Learner of the Year 2023: Eleanor Hughes

Learner of the Year 2023: Eleanor Hughes image

Eleanor’s story

Year 12 student Eleanor Hughes from Matlock in Derbyshire was chosen as the Leadership Skills Foundation’s 2023 Learner of the Year. She explains how she is using the experience from her Sports Leaders qualification to support her application to study medicine at university.

“When I first started my leadership qualification, on a scale of one to ten, my confidence was around a one or a two. I was one of those kids who would sit at the back of the class and never put my hand up. Through Sports Leaders, after doing public speaking tasks and presentations, leading sports sessions and activities, I’d say it’s definitely grown and I’m now at a nine or a ten. For what I want to do next, this is so important.

I know having confidence and being able to communicate will be an integral part of working in a hospital. You need to work together as a team and pass on knowledge and information to other people. If I become a medical student, as part of my second year, I would be helping the first-year students, so having the confidence to support and encourage them will be so important.”

As a leadership ambassador, Eleanor volunteers extensively in her local community and leads activities for a wide range of younger learners. Through various experiences, she has developed her confidence by volunteering at local primary schools and school sports partnership events. She also coaches swimming at her local club and leads play and activity sessions for the girl guides group she used to be a member of.

“Leading and volunteering in my community has been really impactful. I’ve had a full-circle moment really because I used to be a part of the groups that I now lead. It’s my opportunity to give back to my community.

It’s the same with Sports Leaders: I was one of the Year 6s who used to visit the school for sessions and now I’m the one leading the events. It’s really rewarding when we have events to see students taking part who wouldn’t normally get involved. I enjoy being able to see that I am making a difference so that when they try sport, they feel engaged. I feel like what I’m doing encourages them.”

Leadership qualifications are a central part of the journey for students at Highfields School. Under the supervision of Jayne Allen, the school’s Sport Coordinator and teacher of PE, learners participate in leadership courses all the way through school from year 7 to year 12:

“Our school’s leadership academy, which runs from year 7 all the way to year 12, has really grown in the 23 years we’ve been delivering it and we now have over 200 students working through their qualifications each year. We consider it to be so important that it’s embedded in the school so that students can aspire to develop the skills of those who have gone before them.

We really believe in the skills and values that the Leadership Skills Foundation’s qualifications are based on. As the students work through their courses you see what they’ve put in, track their progress and see how their confidence has grown.

Eleanor is an example of how students blossom as a result of doing a leadership programme – you could always tell that she was a people person, but she just needed something to boost her confidence and bring it out in her.”

Looking back, Eleanor reflected, “My leadership qualification has had a huge positive impact on my life and whenever I lead, I come home with a beaming smile, knowing that I have made a difference.

Being a Sports Leader is something that I will always, always be proud of.”