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It’s never too late to learn

London SE1 website team

Successful adult learners were in the spotlight at an awards ceremony to kick off a week of events to inspire adults to get into education.

Entalea Isaku, 6 and Leila Arar, 6, both benefited after their parents attended family learning sessions at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education in Webber Street. The aim of the sessions is to bring parents over a threshold so that they can support children in their learning.

Thirty grown-up pupils from across Southwark, including a ninety year old health and fitness enthusiast, were recognised for their achievements.

Sue Harrington from Southwark's Adult Learning Service said: "The event is tribute to the dedication of our staff and the enthusiasm of the adults who've attended classes over the last year. Many learners are juggling commitments, like work or family, in order to come along and try something new, so they truly deserve a medal."

Adult Learners' Week (20-26 May) is as varied as ever, with hundreds of sessions for grown-up pupils who fancy trying their hand at something new.

Massage, pottery, creative writing and IT – to name just a few – are on offer in libraries and other venues across the borough, provided by the Southwark Network for Adult Learning.

The aim of the week is to inspire adults back into learning by giving a taste of the courses that are on offer throughout the year.

Thousands of adults attend courses in Southwark every year, many of which are free and delivered by Southwark Council's Adult Learning Service and eleven other organisations across the borough, including the Peabody Trust.

Case study: Alison

Alison left school at 15 and worked as a school cleaner and then as a packer in a factory. She left to have her first child and did not work again for 17 years. When her children left the local junior school she lost her only contact with the outside world. She felt isolated and depressed, and this led to a nervous breakdown.

Alison knew that she had to do something, but lacked self-confidence. When a friend on the Peabody Trust's Blackfriars estate where she lives suggested going along to the trust's Hugh Astor Threshold Centre to find out about training and qualifications, she had to be dragged along. Having never used a computer, she didn't think she would be able to cope. But within three months she had the first qualifications of her life, passing all units of CLAIT Level 1.

"All of a sudden I just wanted to learn more and more and I loved it so much. The IT tutor gave me the IT skills and confidence I needed to keep going."

Alison went on to pass CLAIT Level 2 and had the chance to volunteer at Westminster Bridge Road-based Peabody Trust doing administration and reception work. Although initially nervous using the telephone to talk to clients, Alsion soon found herself doing a variety of office duties like managing databases, helping with monthly reports, tracking clients at the Threshold centre and helping in the classroom.

She took the volunteering job seriously, arriving with the other staff at 9am and adjusting to life in full time employment. After a year, Alison realised that she could finally find a job that she really wanted.

Alison recently heard of a full time job at the Peabody Trust administering the Local Network Fund grants for projects working with young people, applied, and got the job, thanks to her new qualifications and experience.

"This job is going to give me a life I never dreamed I could have. My family are really proud of me. I'm thinking of it as the start of a career."

Alison would urge everyone to volunteer to learn new skills and make use of the free resources that are available for adult learning.

"I really lacked confidence in my own abilities and the employment training advisor always supported me and told me she had faith that I could do it."

"This course has changed my life and it was free on my local Peabody estate," she added. "It is a big shame that so many people just don't know of the opportunities that are out there."

To find out more about free training and learning opportunities at one of Peabody Trust's Threshold or Digital Learning Ring centres in South London, call 020 7021 4444 or email [email protected] or details. You don't have to be a Peabody tenant to study at their centres.

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