievement with a wider audience. We are very much looking forward to continuing our work as a cornerstone of our community.”

Cygnets Childcare

“Cygnets are very excited and proud to be finalists in the Early Years Provider of the Year award,” said manager Carolyn Stokes. “It is reflective of the privilege we have of educating and caring for the young children in our community, making a difference to their lives and future outcomes. 

“As a team of committed educators who are both skilled and dedicated to ensuring our children receive the very best early years’ experience at Cygnets, it is a great achievement for our outstanding setting to be acknowledged in this way for the services we provide to Cygnets’ families.”

Happy Tots Pre-school

“It feels amazing and we are all so pleased to have been nominated as there are so many amazing settings in Suffolk,” said Lisa Brown, pre-school manager. “We all love what we do and being nominated makes it feel extra special.”

Woodpeckers Private Nursery

“I have to say how delighted we are that we have been nominated,” said owner Jeff Micklewright. “It is nearly 23 years since our family-run nursery opened, and this is the icing on the cake for all those that have worked with us over the years, developing the caring and nurturing environment that we now have. 

“We couldn’t be more happy that our setting has achieved this recognition and thank those who made the nomination, and also our staff for their continued commitment to developing a happy, safe and caring environment for our children, parents and carers.”

Further or Higher Education Provider of the Year

Abbeygate Sixth Form College

“It’s a great privilege that Abbeygate Sixth Form College has received this nomination,” said Nikos Savvas, CEO. “It is indeed testament to the immense dedication and hard work of both the staff and students at Abbeygate. 

“The entire Eastern Colleges Group has been instrumental in supporting Abbeygate Sixth Form College from its inception and throughout its journey. Collaboration and teamwork are often the cornerstones of success in the field of education, and it is clear that the combined efforts of the entire group have played a pivotal role in the college’s achievements.  

“We were recently awarded an Ofsted Outstanding rating, which is a remarkable accomplishment and a strong indicator of the high-quality education and commitment to student success that Abbeygate Sixth Form College upholds.”

One Sixth Form College 

“It’s a great honour to be in contention to receive this award,” said Jake Robson, group principal. “We are very much looking forward to attending the ceremony in November that will shine a light on the amazing efforts of everyone from this region who works in education.”

Suffolk New College

“I am incredibly proud to lead such a wonderful college,” said Alan Pease, principal and CEO. “I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my amazing team of dedicated colleagues, both within the academic teams and within the various business support functions. 

“It really does take everyone to build a successful college and these nominations are as a result of every single person playing their part!”

West Suffolk College

“Firstly, we would like to express our heartfelt gratitude for this esteemed nomination,” said Colin Shaw, group sixth form principal. “It is both an honour and a testament to the relentless efforts, passion and commitment of our entire institution. 

“At West Suffolk College , our pursuit has always been to empower our students, to curate an environment of innovation, and to bridge the gap between ambition and accomplishment. This recognition serves as a reminder that our journey has left indelible marks on the sands of educational excellence. 

“As we accept this nomination for FE/HE Provider of the Year, we are inspired to further our mission, forge new partnerships and continue setting benchmarks in higher and further education. 

“From West Suffolk College, our peers, and most importantly, our students - thank you for believing in our vision.” 

East Anglian Daily Times: Eastern Education Group is a finalist for the Outstanding Support for Students awardEastern Education Group is a finalist for the Outstanding Support for Students award (Image: Eastern Education Group)

Outstanding Support for Students

Castle Hill Infant and Junior Schools

“We are incredibly proud to have been nominated for this award,” said Jennifer Smith, principal. 

“The nomination is a testament and recognition of the hard work and dedication of every member of staff at Castle Hill as well as the incredibly supportive families and community that we serve. 

“As a school, we have transformed over the last seven years; we are a proudly inclusive school, that is striving for excellence with our diverse and ambitious curriculum.”

Eastern Education Group

“At the Eastern Education Group, we put our students at the centre of everything we do,” said Cathy Durrant, group head of pastoral support and administration.

“We view the support we provide to our students with the utmost importance and are delighted to have been recognised for the work we do in this vital area.”


“It’s truly fantastic to be nominated for an EADT Suffolk Education Award, especially in the ‘Outstanding Support for Students’ category, which is something we continually strive to deliver,” said Andy Crump, DCEO at Inspire. 

“This recognition is a testament to our incredible team’s dedication, and it’s wonderful to be a part of something celebrating the remarkable local organisations committed to empowering young people.” 

Suffolk New College

“We pride ourselves on the support that we give our students,” said Craig Shimmon, head of marketing. 

“One of our staff who came from industry recently said that they had never heard the word ‘support’ said so much since being with us. That’s a real credit to all of our staff, so to be in the frame for this award is a great honour.”

Primary School of the Year

Occold Primary School

“We are delighted that the selection committee at the EADT recognises the importance of both including children with special needs in mainstream education and also providing experiences that expand pupil’s horizons beyond the limits of the National Curriculum,” said Paul Parslow-Williams, executive headteacher. 

“We are proud that the hard work of whole school community has been recognised. We are lucky to have wonderful children, inspirational teachers, thoughtful governors and supportive parents who all work together to make the school such a special place to attend.” 

Rushmere Hall Primary School

“With the kindest, most dedicated team of staff, wonderful children and a supportive community, our school has gone from strength to strength over the past few years,” said headteacher Paul Fykin.

“We are really proud to be nominated and to be finalists in the Suffolk Education Awards.”

St Gregory CEVC Primary School 

“We are so proud to be a finalist for Primary School of the Year and thrilled to be a part of this celebration of all of the wonderful things that are happening in education across the county,” said Daniel Woodrow, headteacher.

