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Adult Education: Fabienne Bailey


Through my 20 year career in adult learning, I could tell you a million and one stories about the life changing results it achieves but here are a few snippets.

My first job was as an employability Tutor where I taught long term unemployed adults basic skills. These adults not only had basic skills needs but they had long standing personal barriers such as health, learning difficulties, traumatic childhoods, criminal records, behavioural issues and confidence issues. Through our adult learning provision, we were able to tackle these ‘other issues’ through meaningful, life related learning. We didn’t teach grammar or fractions; we taught how to write GP and school letters and how to budget for weekly shopping; Many had been unemployed for over 20 years, surviving on benefits. One of my fondest memories was teaching a 60 year old man who had never worked. He was quite a character and some colleagues found him difficult to work with but we formed a good relationship. He’d had a tough life, losing his wife and child. After a 6 month programme working together, he was successful in his application to be a cleaner at his local nightclub. Whilst this may not be everyone’s idea of success, this was his first ever job and he wore the interview suit we bought him every day to clean the club! He spent 5 happy years there and it changed his life. He met a new partner, went on holiday for the first time and generally became a happier person all round!

Over the years, I have managed adult learning programmes in different settings but whilst Head of Service for an Adult and Community Learning provider, I met some incredible people who changed their lives through adult learning. We created an ‘Amazing You’ programme for women who were rebuilding their lives following domestically violent relationships. The women lacked self-esteem, felt worthless and unable to achieve anything. Our bespoke programme gently eased the women in to a friendly and safe environment with women from similar backgrounds where they didn’t feel like the ‘odd one out’. They bonded quickly and provided a close support network which in turn led them to encourage each other in the classroom. The adult learning provided them with skills to help their children with their homework, confidence to go out of the house and to socialise, confidence to apply for jobs and motivation to learn and achieve something for themselves. Many went on to further education courses and others found jobs which they never thought possible.

In my current role, we develop Access to Higher Education diplomas which are used by adults who have missed out on traditional educational routes and but who want to work towards a degree course or higher degree apprenticeship. The Access to Higher Education diplomas offer a truly transformational bridging programme which allow adults to progress to ‘that degree course they always dreamed about’ or move into an apprenticeship where they can continue to learn and earn at the same time. One of our recent award winners was a man who had escaped religious persecution from his home in Africa and came to the UK for asylum. He gained refugee status in the North East where he studied ESOL as an adult learning programme at a local authority provider’s community learning course. On achieving this, he progressed to an Access to HE diploma where gained all the support he needed for success. Within the next year, he was studying politics at Durham University – now that’s what I call success!