Suffolk Business Awards 2021: meet the Education in Business Award finalists

Attwells Solicitors LLP employees outside office

Attwells Solicitors LLP in Ipswich has been named as a finalist for the Education in Business Award at this year's Suffolk Business Awards - Credit: Attwells Solicitors LLP

The Education in Business Award, sponsored by Suffolk New College and West Suffolk College, recognises organisations that are going above and beyond their business needs to equip people with the skills of the future. 

Attwells Solicitors

Attwells  Solicitors is a medium-sized law firm, offering a wide range of legal services including residential conveyancing, commercial real estate and property development. Founded in 2007, the company has 51 employees across its three offices in Ipswich, Colchester and St John’s Wood. 

The judges praised the firm’s “fabulous work” in making the legal profession accessible to people from diverse backgrounds, including apprenticeships, and for its work with the government’s Kickstart scheme. Atwells hopes to expand its work experience and apprenticeship programmes in the future.  

Staff progression and retention were highlighted as key strengths, with Atwells rarely having to hire from other firms. The judges “heard inspiring stories of long-serving employees who had been given chances to develop, subsequently seeing their careers flourish at Attwells”. One example was a former receptionist now training as a licensed conveyancer.  

The Geographical Fieldwork Academy on Southwold beach

The Geographical Fieldwork Academy worked with more than 5,000 GCSE and A-level students to investigate the landscape of Southwold. - Credit: Geographical Fieldwork Academy

The Geography Fieldwork Academy 

The Geography Fieldwork Academy (GFA) is an outdoor education enterprise that works with schools in East Anglia to deliver fieldwork courses – mainly in Southwold but also in Ipswich, Norwich, Hunstanton, Wroxham and Bury St Edmunds. 

Between its inception in 2017 and March 2020, the GFA worked with over 5,000 GCSE and A-level students, supporting them to investigate the geographical landscape of Southwold.

Having adapted significantly during pandemic restrictions, the GFA created a wide range of free online resources, narrated lessons, virtual tours and a ground-breaking data collection app. By using local facilities, including Southwold Arts Centre, it has kept overheads down and its courses affordable and accessible to all. 

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The judges called the GFA “a brilliant idea”, describing head of outdoor education Chris Webster as “a passionate advocate of the benefits of fieldwork on young people”.  

Stow Healthcare patient and nurse

Stow Healthcare, which specialises in turning around failed nursing and residential care homes, is a finalist for the Education in Business Award 2021 - Credit: Ross Harvey

Stow Healthcare Group

Stow Healthcare Group specialises in turning around failed nursing and residential care homes. Headquartered in Suffolk and supported by 450 staff, the family-owned and operated business now comprises six homes, three of which are rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission – a feat achieved by only 5% of care homes. 

The judges said Stow Healthcare Group has proved what is possible in a sector that has faced huge challenges in the last few years, by “bringing the very best out of its staff”. The company puts training at the heart of its strategy, with face-to-face sessions and practical training environments proving very successful. 

When a home is taken over, staff are quickly enrolled on a training programme, with a focus on dignity, respect and providing the best care to residents. One training scenario puts staff in a room with 40 'dignity' issues to identify.

The judges described it as “a brilliant, practical approach", with the training acting as the “catalyst for quality improvements, which have seen struggling homes transformed rapidly”.  

Student Life students filming on set in Ipswich

Student Life, an Ipswich charity that provides mental health support to young people, has been named as a finalist at the Suffolk Business Awards 2021 - Credit: Student Life

Student Life

Student Life is an Ipswich-based charity that provides mental health support to young people. It works predominantly in education settings in Suffolk, but also delivers fully inclusive projects across the south-east.  

With nine staff and 25 volunteers working in mainstream education, alternative provision and prisons, Student Life has reached more than 20,000 young people and will soon launch a new careers platform to enhance work-readiness.  

Young people help produce Student Life’s print and digital lifestyle publication. They drive the agenda, create the content and learn all the skills needed to do this. The governance of Student Life is also led by young people, who sit on the steering group.

 According to the judges, “it's an empowering environment, which not only teaches youngsters valuable, practical skills through peer-to-peer training, it also gives them a voice”. Student Life has already had a positive impact on many young lives in Suffolk, and its long-term aim is to become a commissioned service.