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National accolade for star student Sophie

Sophie receiving her award on stage from the BBCs Steph McGovern (left) and a representative from award sponsor Eversheds Sutherland (right).
Sophie receiving her award on stage from the BBCs Steph McGovern (left) and a representative from award sponsor Eversheds Sutherland (right).
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A former Bowland High School student who overcame adversity to achieve at A Level has won a prestigious national education prize.


Sophie Ainsworth, who was one of Nelson and Colne College’s Class of 2017 stars, has been named as the Association of Colleges’ Young Student of the Year.

Sophie with her mum Sammy (right) and Nelson and Colne College Principal Amanda Melton (left).

Sophie with her mum Sammy (right) and Nelson and Colne College Principal Amanda Melton (left).

Sophie from West Bradford was presented with the award by the BBC’s Steph McGovern at the AoC Annual Conference Awards at Birmingham ICC.

The 18-year-old overcame illness to achieve A*AB in English Literature, Film Studies and History at A Level and is now at Durham University studying English Literature.

Sophie suffers with Lupus, a chronic and complex autoimmune condition, which causes a variety of problems including joint pain, breathing difficulties and extreme fatigue.

It is incurable and Sophie requires medication and a treatment plan to control the symptoms. She also had to create her own learning plan during her A Levels to work in advance as a contingency should one of her regular flare ups occur, to make catching up less demanding.

As well as being a dedicated, model student, Sophie’s experience of suffering with an invisible illness has inspired her to set up her own non-profit organisation RAiISE (Raising Awareness of Invisible Illnesses in Schools and Education).

On her own initiative, she pitched the idea of RAiISE to her consultant at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool before gaining the support of Lupus UK to get the idea off the ground.

Sophie has since sourced all the funding for RAiISE and is producing an education pack to be distributed to schools nationwide soon, and it is hoped in time, this will be done internationally too.

Sophie, who is also a Patient Research Ambassador with the National Institute for Health Research, said: “I can’t believe it! I’m so happy. I was sat at the table listening to the stories of the other finalists and I was thinking ‘just being in the top three is amazing’. And then they called my name out as the winner. The feeling is brilliant.

“It was a wonderful night celebrating the best in education and I had the chance to meet inspiring people who are working to get everyone the education they deserve, no matter what their personal circumstances.

“I now get to visit Parliament in January which I’m really looking forward to as it is something I have wanted to do for a long time.

“I’d like to thank Nelson and Colne College for the nomination and for all of the support given to me during my time there, as this has allowed me to flourish. I would also like to thank the Association of Colleges for the award and for the many people who continue to support RAiISE.”

Through her work with RAiISE, Sophie has attended various health conferences in Greece, Italy, Spain and the US, as well as the UK, to lobby influential health care professionals for change. Her next challenge is working towards full charity status for RAiISE.