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Inspiring care leaver student recognised with national learning award from Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal

Posted Wednesday 3 July 2019

Inspiring care leaver student recognised with national learning award from Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal Michael Shakil won the Patron's award at this year's Festival of Learning.

An inspirational student who spent his childhood in care has overcome the odds to progress on to higher education and win a prestigious national award. Michael Shakil, 32, returned to education and went on to Kingston University to fulfil his dream of becoming a furniture designer and business owner. Now he has been selected from more than 200 applicants by HRH the Princess Royal to receive the Festival of Learning 2019 Patron's Award.

Michael had a difficult childhood, growing up in care and having to move from school to school. He never thought he could make it to university but following a reconciliation with his birth family he discovered his father, brother and sister were all studying in higher education. This motivated him to try and achieve the same for himself.

Returning to education in his mid-twenties, Michael studied his foundation year at Kingston College and progressed to a degree in computer graphics technology in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing at Kingston University. Michael also enrolled on to the University's KU Cares programme which offers care leavers support while they are in higher education. The scheme recently won praise from Universities Minister Chris Skidmore MP and Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi MP during a visit to the University in March during which they met Michael along with a number of other students from care backgrounds.

Michael recently won Kingston University's Bright Ideas competition with his design for a wall mountable art table and has now completed the final year of his degree. He has applied to study for a Masters in product and furniture design at the University and, in the future, hopes to put the skills he's learnt to good use and start up his own business.

Organised by Learning and Work Institute, and supported by the Department for Education, Festival of Learning is an annual campaign which aims both to celebrate the power of learning to transform lives and to encourage more adults to take part.

"Coming to university unlocked confidence that I never knew was there," Michael said. "It's brought out my creative side and pushed me to take up opportunities such as becoming a student ambassador from my second year and entering Bright Ideas. I would like to study an MA and then my aim is to turn my small furniture-making hobby in to my own company - that's the dream."

Chrissie Farley, lead access and support officer at the University said: "Michael is a gutsy, motivated and enterprising student and he has used his determination to push through and overcome all barriers."

Stephen Evans, chief executive, Learning and Work Institute said: "Michael has shown great determination to embark on a degree as a mature student. Only 1 in 14 care leavers progress to higher education, compared to half of all young people, so it is important that we share stories like Michael's to inspire others. We are delighted that HRH The Princess Royal selected Michael as this year's Patron's Award winner.

"Festival of Learning is all about the inspirational stories of people like Michael, which show that everyone can benefit from learning. Lifelong learning is vital for all of us as jobs and society change around us. We encourage everyone to give learning a try so if you've been inspired by Michael's story, and if you want to find out how learning could benefit you, get in touch your local college, community learning provider or the National Careers Service."

Category: Students

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