A BARNSLEY College apprentice – who is a finalist in the Young Champions awards – was Highly Commended at the recent South Yorkshire Apprenticeship Awards in which the college had five finalists.

Evie Edwards – who revolutionised after-school sessions at her school – was a close second in the Advanced Apprentice category at the awards evening held at Magna in Rotherham.

Now a teaching assistant after completing her Level 3 Teaching Assistant Apprenticeship, Evie was put forward for the award by her colleagues at Oakhill Primary Academy.

Recognising the importance of physical activity on pupils’ development – and wanting to ensure finances weren’t a barrier – Evie fundraised to facilitate daily extra-curricular sessions that quickly became fully booked with around 100 children attending in total.

To raise cash, she organised events such as a sponsored walk, and utilised her cheerleading training and connections, becoming an ‘amazing asset’ to the school and forming strong bonds with pupils.

“Getting to know the children and forming those relationships is the most important part of the job of a teaching assistant,” said Evie.

“Some children never get those opportunities to do things they enjoy outside of school. I just thought, ‘I’ve got to open those opportunities up to as many children as possible’.

“I’m really proud that I’ve put the work in and it has been recognised. It’s very rewarding. I couldn’t believe how many people were there at the awards, it was absolutely packed and a lovely evening.

“I went back into work the day after, which was the last day of term, and everyone was really proud of me. It was a nice way to end the term.”

Evie is happy to have secured a role at the school following her apprenticeship and plans to continue the after-school clubs, which will change to a different sport each half-term. She has also just qualified as a higher-level teaching assistant (HLTA), meaning she can cover lessons when needed, and is training in sports coaching to further develop her skills and knowledge.

Her after-school cheerleading group will even travel to a national competition later this year. The college had finalists across several categories with a further five apprentices receiving Special Recognition awards. Early Years Educator Apprentice, Amy Blinkho, has worked outside of normal hours and constantly adapted to ensure the nursery in which she works operates exceptionally.

Daniel Cherryholme, Operations/Department Manager apprentice, has driven his employer – the college – forward in its sustainability efforts by implementing an energy saving strategy that could potentially be rolled out across the business.

Supply Chain Warehouse Operative apprentice,Diana Yatskiv, is a regular source of project ideas and has been named project lead for her own initiative to improve navigation at her employer’s site, also being named health and wellbeing champion.

Grace Oliver, Early Years Practitioner apprentice, showed a natural aptitude for teaching beyond her academic level.

Hairdressing apprentice, Kira Dyson, supported her employer through serious illness and showed amazing resilience in her studies.