Inspirational course points adults to a brighter future

  |  Published: Dec 14th 2015
Abigail White, left, with Amy Lloyd
Abigail White, left, with Amy Lloyd

Single mum Abigail White was fed up with living on benefits – but her lack of qualifications and poor reading skills meant she couldn’t find a suitable job.

So Abi, 23, from Amersham, who could only read basic sentences, decided to try to turn her life around by enrolling on a Buckinghamshire Adult Learning course for Functional English Skills.

Now, after just 18 months on the course, she is able to confidently read books to her two children and is Buckinghamshire Adult Learning’s Joint ‘Adult Learner of the Year’.

“I didn’t want to learn at school,” she said. “I could read basic sentences but struggled with a lot of words. I was really bad. I was showing all the signs of dyslexia.

“This course has helped me so much. I am so much better. I now know how to help my kids with their homework. It doesn’t feel you are at school here – we are not being judged.”

Abi regularly attends the class, along with eight others, at an adult learning course in Chesham.

And she is not alone in her enthusiasm for the tuition which she says has made her life easier and given her a path to a brighter future.

Clare Vieira, 35, a mother-of-four and a qualified hairdresser from Little Chalfont, is on the course to improve her English skills so she can help her children with their homework.

“I was too busy partying at school and didn’t give two hoots,” she admitted. “I went into my GCSE exams after a night out and didn’t give a monkey’s.”

When Clare was 23, she was featured on ITV’s first series of ‘Ladette To A Lady’ – a prime-time television ‘finishing school’. She came fourth on the show.

“I was unruly and partying. But having kids has changed my life,” she said.

And now the course has also made a huge difference.

“This class has given me a lot more confidence and freshened my brain and I have learnt things that I missed at school because of my wild days,” added Clare.

“It’s for my children for when they come home and ask ‘what does this mean?’. Also, I am self-employed, so I have to better my English skills.”

Clare’s sister, Kayleigh Daniel, 30, a care worker from Amersham, is also on the course.  She struggled at school and had to go to a reading clinic.

The mother-of-one said: “My concentration levels are non-existent. I am really poor with reading,” she said. “This has given me more confidence and taught me how to do paragraphs and spellings. I am doing this so I can help my son do his homework.”

Nursery nurse Jenny Rogers, 40, a mother-of-two from Amersham, said: “I went to a special needs school for moderate learning difficulties and never did any GCSEs. I have always wanted to do this and am really enjoying it – it’s for my own personal benefit for when I go back to work.

“This has really helped me improve. I never did English at school or GCSEs.  I want to learn for my girls when they go to school and want help. I don’t want to send them to school and not know what they are learning. I need to know what I am telling them is right in their schooling.”

The class is tutored by Amy Lloyd, a former primary school teacher. She teaches reading, comprehension, writing and speaking and listening – and says the course is midway towards a GCSE.

She explained: “This course is for people for whom formal school didn’t work. It’s providing functional English for learners to read and write with confidence.

“They say because they are learning, it’s inspirational for their children. It’s really rewarding because you see the journey and see where they were. It’s given them aspirations and a zest for life.”

Cllr Zahir Mohammed, County Council Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “This course is a fantastic example of the work carried out by Buckinghamshire Adult Learning. I am full of admiration for the way these students have attempted to transform their lives through learning, and I would encourage others to follow their example.”

 As for Abigail White, coming off benefits is her next target.

 “I just want to work. If I am at home, I am twiddling my fingers – it’s boring,” she said. “When I was voted Adult Learner of the Year earlier this year, I was shocked. I came home and was crying. I was shocked I had been noticed. 

"I want to say to anyone who has done badly at school to do this course.”

* To find out more about English courses run through Buckinghamshire Adult Learning, visit www.adultlearningbcc.ac.uk or phone 01296 382403.

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