Nikki Simpson award for learning

The award will be presented to the NEU Union Learning Rep (ULR) chosen for making a difference and changing people's lives through union learning.

Make a nomination

This award recognises the transformational impact that union learning has both for our members, and the union as a whole. It is granted to individual members or groups of members who have made significant and exemplary contributions to union learning.

Criteria for the Nikki Simpson Award

The Nikki Simpson Award is given to an NEU Union Learning Rep (ULR) who has made an exemplary contribution to their school or union branch’s work in any area of learning; supporting their colleagues to develop their professional and personal skills and knowledge while helping to grow the union.

The Award seeks to meet some of the following aims at district/branch/school level:

  • exemplifying the importance of educator professionalism and autonomy in relation to professional practice 
  • developing an effective union/school leadership and a whole district/school approach which makes all educators feel valued by the focus on their personal and professional development including those often overlooked such as support and supply staff
  • encouraging innovation and new developments in professional development work in schools and in union activity;
  • embedding the union's workplace policies and campaigns in learning activity such as those of reducing workload, alternative accountability measures etc
  • showcasing ways in which equality and anti discriminatory practices can be embedded in learning activity
  • deploying learning activity to recruit members especially key demographic groups such as students and trainees.

What could be included?

Exemplary contributions to a district/branch/school could include increased employer engagement in learning activity such as funding and/or paid release for members to attend training, new methods and ways of doing things being embedded into workplace practices, member progression to new/higher level roles, members reporting increased confidence and improved morale, recruitment success linked to learning events and activity, increased participation of under represented groups both in the learning activity and the wider union, promotion of key equality and policy initiatives such as the Anti Racist Framework, Disability Equality Toolkit and Beyond OFTED.


If you wish to nominate someone for their exemplary work in the area of learning, contact your local district/branch secretary.

Nominations must be made by branches/districts by completing the nomination form. The Closing date for nominations is Friday 26 January 2024.

Why is it called the Nikki Simpson award?

This award is named after Nikki Simpson who was an exceptionally talented and passionate Learning and Development Organiser for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) in the Eastern Region. Sadly, her life was cut short by pancreatic cancer at the age of 48 in 2017. In 2006, before she even worked for a union and was working in the financial sector, she became the first person to receive the TUC’s Union Learning Rep award. 

The award was presented to her by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair. She brought the passion and belief for both the power of learning and unions to the ATL, and this award was created in her honour to celebrate achievements within Union Learning.

Nikki devoted her whole energy to whatever she was doing, creating learning opportunities for hundreds of members in her region and building the union’s presence wherever she went.

“I have seen co-workers and families brought together by union learning, I have seen laughter and success. I have worked with innovative people who deliver innovative learning in innovative ways to their members… and those people are unions.” – quote from a blog written by Nikki upon winning the TUCs Union Learning Rep Award in 2006.

Maria Williams wins Nikki Simpson award 2023

Maria Williams
Photo ©Ben Broomfield

MARIA, a workplace learning rep at Cambridge Regional College, was nominated by fellow union member and colleague Mahendra Soopaul, who described her as “dedicated and an asset to staff”. The award is given in honour of Nikki Simpson, who was an exceptionally talented learning and development organiser at ATL, one of the NEU legacy unions. Nikki died from cancer in 2017, aged 48.


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