AN Oxford college which prides itself on giving people a second chance has been awarded an education ‘Oscar’ for its outreach work.

Ruskin College principal Audrey Mullender will today be presented with the Association of Colleges Beacon Award for Widening Participation to Life Long Learning.

The national award recognises the work done in co-ordination with partner organisations The Ley Community, Aspire, and Florence Park Children’s Centre in Oxford, and Crisis Skylight and Eaves Housing in London.

Prof Mullender said: “With our partner organisations, we have been able to reach out to the hardest-to-reach groups, people for whom education actually means the most and who have had the least benefit from it in the past.

“These people have been able to take classes in literacy and numeracy and have been able to achieve qualifications which in many cases have helped them go on and get work.”

The award, sponsored by Pearson UK, comes with a cheque for £5,000.

The college, based in Walton Street, offers courses ranging from basic reading up to post-graduate qualifications.

Prof Mullender said: “Unlike at school, where you plod relentlessly from one class to the next, we find with adults you don’t necessarily have to climb each rung because you bring all your life experience and previous learning.

“Once we get them started, very often they are able to jump levels. It is just amazing. It’s about getting confidence back.”

Among those who has benefited from the college’s outreach programmes is David Rose, 59, who lives in college. He left school at 15 and has been homeless both here and abroad, before coming to Ruskin through homelessness charity Crisis Skylight.

He is now studying for a BA in English language, creative writing and critical process.

He said: “I am just amazed at the idea of being able to get into college and do a degree at my age.

“I was gobsmacked.”

“It’s given me a chance to do something I didn’t think I would be able to do – and that will probably give me a chance to do something interesting once I have finished.”