WHEN Oscar-nominated actor Colin Firth was invited to collect an award at the Houses of Parliament, there was one special person he wanted alongside him – his old drama teacher.

The Hampshire-born star took Penny Edwards from Eastleigh’s Barton Peveril College to London to see him accept an award highlighting the role education played in his meteoric success.

Firth, who shot to stardom when he emerged dripping wet from a lake as Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy, pictured below, in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, used the occasion to recognise Penny, who retires next month after more than 30 years with the college, as one of the most important women in his life.

The Hollywood favourite said: “The teaching and encouragement I received at college was fantastic.”

To Penny, 60, Colin will always be the lively teenager who she taught drama and English to at Barton Peveril when he was just 16.

She said: “He was a lively and laid back teenager who had an ability to dominate the stage.

“In those days I think he will admit he was not that interested in the academic side but very keen on learning as much as he could about practical acting.

“He is down to earth, ordinary and as nice to talk to as ever. He is still the Colin I used to know.

“He is able to switch between the fun blockbusters that Hollywood comes up with and more interesting character driven films.”

Colin, who grew up in Winchester, was nominated for an Oscar earlier this year for the film A Single Man in which he played a gay academic mourning the death of his partner.

He won a BAFTA but missed out on the best actor Oscar to Jeff Bridges in The Hurt Locker.

Also at the awards were Colin’s parents David and Shirley Firth, Barton Peveril principal Jonathan Prest and Eastleigh MP and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne.