The award is named after Nikki Simpson who was an ATL learning and development organiser in the Eastern Region before her death from pancreatic cancer at the age of 48 in 2017. 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. This award recognises the transformational impact of union learning both on members and union organisation and is granted to individual members or groups of members who have made significant and exemplary contributions to union learning.

Liz Mills worked closely with Nikki Simpson in the Eastern region and continues to do so with her successors. As her nomination states, “She understands the vital impact that quality learning can have on members”. Liz organises events in the region which meet training needs, and her work has encouraged the use of learning “as an effective tool to recruit, develop, empower and engage members.”

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“The work that Liz does is a great example of what can be achieved through learning. She makes a real difference to the lives of NEU members and it is our great delight to award her this year’s Nikki Simpson Award in recognition of this important work."



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  • The National Education Union stands up for the future of education. It brings together the voices of more than 450,000 teachers, lecturers, support staff and leaders working in maintained and independent schools and colleges across the UK, to form the largest education union in Europe.
  • It is an independent, registered trade union and professional association, representing its members in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
  • The National Education Union is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and Education International (EI). It is not affiliated to any political party and seeks to work constructively with all the main political parties.