We’re celebrating the achievements of our dedicated adult learners, including inspirational 95-year-old veteran Tony Blakely.

The annual awards evening is a culmination of a year of hard work from residents in the borough who have taken part in our adult learning service in 2022-23.

Veteran Tony Blakley, our oldest ever learner, has family across the globe including Canada, South Africa, and Bristol and as he lives alone, he wanted to learn how to use technology to stay in touch with the people he loves.

Thanks to Veterans Charity Royal Marines Association, Tony was able to get a tablet and WiFi at home and with the help of his tutor Jack he began a journey of learning how to use the tablet, type on the keyboard, take photos and send messages.

His sheer determination and hard work both in the classroom and at home paid off and Tony has not only mastered using the tablet, but he received a special recognition award from the Council.

He is now in constant contact with family around the world including receiving and sending his own photos, something he said wouldn’t have been possible without the help of his tutor and Royal Marines Association.

Tony was in great company on the night as awards including young learner of the year, group learners of the year and adult learner of the year were handed out to the winners.

Those winners included Sharon Haley who was awarded ‘Adult Learner of the Year’ for her journey with the adult learning service.

When Sharon experienced a personal loss in December 2023, she felt lost and unsure what her next steps would be as she had been a full-time carer.

To set a new routine, she signed up to a Functional ICT courses which quickly led to her confidence growing and after accessing employment support too, she landed herself a job with the Council’s Adult Social Care service as an Admin Assistant.

The full list of winners is:

  • Young Learner of the Year (16–18-year-old learners) – Joint winner Chris Power and Alisha Blakelock
  • English and Maths Learner of the Year – Samantha Taylor
  • Group learner of the Year – Get into Tynemouth Castle Inn
  • Apprentice of the year – Olivia Wrightson
  • Adult Learner of the Year winner – Sharon Haley
  • Adult Learner of the year highly commended – Tracey McGuigan
  • Special recognition award – Tony Blakey

Cllr Steven Phillips, cabinet member responsible for Inclusion, Employment and Skills at North Tyneside Council, said: “We believe everyone in the borough deserves access to training, employment and skills and this year’s winners are all proof that learning never stops and there’s always opportunities to grow and develop.

“We have a fantastic offer here in North Tyneside with dedicated and expert teams leading brilliant courses and offering all kinds of support and that’s something I’m extremely proud of.

“From young learners like Chris and Alisha achieving so much and having a positive impact in their roles to residents like Tracy McGuigan who juggled learning with a busy family life and achieved her goals, there’s so much to be celebrated.

“I’d like to congratulate every person involved in these fantastic achievements, from our employment and skills team right through to the friends and family of the learners who supported them on their journey. You’re all inspirational.”

Earlier this year our Adult Learning Service was rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted with ‘outstanding’ features.

We offers everything from English and Maths qualifications through to specific training and access courses for careers. If you’re interested in enrolling, find out more here: www.skillsnorthtyneside.org.uk