Above: Ros Morpeth and James Smith at the 2016 Parliamentary reception for the Festival of Learning
Recently a parliamentary reception marked the close of this years festival of learning. Educational experts, award winners and MP’s came together to celebrates the achievements of adult learners throughout the country.
The Festival of Learning (formerly Adult Learners Week) is a national celebration of lifelong learning organised by the Learning and Work Institute (formerly NIACE). Through the remarkable stories of how people have used their learning experiences to change their lives and the lives of those around them, the festival is essential in highlighting how lifelong learning can and does benefit society and the economy.
The festival brings together have a go events from across the country to promote the benefits of lifelong learning by giving people a chance to learn something new. It’s also an opportunity to shine a light on the stories of people, organisations and projects who have received awards at the various events held throughout the year.
Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Robert Halfron MP was at the event and described the festival as doing everything he believes in. ‘They (the learners) show us it is never too late to learn something new or develop our skill sets’ He said. ‘Education does not have to stop after school and it exists for anyone interested in taking it up. The Festival of Learning is testament to that fact-one I’m proud to get behind and support.’
NEC CEO Ros Morpeth was delighted to accept her invitation to attend the Parliamentary reception and had this to say about the event.
‘Being a second chance learner myself and working with thousands of learners each year who are trying to change their lives with NEC, I certainly know the value of lifelong learning and the positive economic and social impact is can have, not to mention
I believe in the importance of keeping pathways to learning open for people at any stage of life. The transformative effect it can have on people should be encouraged at any age or stage of life.
One Person who agrees that pathways to learning should be kept open is James Smith, 2016 winner of the Outstanding Individual Award. I spent time with James at the event and found him inspiring. He is an excellent example of a life transformed by learning.
James, or Jimmy, left school with no qualification and has was working as a market trader when he gave assistance at the scene of a serious medical emergency.
The incident made Jimmy re-evaluate and he realised that to work in the emergency services he would need to return to learning. He found the experience very different to his low expectations of what going back to learning would be like. ‘I was bowled over!’ He said ‘I found the tutors engaging and encouraging and developed an appreciation for Shakespeare. I’ve even enjoyed maths... a bit.’
Jimmy has since written and passed the written entry exams for a role of non-emergency patient transport driver at West Midlands Ambulance Service, made lifelong friends with his infectious enthusiasm and gone on to enrol on an access to science course at Halesowen College. He plans on starting a Paramedic Science degree next year.
Jimmy represents someone who has made a courageous decision to change career and found that he couldn't move forward or even get a foot in the door until he got those core GCSE English and Maths qualifications. A story we at NEC hear often.
One of the additional benefits of learning is improved self confidence and the positive impact on the family and wider community. Jimmy told me that prior to starting the course, he would break out in a sweat if he was asked to write anything so he was amazed at how much he enjoyed studying and how much it has improved his confidence. He said that his success so far was due motivation and discipline but it wasn't hard because he found that he enjoyed studying so much. Jimmy has now received a grade A for GCSE Maths and a grade A* for GCSE English, what an excellent achievement.
Jimmy is one of thousands of learners that make the choice to change their lives by learning. You can read about the other award winners from the events this year on the Festival of Learning website.’