A YORK woman, who works with people with special needs, is in the running for a prestigious national award.

Andrea Peel, of Wilberfoss, near York, is one of six hopefuls who have been short-listed for the Learning Through Work award at the Edexcel Achievement in Education Awards 2003.

She has also been entered for the Outstanding Student Of The Year award for her work on courses she has taken while employed at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Mrs Peel, 44, has worked with special needs clients at the foundation since 1998.

Since joining the organisation, she has gained many qualifications including an NVQ in Care, a further education teacher's certificate and a certificate in supported employment. She has used her newly-acquired skills to teach food hygiene to people with special needs. She has also taken a course in Makaton, sign language for people with learning disabilities who don't necessarily have spoken English.

She said: "During the last four years I have been able to improve the lives of people with a learning disability who are living within our four special needs homes. It has allowed me to put my learning into practice and develop my role as a special needs facilitator."

If Mrs Peel wins the Learning Through Work award, she will receive £1,000 and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation will also receive £1,000. The Outstanding Student Of The Year Award will be judged by celebrity chef Anthony Worrall-Thompson, Falklands war veteran Simon Weston, ex-TV newsreader Anne Dawson and former MP and journalist Martin Bell. The winner will receive £5,000 to spend on furthering their education.

Both awards will be presented at a special ceremony in London on July 9.

John Kerr, chief executive of Edexcel, said: "Mrs Peel is a remarkable and talented student and has shown great strength of character throughout her work."

Updated: 09:15 Wednesday, May 21, 2003