“For our whole school community to be recognised in this way, particularly our amazing pupils, is very special.”

St Helen’s Primary School

“The team at St Helen’s have worked tirelessly to meet the needs of our community and give the children educational experiences that allow them to thrive and become positive individuals,” said headteacher Kate Hodgetts. 

“We promote curiosity, creativity and empathy and teach our children to be empathic, resilient and reflective in all areas of the curriculum, seeing strengths in all. 

“The children in our school and those who leave are a testament to the skills of the staff at the school and it is wonderful for them to be recognised and acknowledged for all they do.”

Secondary School of the Year

Framlingham College

“We are delighted to have been nominated as Secondary School of the Year,” said principal Louise North. “We are immensely proud of what our pupils achieve at Framlingham College and humbled that the emphasis we place on nurturing each of our young people to fulfil their individual potential has been recognised.” 

Hartismere School

“We are delighted that the school is a finalist in the Suffolk Education Awards,” said co-headteachers Sarah Gray and Geoff Luxton. “It’s testament to the fact that as headteachers, we see a level of commitment from staff that we have never encountered before in our careers.  

“Our Hartismere parents and carers are amongst the most supportive we have had the privilege to know, and our scholars are both a pleasure to teach and a credit to their families. They truly deserve the high standards they achieve.”

St Benedict’s Catholic School

“We are delighted to be finalists in the Suffolk Education Awards,” said headteacher Imogen Senior.

“St Benedict’s is a wonderful community, and we are very proud of all that our students achieve and everything that the school stands for. 

“There is a lot of wonderful educational provision in Suffolk and to be a finalist in this category is a great honour.”

Woodbridge School

“Our aim at Woodbridge School is to support every individual to be the best version of themselves, and this nomination is a very real reflection of all their hard work alongside that of our aspirational and inspirational teachers,” said Shona Norman, head of school.

Teacher of the Year

Sponsored by Teach

Charli Bignell, Suffolk New College

“Thank you so much,” said Charli. “It is wonderful to be recognised for this achievement, however, I could not do my job without the support of my amazing team, senior managers and the dedication of our learners striving to succeed. 

“I am passionate about education, driving curriculum forward and as a creative teacher, I am excited to support my learners to produce innovative outcomes this academic year.”

Julie Frost-Read, West Suffolk College

“I feel very honoured and shocked to have been selected as a finalist in the Suffolk Education Awards, Teacher of the Year,” said Julie. 

“Having made the decision to change careers and become a teacher just three years ago, it 
is wonderful to be acknowledged for the work I have done and continue to find so rewarding.”

Katharine Minns, All Saints Primary School

“As head of school and class teacher, I am very blessed to work with wonderful children and staff everyday as part of a caring Christian community at All Saints Primary,” said Katharine. 

“The children in our school bring so much positivity, enthusiasm and energy to every day that teaching them really is a joy. I am very honoured to have been nominated for this award, proud to work for the All Saints Trust and thankful for the amazing support of all my colleagues.”

Teaching Assistant or Support Staff of the Year

Charlotte Richardson, The Beeches Community Primary School 

“I have spent my whole working career supporting children and their families,” said Charlotte.

“This has been not only the most challenging but the most rewarding thing.  

“I have been extremely lucky to work alongside and with fantastic people, but to be chosen as a finalist is unbelievable. There are a lot of amazing people in education who work extremely hard to achieve the very best for the children in Suffolk.”

Gaynor Marsh, One Sixth Form College

“I feel very honoured to have been nominated and overwhelmed with gratitude to have been selected as a finalist,” said Gaynor. 

“The support I provide is, in my eyes, all in a day’s work, so to be recognised for making a difference and delivering a service that has had a positive impact, feels amazing.”

Lis Sherriff, Thorndon Primary School

“I feel overwhelmed to be nominated for this award,” said Lis. “Along with all my amazing colleagues at Thorndon Primary School, I just do my job! I would be over the moon if this nomination puts the spotlight on autism and mental health.”

Bebe Rolfe, Stowupland High School

“When I found out I was a finalist for the support staff of the year award I was moved to tears, for my work to be recognised in this way means the world to me,” said Bebe.

The Wellbeing Award

Sponsored by Active Suffolk 

Fairstead House School

“We are delighted to have received a nomination in the inaugural year of the awards,” said head Michael Radford. “Being only a small independent school in the heart of Newmarket, it is through awards such as these that the fabulous work done by our wonderful staff can be magnified and brought to the attention of a much wider audience.  

“In the current climate, being recognised for the Pupil Wellbeing Award is particularly pleasing.”

lketshall St Lawrence Primary School

“We are over the moon to be one of the finalists in this category,” said Sarah Orves, head of school. “The impact of our work in this area has overwhelmed us and it is just a joy to see the human side to our profession shining through.”

Lisa Davis, Meadowbrook Playcare

“Personally, I am thrilled to have been nominated and made it as a finalist,” said Lisa Davis, early years assistant manager at Meadowbrook Playcare. 

“When you work in Education you do it for the love of the job, children and families you work with rather than external praise. 

“As a small early years setting, we are all very excited to be recognised in this category.” 

Suffolk New College

“We have a dedicated team of student support practitioners who are experts in their field in terms of the support we offer students, and a group of HR professionals who are always on hand to offer care and support to our staff,” said Craig Shimmon, head of marketing. 

“To be recognised for this support is a massive boost for everyone connected with these efforts.”

Overall Education Hero of the Year 

Sponsored by University of Suffolk

The Overall Education Hero of the Year will be selected by the judges from the winners of the other categories.
The winner will exemplify an outstanding commitment to learning, students and teachers as well as the wider community – showcasing the dedication, innovation and passion shown throughout the sector.
The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony.