Cleaner who learnt to read at 58 wins top award

  |  Published: Jul 1st 2016

Mum-of-three Georgina Pocock has been named Adult Learner of the Year in Buckinghamshire after plucking up the courage aged 58 to finally learn to read.

Georgina, now 61, a cleaner at Cressex Community School in High Wycombe, says she endured years of misery because she couldn’t read even the most basic letter or poster.

But her life was transformed three years ago when she joined an English class at High Wycombe Library run by Buckinghamshire Adult Learning.

And her inspiring story won her the coveted Adult Learner accolade, as well as the admiration of a packed audience, at a ceremony held recently at the Judges Lodgings in Aylesbury.

Georgina, from Lane End said: “A few years ago I told people that I couldn’t read and they made fun of me. I then went to find out about English classes through the Job Centre.

“When I started classes, I couldn’t read letters or bills. I only knew if they were bad if they were in red. I still need to improve, but I’m more confident reading now. My English skills are helping me in my daily life to read the newspaper, fill out forms or just for shopping.”

She was praised by Buckinghamshire County Council Chairman Val Letheren, who handed her the award and told her: “I feel very proud and very emotional when I think of what you have achieved. I am sure your story will inspire others in a similar position as you were to seek help.”

When Georgina was young, she struggled at school to make progress and says she received little help and encouragement from teachers.

But she said at the ceremony at the end of June: “This award means a lot to me because now I can read and write.  At school, I didn’t get the help I needed but with courses run by Buckinghamshire Adult Learning, you are given a tutor. I thought learning to read at my age was going to be hard, but I loved it.”

Since joining the English Class, Georgina feels her life has improved. She is more confident and it has helped her to make friends. She has taken and passed her Functional Skills Entry 2, plus a Unit Award in English Skills using Grammar and Punctuation at Entry 2. She is now working towards Functional Skills Entry 3.

Her reading and writing skills are making steady progress. Georgina feels she is now also more confident standing up for herself in the workplace, and has noticed that people now speak to her in a better way.

Meanwhile, Ruth Gaunt, who teaches across the county, won 'Tutor of the Year 2016'.

She won the prize for her inspirational teaching and adaptability to the individual needs of her learners, particularly on two new community craft courses. Learners attending these classes are aged between 60-90 years old and are vulnerable and isolated, some suffering with dementia/mild mental health illness.

Adult Learning Officials say Ruth's individual care towards these learners is outstanding. Her enthusiasm has led to the groups requesting further courses with her to cover both craft and exercise.

Ruth who has worked for Buckinghamshire Adult Learning for less than two years is a qualified Advanced Fitness Instructor, has many years of experience as a successful crafter and holds a Masters degree in Psychology.

She said "I was very surprised to win - it was just great to be nominated. I'm so grateful to work with a supportive team of colleagues and fantastic learners."

Arwel Rowlands, 33, from Aylesbury, was crowned Classroom Supporter of the Year. He currently assists adult learners with difficulties /disabilities in classes for Communication through Technology and also in Art, Music and Popular Culture at Amersham Adult Learning Centre. 

Arwel said: “I would like to thank all of the inspirational learners and friendly members of staff for all of their help and support and for giving me such a rewarding opportunity.”

The awards ceremony was attended by dozens of learners, tutors and dignitaries who heard there were 14,000 course enrolments in adult learning last year in the county. There are currently 8,000 learners across the service and 200 tutors. Of these, 29 learners, 18 tutors and 11 classroom supporters were nominated for an award.

Also recognised on the night were the City & Guild’s Medal for Excellence winner in the tutor category, Chesham’s Janet Edmonds and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Gold Medal winner, tutor Roger Reynolds who teaches at Missenden Abbey.

For more information on Buckinghamshire Adult Learning courses, visit or call 01296 382403.

Georgina Pocock with Val Letheren
Georgina Pocock with Val Letheren
Ruth Gaunt with Val Letheren
Ruth Gaunt with Val Letheren
Arwel Rowlands
Arwel Rowlands
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