OPEN COLLEGE NETWORK NI (OCN NI) has today hosted its first ever ‘virtual’ Learning Endeavour Awards to celebrate learners from all over Northern Ireland who were nominated in a variety of categories including; Further Education Learner of the Year, Third Sector Learner of the Year, Schools Learner of the Year, Health & Well-being Learner of the Year, Learning in Employment Learner of the Year, Inspiring Tutor/Teacher of the Year, and Provider of the Year.

The aim of the awards is to recognise and celebrate the achievements of individuals and their training providers, by highlighting the power of learning to transform lives for the better.

The event is unique in Northern Ireland as it brings together learners from a range of education and training providers, including representatives from the Community and Voluntary Sector, Further Education, Private Training and Schools sectors.

The Learning Endeavour Awards had been scheduled to take place last March at the Stormont Hotel, Belfast but was cancelled due to the outbreak of Covid-19. To ensure that all the winners and those shortlisted would receive the recognition they deserved, OCN NI made the decision to run the awards ‘virtually’ across social media channels including Facebook and YouTube.

Some notable figures participated in today’s awards with Diane Dodds, Minister of the Department for Economy and Peter Weir, Minister for the Department of Education, sending messages to all learners via video link. The voiceover for the awards was provided by radio celebrity Carolyn Stewart.

Martin Flynn, CEO of Open College Network NI (OCNI) said of the awards:

“We are delighted that we could host our Learning Endeavour Awards today as we were extremely disappointed to have to cancel the event back in March. Technology and social media have enabled us to host our awards in a fun, exciting way and give the much-deserved recognition to all those who have participated, been shortlisted and of course to the winners.

“All the learners involved have worked incredibly hard to earn their accomplishments and we as an organisation are pleased that we can continue to award qualifications that benefit the lives of so many people here in NI.  We’re also particularly pleased that the winner of The Hilary Sloan Memorial Award will receive a £500 learning bursary from OCN NI which will go towards their further development and education.

“We would like to take this opportunity to say congratulations to all the winners and to everyone who participated this year. Hopefully, our awards ceremony planned for 2021 will see us all being able to get together again!” added Martin.

To watch the awards, go to

For more information on OCN NI go to

The 2020 award winners were:

  • Further Education Learner of the Year – Arlene McCreedy, South Eastern Regional College
  • Schools Learner of the Year – Fatima Quebe, Abbey Community College
  • Third Sector Learner of the Year – Nikita Hart, Oh Yeah Music Centre
  • Learning in Employment Learner of the Year – Sharon O’Neil, Action Mental Health
  • Health & Well-being Learner of the Year – Paula Ellison, Action Mental Health
  • Inspiring Tutor/Teacher of the Year – Phelim Lundy, ExternWorks
  • Provider of the Year – Now Group
  • The Hilary Sloan Memorial Award – Arlene McCreedy, South Eastern Regional College



About Open College Network (NI)

The Open College Network Northern Ireland (OCN NI) is a leading Awarding Body, working with Further Education Colleges, Schools, Training Organisations, Third Sector Organisations, Health Trusts, Prisons and other education and training organisations. Our offices are based in Belfast and we are regulated by statutory bodies to develop professional and technical (vocational) qualifications from Entry Level up to and including Level 5 across all subject areas. Our mission is to ‘develop and award qualifications which engage, enrich and equip learners for life.’

We are an independent, self-financing charitable organisation that has a proven track record of delivering and contributing to the NI skills agenda. As an indigenous Awarding Body based in Belfast, our priority is to develop and maintain qualifications tailored to the needs of people living and working in NI. Our flexibility and responsiveness to economic need ensures our qualifications are tailored to the needs of education and training providers, employers, learners and align to the outcomes of the NI Programme for Government.

Through working in partnership with our recognised education and training providers, we are able to develop and award qualifications which help tackle educational underachievement and remove barriers to learning. To date the educational charity has registered over 500,000 learners and has worked with over 400 organisations in the public, private and not for profit sectors.

For further information please contact Lawrence Duffy or Bronagh Cobain of Duffy Rafferty Communications on 07515 338936.