About the Awards


Welcome to the second year of the Natspec Awards.

The Natspec Awards aim to recognise and celebrate excellent practice in the specialist further education sector. They are an excellent way to promote continuous improvement and raise standards in our sector. We are on the look-out for innovative practice which encourages high aspirations and enables young people with learning difficulties and / or disabilities to achieve their goals.

Whatever the size of your setting, and however long your organisation has been established, this is your chance to showcase effective, evidence-based practice and share your learning with the sector.

Key dates

Applications open

28 September 2020

Closing date for applications

10 February 2021 – at 1pm

Shortlist announced

by 24 March 2021

Winners announced

To be confirmed

Eligible applicants

The awards are open to any specialist FE provider that is currently a full member of Natspec. You can learn more about membership of Natspec on our website. The awards are not open to Natspec Transform members or General FE Colleges.

Applicants must be willing to support Natspec to disseminate the learning from their projects. For example, we might ask you to contribute to producing a written case study or short talking-head video, take part in a webinar, or present your work at a forum. This way, all members will be able to benefit from the effective practice we identify through the awards.

Eligible projects

We want to identify approaches that have recently been implemented, rather than established practice that has become ‘business as usual’. At the same time, the practice needs to have been running long enough to have made a demonstrable, positive difference to students. There may be aspects of the practice that are already in place in other settings, but there should be something new and exciting about the way it is being applied. It might be an approach that has been adapted for a different student group or a new way of working that has led to significantly improved outcomes.

Projects can be small-scale and carefully targeted at a particular student group or whole college initiatives. While the practice described might not be transferable to other settings in its entirety, we will be looking for projects that will provide useful learning for other specialist FE settings.

Applications for the awards can relate to a programme, practice, course, project or other form of teaching, learning, advice, guidance or support.

To be considered for an award, the project must:

  • show innovation
  • have been introduced in the last 2/3 years and already been evaluated in one way or another
  • have had, or be having, a demonstrable positive impact on students
  • be sustainable and / or capable of further development
  • provide useful learning for other specialist FE settings.

Natspec members are eligible to apply for each of the eight awards. There is a maximum of one application per category. The same project cannot be entered for more than one category.

The Natspec Awards categories 2021

For 2021, we have added one permanent new category, as well as a one-off celebrating how colleges adapted to learning at home during the coronavirus pandemic, for a total of eight categories.

  1. Innovative use of technology
  2. Pathways into employment
  3. Student voice
  4. Wellbeing and mental health
  5. Inter-disciplinary working
  6. Partnership working
  7. Curriculum innovation
  8. Home learning

The judges

An independent panel of judges will choose the winners of the Natspec Awards 2021. They are as follows:

Nigel Evans, former Ofsted HMI, will chair the panel.

How to apply

Applications must be made via the online form on the Natspec Awards website. A limited amount of additional supporting evidence can also be uploaded electronically.

You will need to explain:

  • what has been implemented
  • why it is innovative
  • what the impact has been
  • how it will be sustained / developed.

In the evidence submitted we would always expect to hear from students as well as from a range of stakeholders; stakeholders may differ from one category to another. No paper copies will be accepted. Please restrict your applications to around 750 words.

Why you should apply for a Natspec Award

In applying for an award, you have the chance to reflect on the successful approaches you have developed, as well as review the positive impact they have had on your students.

You also have the opportunity to share innovative and effective practice – and to be recognised for the difference you have made for young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.

We will work with the award winners to ensure their practice is showcased across the sector.

What the winners receive

Award winners will receive:

  • £250 CPD bursary
  • use of the Natspec Award winners’ logo on their college headed paper, websites and other promotional materials

Award winners will also be presented with a certificate and a trophy to keep.