Royal Honours for L&W Learning Ambassadors

16 June 2017

Learning and Work Institute is delighted to congratulate two of its Learning Ambassadors who have been recognised in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Amanda Scales, from Brighton, and Frank Harris, from London, have each been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to adult education and skills.

Both Ms Scales and Mr Harris are both former winners of Adult Learners’ Week, now known as Festival of Learning, Awards, run by Learning and Work Institute, which recognises inspirational journeys of people who have improved their lives, and the lives of others, through lifelong learning.

Amanda won the Adult Learners’ Week Outstanding Individual Award for the South East region in 2012 and in 2010, Frank was the winner of the European Social Fund Outstanding Learner of the Year Award.

Commenting on the royal honours, Stephen Evans, Chief Executive at Learning and Work Institute, said,

“I am delighted that Amanda and Frank have been honoured by Her Majesty The Queen. Both have overcome major barriers and shown extraordinary determination and commitment to learning that I know has inspired many others, including through their well-deserved Festival of Learning awards.

“Amanda and Frank are an inspiration to us all. Through their hard work, not only have they been able to improve their own lives, but both have worked tirelessly to encourage more adults in to learning.”

Find out more about Amanda Scales BEM and Frank Harris BEM below.

Amanda Scales BEM

Family challenges made Amanda’s learning journey a struggle at times. Now Amanda is seeking out ways to help others to overcome barriers to learning.

Amanda began learning as an adult some years ago, gaining a Certificate in Archaeology, but as a single parent of four children, childcare issues prevented her from finishing the full Diploma. “I couldn’t afford a sitter so that I could go to class, and I remember my teacher saying that if I was committed, I would have found a way. I was physically unable to put in the hours, and I was devastated.”

It was a belly dancing evening class at a local learning advice centre that gave her the courage to re-enter formal education. One of the centre’s advisors suggested that Amanda should join a New Career Options for Women course, designed to help women access university. Amanda passed the course and began studying Contemporary History at the University of Sussex in 2007, graduating with a 2:1 BA (Hons) degree in 2010 and continuing on to become a qualified teacher in June 2013. “It was the most fantastic experience of my life. It was like Christmas every day, like I was seeing a whole new world that was hidden to me before my education.”

Having met the Minister for Higher Education at the Adult Learners’ Week Parliamentary Reception in 2013, Amanda was determined to give the cause of adult learning her voice: “I asked to be an ambassador because I want everyone to have the opportunity to gain a voice, self esteem and liberation through learning.”

Amanda says: “Learning is hard work, but to be without it crushes confidence, kills ambition and inhibits people from making choices. There were times I thought I might quit, but I’ve achieved so much, and I’m very proud!”

Frank Harris BEM

Frank began his adult learning journey having spent 35 years in and out of prison, battling addiction and intermittent homelessness. He broke the cycle by gaining qualifications while in prison, including GCSEs in English and Maths, and courses in counselling and correspondence.

After leaving prison, Frank joined the European Social Fund (ESF) Move Project at City Lit, which helps learners with a history of homelessness to gain stability and become employable. He says: “One of the greatest things for me, as I suspect with all parents, is doing things with your children and watching them grow. That level of stability would not be there without the firm foundation of education and learning.”

Having completed an NVQ in supporting homeless and vulnerable people, Frank completed a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of East London. Frank has spoken to students at Winchester University, has worked with the Lord Mayor of London and Ray Lewis, the Mayor’s mentoring champion, in the Mentoring Modern Man scheme, and has visited the House of Commons on a number of occasions to speak about prisoners and the benefits of education.

Frank has also worked closely with the Prisoners’ Education Trust on a number of projects and featured in their publication, Smart Rehabilitation (PET), which was launched in Parliament in 2013. In 2008, Frank founded his School for High Achievement for Boys in Islington. The school was founded as a voluntary project to support disadvantaged boys, and keep them out of criminal activity.

Frank says he has “a million more things I would like to do but most of all I would like to open my school again. My learning has empowered me and given me the belief that my future is in my hands… I now feel liberated and free from the fear of prison and addiction.”